Travelers often return home from their trips with more than experiences, memories and photos. Picking up a souvenir is as much a part of vacationing as hitting the beach or sampling the local cuisine.
But judging by a recent survey conducted by the Travel Foundation, some tourists are not only wasting their money on things that they’ll never use or enjoy once home, but also unwittingly damaging the environment or economy of the country they’re visiting.
For instance, one in 10 respondents still believe it’s legal to bring ivory back from vacation, despite there being an international ban dating back to 1990.
A slightly higher number admitted to bringing back a shell or piece of coral. A third of these bits of marine ecosystems are stored away, never to be seen again, or worse, simply binned.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most popular souvenir is the good old T-shirt. Over half of respondents said they’d brought one back from their travels. Equally unsurprisingly, hardly any of them are worn back home.
We can guess where many of these T-shirts are being picked up. A third of the people surveyed said they purchase vacation gifts at the airport, proving plenty of people are more than happy to give their planning skills a rest when away from work.
On the flipside, almost three-quarters of travelers enjoy buying unique and culturally representative souvenirs from local markets, craftspeople and small enterprises. In doing so, they’re benefitting the local economy.
More than that, research shows people are more likely to use or keep locally-crafted souvenirs for longer. Not only better for the environment, they’re just a better buy.
There’s a word of caution, though, from the Travel Foundation. Plenty of souvenirs marketed as being ‘local’ are actually mass-produced and imported from the other side of the world.
The advice is simple. Look for quality crafts. Try to think about how you might use or display an item before you part with your cash. And wherever possible, try to find out where an item was made.
Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to…