9 votes

Tourist detraction: An opinion piece arguing for dismantling the global tourism industry

14 comments

  1. [13]
    tempestoftruth
    Link
    Been a while since I read this piece (seen it a few days ago on the Baffler's front page), but it really touched all the points I've found myself unable to articulate when people ask me why I...

    Been a while since I read this piece (seen it a few days ago on the Baffler's front page), but it really touched all the points I've found myself unable to articulate when people ask me why I don't like traveling. In particular, the power imbalances Zakaria discusses are there whether you take advantage of them or not. Being highly sensitive to those differentials in social interactions, traveling, especially when doing tourist-y things while traveling, makes me deeply uncomfortable in ways most of my peers I've traveled with don't understand or relate to.

    5 votes
    1. [12]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      I also find it uncomfortable sometimes. But on the other hand, many peoples' incomes depend on tourism. I thought the article was pretty dismissive about this consideration. Touristy areas also...

      I also find it uncomfortable sometimes. But on the other hand, many peoples' incomes depend on tourism. I thought the article was pretty dismissive about this consideration.

      Touristy areas also get a lot of wealthy retirees moving there to live and they are eating in local restaurants and using other local services. The jobs at a restaurant don't change depending on where the customers live. If you don't particularly like being served, this discomfort is with the entire service industry, not just tourism.

      But at times like this, there is also a lot of talk about supporting local businesses, which seems like a contrary impulse? Also, the post office and private delivery firms serve you too, even if you don't see them.

      We talk sometimes about automation causing unemployment, but realizing that you don't need some good or service is another form of efficiency improvement that also leads to unemployment, as we've seen. I'm not sure what to do about it other than plug UBI again.

      12 votes
      1. [9]
        Thra11
        Link Parent
        While this is certainly true, excessive tourism can be detrimental to an area. It drives up property prices and clogs up infrastructure, forcing out people who don't work in the tourist industry,...

        I also find it uncomfortable sometimes. But on the other hand, many peoples' incomes depend on tourism. I thought the article was pretty dismissive about this consideration.

        While this is certainly true, excessive tourism can be detrimental to an area. It drives up property prices and clogs up infrastructure, forcing out people who don't work in the tourist industry, especially young generations and those with a higher level of education. As a result, the area is less attractive to non-tourist-businesses. So in some cases, the only reason that people depend on tourism for their income is because tourism has made the area less attractive to other businesses. Tourism isn't particularly good at providing stable income to an area. It's often highly seasonal, with workers either moving away in the off season, or being left unemployed.

        With modern communications, it is no longer necessary to site your business right in the middle of a big city. All most businesses really need is a sufficiently large pool of suitably qualified people nearby to employ, and reasonably priced sites. (Source: I work in R&D at a company unrelated to tourism in a very touristy area. Apart from the occasional difficulty recruiting due to the tourism-related brain-drain, its location doesn't put it at a disadvantage)

        As an example of the "wonders of tourism", here are some details about a place called Cornwall:

        the Cornish economy depends heavily on its tourist industry, which makes up around a quarter of the economy

        Cornwall is one of the poorest parts of the United Kingdom in terms of per capita GDP and average household incomes. At the same time, parts of the county, especially on the coast, have high house prices, driven up by demand from relatively wealthy retired people and second-home owners.

        You imply that these people make a useful contribution to the local economy:

        Touristy areas also get a lot of wealthy retirees moving there to live and they are eating in local restaurants and using other local services.

        It doesn't look like the wealthy retirees wealth actually "trickles down" into local's pockets though:

        The official measures of deprivation and poverty at district and 'sub-ward' level show that there is great variation in poverty and prosperity in Cornwall with some areas among the poorest in England and others among the top half in prosperity.

        The jobs at a restaurant don't change depending on where the customers live.

        If the customers live locally, the jobs at a restaurant are less likely to disappear in the winter.

        So don't worry about the poor people who need handouts from tourists. If you take away the tourism, the areas that 'depend' on it can instead attract real industries, with year-round employment, creating a more balanced and stable economy with a range of ages and education levels.

        4 votes
        1. [8]
          skybrian
          Link Parent
          I think there are good reasons to be mindful of the effects of overtourism. I'm in favor of limits on tourism that are well below however many people can physically fit there. The permit systems...

          I think there are good reasons to be mindful of the effects of overtourism. I'm in favor of limits on tourism that are well below however many people can physically fit there. The permit systems used in national parks seem like a good way to go?

          But that's different from the claim that all tourism is bad.

          I'm not particularly convinced that people in Cornwall would be happier if there were no tourists. It seems more likely that many locals would have to move away, or would never have moved there in the first place. The people making money on tourism would have to move to the city instead, because that's where the jobs are.

          It's also demeaning to talk about "handouts" from tourists. Working in the service industry is real work and should be respected.

          7 votes
          1. NaraVara
            Link Parent
            Bhutan does this. There’s a lottery system to get a visa and hefty fees to apply.

            The permit systems used in national parks seem like a good way to go?

            Bhutan does this. There’s a lottery system to get a visa and hefty fees to apply.

            4 votes
          2. [6]
            Thra11
            Link Parent
            People don't make good money from tourism. Young people who have the opportunity to leave Cornwall do so in large numbers. Those who stay and 'make money from tourism' are some of the poorest in...

            The people making money on tourism

            People don't make good money from tourism. Young people who have the opportunity to leave Cornwall do so in large numbers. Those who stay and 'make money from tourism' are some of the poorest in the UK (In fact, Cornwall is one of the poorest areas in northern Europe).

            move to the city instead, because that's where the jobs are.

