Tourism…….good or bad thing?

Nothing is that black and white and I guess most of us have been tourists at some time or other and never given much thought to......... if we had a right to visit where ever? My question came about because I scanned a story in the newspaper, it was reporting that a polar bear had been shot in Arctic Norway. It was shot because it had attacked the tourist guide leading a group from a cruise ship. There was no choice but to shoot the poor thing, it had the guide's head in its mouth at the time.  My internal dialogue was saying ok, well can't be too many cruise ships up there and then started thinking about something else.  A few days later there was a photo of the small town in the far north of Norway, where these cruise ships make a stop. The ship was huge totally out of scale to the small quayside, it must treble the population when one stops there,  Then I read there are two ships each week sometimes three. Plus the company have two more being built. So that would make five ships calling if not a few more per week in peak season. I'll chance a modest guess and say each ship could carry -1000- and it could be much more. Looking at the town, I guess no more than  -3000-pop. I've no doubt that local business is enjoying the extra trade, more jobs for local people yadda yadda da. But even with my make-believe numbers, a season from mid-May to mid-September 12 weeks x 5000 per week, that is a lot of people in a relatively pristine ecosystem, already under stress......remember hungry polar bear. Remember we are all hosts to foreign bacteria, viruses and think of the waste, garbage and all of that.

Today I see, much further south in Norway, a  photo of a man standing totally naked as a cruise ship slips past his home,  which is clinging to the mountainside that walls in the fiord. He is doing this in protest of the tourist stream invading his privacy.  The people of Venice are at breaking point with endless tourists, I own up I was one once. This is not the only Italian town that feels overwhelmed.    I have looked at pictures of the Sistine Chapel ceiling all my life, went to see it with a couple of hundred other people! They were all chatting and jostling, if I tilted my head back to look at the ceiling I found it in the middle of an alien chest or on someone's shoulder. Was it the emotional wow experience I was expecting? No, I could not wait to get out.  Graffiti has appeared in Spain, telling tourists to go home. How Spain puts up with all those tourists who visit just to be as drunk as quickly as possible, for as long as possible on cheap alcohol or drugs I don't know. Think of the demand for their police and medical services. Yes, but they are selling tonnes of alcohol and drugs someone will say, except many of the sellers are foreigners.   Just 50 years ago while living in Kenya, I visited the Ngorongoro Crater, we were out of season and there were no people around. The huge crater was full of wildlife, I truly felt I was in the Garden of Eden, it was an absolute privilege to have seen it so. I recently saw a travel film of this place, three large people carries where watching a group of sleepy post-dinner lions, another couple of jeeps in the distance.  There were so many visits to an island of penguins in the Antarctic that the penguins just upped and left. Scientists left wondering why they were gone, died or what? They had moved to another island, discovered by a survey ship a year or two later.I guess they were fed up with the selfies and all the intrusion from visitors.

Oscar Wilde, in his poem of ......The Ballad of Reading Gaol.....  says, "All men kill the thing they love".It was in a totally different context but using the "men' as mankind or humankind if you prefer. I think this is true of tourists. We want to see, to have been there, to feel, to smell it. Yet our very going, walking around the place, using it, is, in fact, destroying that which we seek. Does each and every one of us have the right to do this? Do we have the right to fundamentally change the place and the life of the people there?

I'm fully aware that some places have nothing else but tourism to make some kind of GNP. Tourism is important to most national economies. I don't want to deprive anyone of employment and a good living. although there is another ugly thing that is possible in tourism and that is the exploitation of both the host and the guest. Then there is the carbon footprint of travel, the use of scarce water in some places.

In the future do you think we will have travel rationed? Quotes restricting numbers to a place at any one time?  Will we be issued with so many pleasure travel miles per person? Will there be a 'black market' where you could sell unused travel permits?       Or will there be advanced virtual reality centres,  you will attend a  travel centre and somehow be provided with a range of stimuli. Sight, hearing, temperature, smell, feeling, atmosphere, music,  taste. Produce and things to buy? All this without traveling away from your own country.  It is your day off, you will be able to go for a sail round in the Aegean Sea, stop off for a dinner in a waterside Greek cafe, even get a tan and back to sleep in your own bed that night ready for work tomorrow!?  Or post Christmas, visit the Rockies for half a days skiing?   Any thoughts on this people?

