The Film Every Traveller Has to Watch
Child exploitation, animal cruelty, environmental vandalism. These are just some of the topics covered in a new documentary film called The Last Tourist which claims that travel is at a tipping point.
Editor’s warning: Some readers may find the content of this article upsetting.
A NEW documentary film has just reached Australia that asks whether travellers are unintentionally destroying the very things they’ve come to see.
Over tourism is a hot topic in the industry and The Last Tourist will turn up the heat even further.
In an exclusive interview for Traveltalk’s podcast Talking Travel, Director and Writer Tyson Sadler explained why he decided to make the film.
“We had a very unique opportunity to write and create a film that had the ability to change and spark a global conversation regarding our relationship with tourism and the impact that we have with communities as we visit them.
“What the film allowed me and the filmmaking team to do was to get a much clearer grasp on the impact that travel is having on host communities, on wildlife and on the environments that they visit.”
The film includes some disturbing statistics, including an alarming increase in the number of orphanages opening around the world.
“What we’ve found is that 80 per cent of all orphanages that exist in the developing world are popping up in tourist destinations,” added Tyson.
“The reason for this is that tourism directly fuels the orphanage tourism industry. And what’s really interesting to know about this industry is that 80 per cent of these children who live in these orphanages or childcare centres that tourists visit have at least one living parent.
“So, they’re not actually orphanages. They’re a cottage industry that has sprung up, fuelled by the travel industry. And ultimately, the travel industry is fuelling child separation.
“These are some of the many things that it’s really important for travellers to know so we can push back and recognise the impact that we’re having.”
Equally disturbing is the claim that 500,000 animals around the world are suffering for the sake of tourist entertainment.
These include elephants being tortured to give animal rides to tourists, lions and tigers being drugged to allow selfie pictures and dolphins dying if they won’t swim with paying guests.
“Bears in circuses that walk on their hands, or monkeys that box or play soccer for shows, they don’t do that naturally,” said Bruce Poon Tip, Executive Producer of The Last Tourist.
“So, we all know that there’s some level of cruelty towards training animals to do these things, we just don’t know the extent of it.
“But there’s nothing new in this film, no one is surprised by it. There are no secret cameras or ‘gotcha’ moments. It’s hard to see it but there’s no revelations in here that people really didn’t know about.”
Those behind The Last Tourist are hoping that putting the facts on film will encourage travellers to think harder about the destinations and attractions they support.
“We’re marketing travel in a way that we’re hoping people don’t think or actually scratch the surface and realise how dangerous some of the things we’re doing are long term and how unsustainable they are,” added Bruce.
“When the destination no longer becomes relevant and you’re buying amenities over destination, I think it’s just a very dangerous place to be for us in the travel industry.
“We didn’t want to be the Oliver Stone of documentaries, where we put everything in your face and try to guide you along the path. We really want to educate people and for people to make their own decisions.”
Despite the message of the film, Bruce does see some hope for the future, with COVID giving the travel industry and travellers a chance to reset their priorities and undo some of the damage done.
“We’re seeing people wanting to travel longer and deeper. Rather than taking three or four trips a year, they’re taking one for three weeks and staying and learning more about the country.
“And so it’s more meaningful where they go. And I think that’s just a great place to be for us.”