A man carries a dolphin on his shoulder; naked tourists walk drunkenly down a city’s main street, oblivious to the indignation of the local population; a tourist laughs at having just kicked over ancient rocks at a sacred site. These are some of the shocking scenes of tourists, shamelessly filmed as ‘larks’ on their phones and exposed in a new responsible travel documentary, the last touristreleased in the UK and Ireland this week.
While these scenes are at the extreme of irresponsible tourism, they demonstrate the irrational nature that tourism can bring. Highlighting the impact of mass tourism on local communities, wildlife and the environment, the last tourist works to challenge travelers to rethink their vacation habits. Directed and written by Tyson Sadler and produced by Bruce Poon Tip, founder of community tourism pioneer and adventure operator, g adventures, the feature-length documentary pulls back the curtain on the travel and tourism industry. It reveals the impact of over-tourism on ‘honey pot’ destinations, as well as how many travel experiences are actually wildly disconnected from the destination people find themselves in.
“When you think about the effects of over-tourism,” says Bruce Poon Tip, “Venice is the poster child, but when you look at remote communities, 100 people can mean over-tourism and that can have a devastating effect on the future. of a place and its people.” The film, he says, will serve to educate all of us about some of these facts and also highlight the negative effects – often unseen and unfelt by tourists – of traveling the world.
“I don’t think The Last Tourist presents anything we didn’t already know,” Poon Tip continues. “But it’s about getting people to think differently. We all know that elephants are not supposed to kick soccer balls and monkeys are not supposed to ride motorbikes, but when these things are presented on a screen in front of you, you are forced to face them and evaluate your actions.”
He says, “As an immigrant, and over my many years of travel, I have seen firsthand the tension created between locals and the tourism industry in destinations such as the Caribbean islands. Tourists are told by hotels, cruise lines and operators which stores they should and shouldn’t visit when in a destination, with locally owned options being shunned due to locals being “restless”. What travelers don’t realize is that recommended stores are often partially owned by the operator or cruise line, or there is a financial return. Of course, the locals are unhappy, because they cannot take advantage of the tourism that enters their homes, consumes their resources or takes over their land.”
Having already won a number of awards globally, the last tourist brings together a range of first-hand stories to highlight the often well-intentioned but harmful practices that many tourism experiences support. The film also features expert insights from leading travel and tourism visionaries, including Dr. Jane Goodall (Jane Goodall Institute, United Nations Messenger of Peace), Lek Chailert (Save Elephant Foundation), Gary Knell (National Geographic), Meenu Vadera (Sakha Cabs For Women) and Melissa Matlow (World Animal Protection).
“The Last Tourist demonstrates the dire state the industry was in before the pandemic and, as travelers book their summer vacation, offers tangible ways to make a positive impact while they’re away,” adds Bruce Poon Tip.
“Historically, the focus in promoting positive tourism has been on operators to make changes, but in reality, it is consumers we need to demand a more responsible and sustainable industry. There is an ongoing problem with travelers being motivated by price or amenities as they lose track of their values. Why should you suspend your values just because you went on vacation?”
With over 400 hours of footage while filming in 16 countries, the thought-provoking documentary empowers audiences with the knowledge and inspiration to make a positive impact – and fundamentally change the way they travel – by examining the history of modern tourism and revealing its consequences. The documentary explores alarming issues such as animals suffering for entertainment, orphaned children exploited for profit and developing economies under the weight of foreign hotel chains.
Bruce Poon Tip has the last word: “Ultimately, the last tourist documentary is a message of hope. The travel industry has the power to be truly transformative and the key takeaway is the realization that travel is a privilege, not a right. Only a small percentage of the world’s population has the privilege to travel, and with that privilege comes responsibility. We all have the power to drive change through the choices we make and where we choose to spend our money. The travel industry is meeting the demand, and if traveler demand shifts towards more conscious and responsible experiences, the industry will respond.”
Ranked as the number two documentary on Apple TV in Canada when it was released last year, The Last Tourist is now available on Amazon and Apple TV, Sky, Vubiquity, Google, Microsoft and Rakuten. He is also currently playing on Delta Airlines and Emirates Airlines.