The Tourist Trap

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
My view on some of the negative effects of mass tourism.

Submitted: June 16, 2017

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Submitted: June 16, 2017

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The Tourist Trap

 

Whenever I see a film version of Agatha Christie’s murder stories that takes place in a holiday resort, I get jealous, not because I would like to be the new Poirot or the modern Miss Marple, but because it all takes place in a time when going on holiday meant that you didn’t have to share the same place with hundreds, if not thousands, of other holidaymakers. It looks as if the world was a different place then. A place devoid of oppressive commercialism and leisurewear in bad taste, no flip-flops, t-shirts in neon colours with text printed on them in bad spelling, or even worse, with bad advertising. It was also a place where you could actually see a sight that was worth looking at.
Granted, going to the toilet was a bit different in those days, some would call it unhygienic or  a downright health hazard, but at least it added to the adventure. Nowadays we would like to experience everything in as sterile an environment as possible, simply because we have been made to fear bugs. Consequently, we find the bathrooms at the sights more important than the sights themselves. Quite often people have better recollections of the facilities than of what they came there for in the first place. If there are any sights to speak of anyway.
During my travels around Europe, the U.S.A and the Caribbean, I have noticed that tourists don’t need real sights anymore. Just the remark about a place that it attracts thousands of tourists is reason enough for the modern day traveller to go there too. Once there may have been a real reason to go to a place and have a look at what happened there, but that is no longer necessary. I find The Cannery in Monterey a good example of this. What once was a place where fish was put into cans, now is a tourist resort. A place with a lot places where you can eat or where you can buy souvenirs you don’t really want or get that designer t-shirt. Okay, you will see pictures of the old community living there, according to people like John Steinbeck a tough crowd who struggled to make a living in dreadful conditions. There’s nothing left of it now. It’s just a place that tourists flock to. Why do you even go there? The answer is simple, because the others go there, it’s a place tourists visit, so you go there too.
The same thing can be found in the Caribbean. Visit places like St. Thomas or St. Kitts and you know what I mean. Those islands are visited by thousands of people who go on cruises. Is there a lot that you can enjoy as a tourist? There may be, but unfortunately, you will have to pass through those blasted harbour entrances first, the modern shopping centres in mock traditional Caribbean style where they try to rob you of your hard earned cash by constantly inviting you into air-conditioned jewellery stores, perfume stores or souvenir shops. They may even throw in some shops where you can buy a new pair of far too expensive designer sunglasses. In the towns immediately outside those shopping precincts, life for the locals is exactly like the life people live anywhere else, small shops are struggling to survive and half the people you meet look bored because they are forced to go outside, whereas they would prefer to spend time behind their flickering screens. The locals are just as addicted to their smart phones as most of the visiting tourists are. Sure, you can make a taxi tour of the islands, that beats shuffling through the jewellery stores, but what they do is, show you places where there used to be something important, but which is no longer there. The building may be standing there, but the main activities have been moved to another place, most likely to some country in the Far East. Eventually, you will end up at the shopping precinct at the harbour again.
The most extreme example of a place being destroyed by tourism is Venice. They even made a documentary about it. The place attracts millions of tourists a year who all come to experience Venice as it used to be. It has been turned into a big show. As soon as the tourists leave at night, a large part of the people supposedly living there, leave for their homes in other places. Their lives consist of catering to the tourists who overrun the city during the day, but who leave at night. The so-called locals don’t want to live there anymore, so the city is slowly turning into a ghost town. Even the carnival, which used to be the cultural highlight of the year has been taken over by people who just perform shows in the streets depicting what carnival was like in the past, just to entertain tourists.
I guess that what I’m trying to say is that as soon as a place gets mentioned as a famous tourist destination, the essence of the place gets sucked out of it, and commercialism turns it into something not really worth visiting. You can buy jewellery in any big city, and you can get fast food in the tiniest of villages, so why go to those tourist traps. The only things you will experience there are the attempts to let you hand over your money, while giving you something mediocre at best in return. Would you really like to enjoy the old sights? Then read an old book. Some of the Agatha Christie novels may be a good starting point.

 


© Copyright 2017 Bert Broomberg. All rights reserved.

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