Tourists thronging pristine beaches, forests and natural and exotic locations such as Polynesian Bora Bora island, the Maldives, the Seychelles and Fiji are engaging in practices that are damaging the environment, warns a new study.
For example, although the Maldives are frequently considered an island paradise, tourists have left behind so much waste that entire islands are being swamped by trash that is polluting the crystal blue sea.
On Australia’s Gold Coast, violence against other surfers has become such a common method of alleviating crowded experiences of nature that police have been drafted in to patrol the perfect sandy beaches, the Journal of Consumer Research reports.
Boat charters and private resorts that limit the number of consumers at certain locations to preserve an unspoiled experience of nature have subjected these experiences to increased regulation and commercialisation.
“Nature is often considered the ideal place to escape from everyday life. Consumers enjoy romantic escapes from culture in contexts as diverse as surfing, tropical island holidays and the Burning Man festival,” write study authors Robin Canniford and Avi Shankar from the universities of Melbourne (Australia) and Bath (Britain).
“But by viewing nature as simply the opposite of culture, consumers often expedite the destruction of the experiences of nature they desire most,” they add, according to a Melbourne and Bath statement.
However, consumers are also aware of the fragility of nature and seek to limit potential damage with increasingly ecologically-friendly consumer technologies.
Rather than seeking to merely hide the fact that nature and culture are interdependent, consumers seek to advance practices that leave nature as untouched as possible.
Demand for eco-friendly products offers an opportunity for outdoor equipment manufacturers and tourism service providers to help consumers enjoy nature in less damaging ways,” the authors conclude.