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Backpacker tourism can be beneficial for Sri Lanka

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The financial advantages of hosting backpackers often outweigh any social costs

Backpacking is a form of low-cost, independent travel, often staying in inexpensive lodgings and carrying all necessary possessions in a backpack. Sri Lanka hosts numerous Home stay accommodations, beautiful guesthouses and small and medium sized family hotels which are spread throughout the island. These guesthouses and small hotels greatly depend on FIT’s or Free Independent Travellers which are travelling to Sri Lanka mainly by way of identifying suitable accommodation offers through major online platforms, such as Booking.com, Agoda, hostel world and many others more. Times, where travelers frequented street offices of international tour operators in expensive town locations overseas seem to be over, latest to be recognized by the demise of one of the biggest tour operators THOMAS COOK, who left thousands of employees in the dark. Backpacking –   once seen as a marginal form of travel undertaken only through necessity,  has since become a mainstream form of tourism.

While backpacker tourism is generally a form of youth travel, primarily undertaken by young people during gap years, it is also undertaken by older people during a career break or retirement. Backpackers tend to be from Europe, the English-speaking world and Asia.

Backpacking gives you the opportunity to travel and see a lot of the world on a budget. You might need to lower your usual living standards a bit with eating street food and sharing a dorm and bathroom with other people. But it is a great way to see different environments on a low costs.

For many low-income communities in the developing world, the economic benefits of hosting backpackers outweigh their negative impacts. Since backpackers tend to consume local products, stay in small guest houses, and use locally owned ground transport, more of their expenditure is retained in-country than in conventional mass tourism. Businesses that cater to backpackers are usually locally owned and profits tend to be retained within the country rather than flowing overseas to international hotel groups.

Despite the problems of the backpackers’ negative social impact there are significant, positive economic impacts

There is a growing body of research showing that, for many low-income communities in the developing world, the economic benefits of hosting backpackers outweigh their negative (often social) impacts. This local economic development aspect is also now being recognized by some governments such as Malaysia and South Africa, which are actively encouraging backpackers and supporting locally owned businesses and “homestays”.

Research in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia since the mid-1990s shows that as backpackers tend to consume local products (food, coffee, beer, cigarettes etc), stay in small guest houses, and use locally owned ground transport, more of their expenditure is retained in-country than in conventional mass tourism.

Economic leakages from backpacker tourism are also significantly less than for conventional (foreign-owned) tourism, since backpacker businesses are usually locally owned and profits tend to be retained within the developing country rather than flowing overseas to international hotel groups. Local people have often been very positive about how having their own backpacker business has changed their lives for the better. In Yogyakarta, Indonesia, one guest house owner spoke with great pride of how she could now afford to send her children to school as a result of her backpacker business.

Hosting backpacker tourism is not the silver bullet for poor communities, but it can play an important part in international tourism in the global south.

And at a site note worth to mention, that from the present top listed FANG blue chips in the world, namely Facebook, Amazon, Alibaba, Netflix and Google – all present CEO’s enjoyed being backpackers in their younger ages. So looking to the future and not looking down to presently low-budget travelers might be the wise way

Dr. Dietmar Doering, German Social Scientist Head of AGSEP RESEARCH in Marawila In Sri Lanka for 35 years