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  1. starlette

    Hi Rock….there are hundreds of different ways at looking at this…….yes, I think some countries welcome visitors under sufferance because they need the trade……..lots of unspoilt areas of the world have now been spoilt as thay have become more popular…….lots of countries will rip of the tourists as some do here…….what to do……I have no idea……I suppose the countries who do not welcome visitors could make things so unpleasant that we wouldn’t want to visit again…….my grandson travels quite a lot and in some places has been refused bus travel because he is White, he and friends have had possessions stolen by the cleaners in hostels who had duplicate keys to the “safety lockers”………..his phone which he heavily relied on, others trainers which they saw the cleaners wearing…….the police refuse to act and will not prosecute these people……they see it as acceptable and a perk of the job……..not all countries are as lenient as ours………the cruise ships are big money now days, keep many employed at a pittance for the so called menial staff……….the bigger ships carry at least 5000 ……..3000 visitors the others staff……but some a lot more as they have got bigger……are we welcome else where…… some countries no………..actually even in parts of Britain they dont welcome visitors………you would have to live there many many years before you were accepted……….Ireland a different kettle of fish……..has to be the most welcoming, heart warming, hospitality place I have visited, nothing to much trouble, manners impeccable, cleanliness in cafes, restaurants second to none………….you are made instantly welcome…they are in it for the fun and so will you be……..of course there will always be the exception……but I have holidayed in both the South and the North……..always a great welcome……

  2. Rockflower Post author

    Startlette I cannot pick at anything you write, it is all true . This is such a big subject and each destination has it’s own unique take on the value of tourism and the tourist. It used to be said that travel broadens the mind and it can. Anyone that visits some countries with real poverty that cannot be hidden, will truly understand that people in countries like Uk or Canada crying about poverty at home are using a different measurement scale. Yet there are many tourist places that keep the tourist cocooned in a luxury their own people can only dream of. Those tourists are not having their minds opened but….sigh, they probably don’t care anyway. I’m not so worried about the people because they can protest on all sides, sovereign countries can decide what is good for them. I do worry about world heritage sites where the fabric of the places is being worn away or delicate eco systems destroyed for ever. YET………if there is no tourism how will we pay the upkeep to keep and protect such place? See what I mean, you can go round and round with this question.

  3. roseinbloom

    Rockflower, thank you for a wonderful presentation of a problem, I had not considered. I know a couple at church who just returned from Norway doing a bike, hike, and paddle trip. I don’t think they had a thought of a bear or what to do in case of an attack. In the US, I know that lodging is heavily taxed. If countries have tourism, then they need to allow it, only if they have the infrastructure to support it. I have taken two cruises and I have thought about all the pollution. We do not have the right to enter any country without their permission and the last time I went to Canada I was made to feel totally unwelcome at the border crossing and also when I crossed the border to return to the US. In past years, I went back and forth with no problem.
    The French are known to be unfriendly to tourists and I can understand that. I was told that their economy is good and they don’t really need tourism. Some people are just not hospitable by nature. Ireland sounds nice and it may be fun to go there,but the sights don’t set it as a priority. I still want to go to Greece and that area.
    Rockflower, I was lucky, I went to Europe in 1985 and the terrorists attacks had started. I was at the Sistine Chapel with only a few people. It was great. There was no waiting anywhere and no crowds and I was there in July and August. I got all kinds of warnings, but I went anyway and it was the best thing I ever did. It is very educational and educators can deduct the cost of travel from taxes if they use the information in their work which is easy to do.I loved every minute of my travel and I did not worry about the people as long as I got helped in some fashion which was all the time, but sometimes people could not help me enough and that was better, but the French did get friendlier when you spoke a few words in French and was positive about everything. I guess I would suggest not going to a place unless you can appreciate it properly.
    If you want a nature experience, then don’t go there if you would be harming it.
    We have plenty of mountains to hike and bike and paddle here, so, I am not sure why people in the US need to go to Norway for that. Some travel destinations get fashionable and people travel for the wrong reasons and thereby destroy what they go to see. Each country needs to protect itself and its environment.

  4. Rockflower Post author

    Rose I hear you and I have admit like you I’ve done the tourist thing. At the time I did not give much thought to how I was impacting the lives of residents. I hope I was always sensitive to the local people’s culture etc. It certainly is a matter that in the future will need a lot of thought and perhaps regulation. It is complex problem and it has many aspects and issues arising from it , local residents will have to work each situation out to suit them as you say.
    The USA has so many varied landscapes that no American really has to travel to experience different landscape, it is the cultures we wish to experience and see other peoples way of shaping life. Don’t worry about Canadian customs giving you a hard time, the do the same to us. I think having no sense of humour is requirement for that job? Ok I suppose someone has to do it.