You're receiving this newsletter because you signed up for it on my website. I email on the second Tuesday of every month to share my musings on the travel industry, updates on my travel journalism, as well as travel book recs, travel pics, and other fun, travel-related tidbits. Thanks so much for joining me here.
About ten days ago, I got back from an eight-day trip to India that kind of blew my mind. I was on the south coast in Kerala, a state with a population of 34 million, to look at how the government there manages tourism, which accounts for 11 percent of the state's GDP. Here's what blew my mind: during eight full days' worth of interviews, site visits and general exploring, I didn't meet a single person who had a single negative thing to say about the tourism industry.
Of course I realize that, because I'm usually approaching people as a journalist, I don't always get people's unvarnished opinions. But the enthusiasm that I saw for tourism seemed very genuine indeed. I kept hearing the same things: Tourism brings income to rural villages; it supports local farmers and craftworkers; and it provides jobs for a lot of people.
Take Sabu, for instance, the man pictured above. Since he left his position in the Indian Army, Sabu has earned his livelihood working as a tour guide in his hometown of Aymanam, a quiet village on the banks of Lake Vembanad that was among the first spots chosen by the government of Kerala for its Responsible Tourism pilot projects. That was more than a decade ago; since then, Sabu has been helping visitors (myself included) learn to weave rope from coconut fiber; climb palm trees (no joke); make mats from palm fronds; and identify the plants that produce spices like turmeric, ginger and nutmeg.
But that's just one small example. I'm excited to share more of what I saw and experienced in Kerala in an upcoming podcast episode for AFAR Media as well as (I hope) in the book. In the meantime, if you're thinking of planning a trip to the Indian coast, hit me up! I have a ton of recommendations for you.
The Better Travel Podcast kicked off Season 3 last week with an interview with Sarah Stodola, author of The Last Resort: A Chronicle of Paradise, Profit and Peril at the Beach, a book that I recommended in this newsletter back in June. It's fun to be back in the swing of things, and I'm very excited for the rest of Season 3.
My New York Times Q&A with John De Fries (pictured above), the head of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, went up last month and got picked up in the print edition, which I still get a kick out of. John, a Native Hawaiian who was born in Waikiki in 1951, is also going to appear in the book. He's a fascinating guy.
I also wrote a short bit on nature-positive tourism that ran in the NYT last week. The best part of that one was getting the chance to interview Justin Francis again. Justin is doing impressive and important work in tourism, and in the business and environment space more broadly. (He was also one of the very first guests on the podcast.)
(All NYT links are unlocked, btw; the links are good for two weeks.)
Rick and Aziz come from very different backgrounds: Rick came to the travel industry as an American backpacking hippie, Aziz as a Palestinian peaceworker. But both now lead tour companies that bring thousands of travelers across international borders; both have written books that explore the political implications of travel; and both believe that travel can be a powerful force for positive social change.
I've had both of these guys on my podcast and interviewed themboth for the NYT (those are unlocked links). And I'm delighted to now have the chance to bring them together for this conversation, which is happening on Friday, September 23rd at 1pm Eastern Time / 7pm in France. You can register here (for free!). I would love to see you there.
That's all for now. Thank you so much for reading. As always, I would love to hear from you.
P.S. I had my first experience with an edible last month, and felt 100% seen when I later came across this meme (that caption especially 😳).