To market the attraction, tour operators will show amazing photos of people underwater just a few feet away from these gigantic marine creatures. For someone interested in impressing their friends with a killer Instagram photo, this is a prime opportunity.
Yet there are some serious issues at play. Whale sharks are migratory.
To see them in their natural habitat while in the Philippines, you need to wait for the right time of year, and then travel a ways offshore to intersect their route. To see these fish correctly is hard and often expensive.
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However, on Bohol, and in many other places in the Philippines, this fact is forgotten. Sharks are fed to help keep them in one place, and their constant interaction with humans has lots of negative consequences.
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Dubious tour operators are certainly responsible, but to what extent does our selfie-crazed culture justify these actions? Money is obviously a huge motivation. Locals see this practice as a viable source of income. And they certainly have the right to use their resources to improve their lives.
But this is the danger of social media in tourism. To make sustainable tourism the norm, we must work to curb selfie-seeking travel. Social media, though, is neutral. How we use it determines its effect, meaning we have the power to ensure a positive impact.
One of the best things about social media is that it has broken down the monopoly of information. But social media has blown up this paradigm. People travel to have experiences. Its story is dark. This, though, is really a marketing problem. Exciting photos are dominating the conversation because we let them. So to change the narrative, the sustainable tourism industry as a whole needs to find better ways to tell their stories.
Blogs and social media are great ways to do this. More authentic and effective, this type of content also turns social media into a powerful tool for promoting sustainable tourism, not an obstacle.
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Leveraging review platforms such as TripAdvisor is also essential. These tools are having more and more influence over the decisions people make.
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On the Edge: Total Destruction
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