Do Backpackers Do More Harm Than Good?
I know that this is probably not the most popular question to have on this forums, but in my efforts to plan my own independent trip around the world (which will be in November) and learn more about backpacking, I've seen more and more articles that appear critical of backpacking and budget tourism and its effects on local communities.
One notable criticism is that backpackers spend so little and endeavour to bargain as much as possible that they starve desperate local artisans, hostel owners and traders of profit and force them to sell for unreasonable prices. Some tourist areas such as Goa and the Philippines have been known to discourage independent backpackers from coming as they are not deemed to provide enough money to make their presence justifiable. Paradoxically, I have heard of some taxi drivers in Bangkok and Phnom Penh (and this is hearsay so I apologise that I cannot quote an internet source for this) refusing to take locals and waiting for foreign backpackers that they can charge more from. Equally, there are the backpacker enclaves around the world (i.e. Earl's Court, Khao San Road etc) where backpackers have little interaction with locals.
Also, there are the stories of a section of backpackers who enrage local cultures by dressing and acting inappropriately and insensitively and commiting acts of drunken or drugged antisocial behaviour, although evidently this is not limited to backpackers but also package holiday tourists.
I personally regard backpacking as (from what I have seen) quite benign, at least somewhat more in touch with the local population than package holidays and no worse than any other form of tourism, however it seems that it could cause as much harm as good. As experienced travellers, I would like to know your opinions.
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