Here’s How ‘Doing It For The Gram’ Is Causing Misery For Residents In The Philippines
By Kelsey Marie
Traveling to places unknown has become a trend amongst us millennials. We prefer experiences over making large purchases like a house which can be the result of living in a social media-driven society.
Most times when we travel, we’re packing outfits and searching for locations that would be aesthetically pleasing on our Instagram grids.
Finding the perfect aesthetically pleasing travel destination can be fun but often times the effects it has on the destination go unseen by travelers.
For example, the Huffington Post recently reported that a “massive increase in Philippine tourism has led to debilitating issues for the islands.”
Boracay Island in the Philippines was once known as one of the most picturesque islands and in 2019, the island closed for six months of restoration. The impact of over-tourism on Boracay island led to devastation because the area is not equipped for mass tourism.
Social media’s impact on traveling to unknown places has made life for small tourist town residents miserable.
A representative from Philippine travel page Sino Pinas told HuffPost, “There are times when certain photos and videos would go viral and in turn have a place fully booked for a year or two, or just a substantial amount of inquiries on a new business or product.”
The influx of travelers to these small tourist towns may be good for economic development but they ultimately don’t have the infrastructure to support mass tourism.
In addition to the frustration of mass tourism is travel influencers asking for free stays at hotels in exchange for social media posts.
White Banana Beach Club on Siargao Island recently posted on Facebook that they will not be accommodating “freeloading” influencers.
According to their Facebook post, “We are receiving many messages regarding collaborations with influencers, Instagram influencers. We kindly would like to announce that White Banana is not interested to ‘collaborate’ with self-proclaimed ‘influencers’. And we would like to suggest to try another way to eat, drink, or sleep for free. Or try to actually work.”
They also shared with HuffPost, “One of our major struggles on the island is that the influx of tourism is directly related to waste. Tourists generate so much waste, which they leave here. Most tourists DO NOT care about segregating their waste. We have trash bins labeled for specific waste (e.g., Food Waste, Plastic, Paper, etc.) but we see trash mixed up every single day.”
White Banana Beach Club isn’t the only establishment complaining about tourist waste. A representative of Zoe’s Resort & Eco-Adventure told HuffPost, “In general, tourism businesses in the Philippines are ill-equipped to handle solid waste management. In our cast, we strive to protect the natural ecosystem surrounding our eco-resort, and the problem that frustrates us the most is trash pollution. It was difficult in the beginning because there was trash everywhere — plastic cups, food waste, etc. We would see trash on our trails and along our waterways/waterfalls, which will eventually meet the ocean.”
As of 2015, about 22 million people in the Philippines lived at or below the poverty line. The infrastructure is smaller and many people live in third-world conditions. Mass tourism adds to the increase of trash and pollution.
The other problem is an increase in prices. As a result of supply and demand, the prices for food, travel and everyday necessities have increased tremendously.
“From basic commodities to fish, vegetables, to tricycle fare and house rental for our staff, it has become ridiculous. Because of the demand that over-tourism brings, many people take advantage and push the prices up, and businesses like ours have no choice. Everyone is affected, but most especially the locals. The prices were made for tourists, and locals are the ones who suffer the most because the prices are already too high for them. There have been people who are reaching out to the local government to try to regulate the pricing of goods and services here on the island, but personally, I have not heard of any solution yet.”, says a representative of the White Banana Beach Club to HuffPost.
There are influencers who know these frustrations and are trying to do their jobs more eco-consciously.
Travel influencer Jamie Larson shares with HuffPost, “When I went to the Philippines for the first time about 3 years ago, tourism was still insane, but not to the degree of what it is now. I think this is heavily due to social media platforms like Instagram, and this has absolutely boosted the tourism economy which is such an amazing thing if we continue to do it mindfully.”
Sustainable tourism is something that can happen in the future, but we have to all be conscious of it in order to make a change.
Kelsey-Marie is an NYC girl who currently lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. You can keep up with her on Instagram at @kelseydashmarie