Loved to death: New film ‘The Last Tourist’ helps travelers become more responsible |

Loved to death: New film ‘The Last Tourist’ helps travelers become more responsible

New documentary shows once-protected places are now more accessible, often to their detriment, and how there's a better way explore

The new documentary “The Last Tourist” examines the history of international travel and explores how social media has altered tourism.
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The term “overtourism” is being used to describe the condition in which too many people crowd destinations in unsustainable ways, overwhelming the local residents.

If this sounds like something that might be happening in your favorite destination, chances are there’s also a local effort underway to curb it.

Colorado travelers set to hit the road, cruise the oceans or fly the friendly skies this offseason are being asked to consider your travel choices more carefully, and the new film “The Last Tourist” can help inspire you to do so.

The film features the world’s 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) Jonathan Tourtellot (Destination Stewardship Center) and Arnie Weissmann (Travel Weekly).

“Overtourism is simply too many people in the same place at the same time,” Weissmann says in the film. “The increase in visitors to the point where it is too much for the landscape and the environment, and it’s too much for the local residents. Places that used to be protected are becoming more accessible … Places that are really being loved to death.”

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A screen shot from the new film “The Last Tourist” which reveals the unintended consequences of once hard-to-reach places becoming more accessible.
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Executive producer Bruce Poon Tip envisioned “The Last Tourist” before the pandemic, but found ideal timing in the documentary’s spring 2022 release as the world’s borders reopen and people look to travel with more purpose and intention.

“We’ve always said travel — community tourism in particular — could be the biggest distributor of wealth the world has ever seen, and even the fastest path to peace,” Poon Tip said. “We wanted to bring this message, illustrated by a series of life-changing stories, to life on the big screen and at the same time expose some of the often well-intentioned but harmful practices many tourism experiences support.”

Poon Tip finds the surreal and the hyperreal – cruise ships with on-board go cart tracks, ice skating rinks and halls meant to resemble city shopping districts – but also finds people searching for the real in learning about the garment-making process used by women at a small village en route to Machu Picchu.

Poon Tip takes to task the “unconscious consumers” created by the vacation industry, and says while we live by a certain set of values at home, we often suspend those values when we decide to take a holiday.

While on vacation, “we tend to have more showers, we tend to be more wasteful, we tend to eat more,” says Ryerson University Professor Rachel Dodds. Today, “there’s more travelers, it’s easier and cheaper to travel … and our expectations for what we want when we travel have changed.”

Modern tourism is explored in the new film “The Last Tourist.”
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The documentary examines the history of modern tourism, charting the explosion of air travel from 25 million annual international trips in the 1950s to 1.3 billion by the end of the 2010s.

“We were born to explore, we were born to seek out new experiences, learn from other cultures,” Weissmann says. However, “somewhere along the way, you become a tourist – you become someone who is disconnected from the very place you’re traveling to.”

“The Last Tourist” shows just how harmful that can be, detailing how animals are suffering for the entertainment of tourists, how volunteer tourism has created a demand for orphanages in which children are exploited for profit, and how developing economies are strained by foreign-owned hotel chains and cruise ships designed to keep profits out of the communities they’re visiting.

But the film also showcases local groups and individuals who are leveraging tourism to preserve cultural heritage, sustain wildlife, and support the social and economic well-being of communities.

Dr. Jane Goodall in the new film “The Last Tourist.”
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“Responsible tourism can be really beneficial to the animals, to the environment, to the local people, to the government, and to the tourist,” Dr. Jane Goodall says in the film.

To get there, tourists can start by asking a few questions before they depart on their journey, says Poon Tip.

“For sustainability to be achieved, it’s about educating the tourist. The tourist has to understand the power they have,” he said. “If people just took the time to do a bit of research on where their money’s going, you have this ability to make your holiday a transformative experience for so many people that would be impacted by your decision to just go on holiday.”

“The Last Tourist” is available on iTunes for $4.99.

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