            I think in the future we'll increasingly see jobs moving out of cities, as remote work, online shopping and online business communication gather momentum. In the UK, it's already common for people to work on "industrial estates" rather than actually in cities, simply because land in cities is too expensive for most businesses, and no longer offers real benefits. With a decline in tourism it is just as reasonable for the decline in property prices to allow the jobs to move to the people as it is for the people to move to the jobs.

            There's nothing wrong with working in the service industry, but the absence of tourists does not mean there's no service industry. I think it is you who are being demeaning, by suggesting that the people of an area must rely on tourists for their income, and cannot have a stable local economy on their own terms in the same way that a less "popular" location can.

            3 votes
            1. [5]
              skybrian
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              Restaurants do serve both local customers and tourists. If the tourists go away, there will be less money coming in, and the local restaurant scene becomes smaller when some restaurants close....

              Restaurants do serve both local customers and tourists. If the tourists go away, there will be less money coming in, and the local restaurant scene becomes smaller when some restaurants close. Enough businesses close and nobody goes to main street anymore. There are plenty of towns this happens to.

              So I guess the question is whether you think that's a loss. How many restaurants do you think a town should have? If waiters and cooks are out of work, do you care? Are those jobs not good enough to preserve?

              Economists will sometimes talk about creative destruction, that obsolete businesses fail and new ones come along. Circle of life. From a cosmic perspective that's true, but in practice, getting new business for your town is hard and success is not guaranteed even if the town leaders do everything right. Saying "you should attract some other business," to me, sounds like telling someone out of work that they should get a job. It's condescending and insensitive to say that when you don't have any concrete help for them.

              For many small towns, attracting tourists is their business strategy to revitalize their community, because they looked at what they have and it seems like they can make the town attractive to tourists. They are fixing up main street, maybe getting a brew pub, and trying to attract customers to them to get a local scene going. I assume they chose that strategy because sometimes it works and it seems like the best bet, and I'm not inclined to second-guess it, not without having some specific other plan in mind.

              There are other places that have too much of a good thing, but then the question is how to put limits on it.

              5 votes
              1. [4]
                Thra11
                Link Parent
                Many Cornish towns experience this every single year, as they shut for the winter and turn into ghost towns. Truro, the capital (and only) city in Cornwall, sees a constant turnover of excellent...

                Restaurants do serve both local customers and tourists. If the tourists go away, there will be less money coming in, and the local restaurant scene becomes smaller when some restaurants close. Enough businesses close and nobody goes to main street anymore. There are plenty of towns this happens to.

                Many Cornish towns experience this every single year, as they shut for the winter and turn into ghost towns. Truro, the capital (and only) city in Cornwall, sees a constant turnover of excellent small businesses which pop up, find out that the tourism-heavy economy doesn't actually pay all that well, and rapidly turn back into empty shops. If you look at areas of the UK which don't depend on tourism, you will find that there are plenty of restaurants. The key difference is that they don't have to shut in winter.

                If waiters and cooks are out of work, do you care? Are those jobs not good enough to preserve?

                As I've pointed out, many are already out of work for half the year. The ones that aren't, aren't relying on tourism for their income.

                getting new business for your town is hard

                There are already many successful non-tourism businesses in the area. Attracting more is not a hard problem if you can fix the imbalances which an over-reliance on tourism has caused.

                For many small towns, attracting tourists is their business strategy to revitalize their community, because they looked at what they have and it seems like they can make the town attractive to tourists.

                It's difficult to revitalize a community with tourism, because tourism tends to push out the community, and replace them with holidaymakers who are willing to pay more for their property. When the tourists go home for the winter, the leave behind a ghost town, not a revitalised community.

                I don't know where you've got your rosy image of tourists boosting the local economy from, but I think the facts speak for themselves: If relying heavily on tourism were good for the economy and society of Cornwall, then Cornwall wouldn't have its current levels of deprivation, inequality and population imbalance.

                2 votes
                1. [3]
                  skybrian
                  Link Parent
                  I don't know anything about Cornwall, but I can say that the drop in tourism due to the pandemic has been devastating in Monterey with many people suddenly laid off, and unemployment in Hawaii hit...

                  I don't know anything about Cornwall, but I can say that the drop in tourism due to the pandemic has been devastating in Monterey with many people suddenly laid off, and unemployment in Hawaii hit unprecedented levels. (Unemployment in Hawaii is normally low.)

                  2 votes
                  1. [2]
                    Thra11
                    Link Parent
                    I think this just reinforces the point that relying on tourism is not really sustainable. A little bit of tourism as part of an otherwise diverse economy is ok. Obviously, it's not a case of "if...

                    I think this just reinforces the point that relying on tourism is not really sustainable. A little bit of tourism as part of an otherwise diverse economy is ok. Obviously, it's not a case of "if you didn't depend on tourism, the pandemic wouldn't affect you", but tourism is especially vulnerable. It also doesn't need something on the level of a pandemic to affect tourist destinations. An unusually mild winter? Ski resorts lose out. Recession in a country which is a large source of tourists? The tourist destinations lose out. Granted, you will occasionally have an unexpectedly good season instead, but when it comes to making a living, most people just want some stability, not a glut one year and poverty the next.

                    1 vote
                    1. skybrian
                      (edited )
                      Link Parent
                      I entirely agree that a diversified economy, not dependent on one industry, is better if you can get it. Other industries have their own risks. In the US midwest, a typical story is a city where...

                      I entirely agree that a diversified economy, not dependent on one industry, is better if you can get it.

                      Other industries have their own risks. In the US midwest, a typical story is a city where most people worked for a single company, and then the factory shut down. I wouldn't consider this to be proof that manufacturing is bad, though, and most cities would be happy to get a new manufacturing plant.

                      Agriculture is very risky as well due to weather.

                      3 votes
      2. [2]
        tempestoftruth
        Link Parent
        I imagine the author's response to this critique would be that communities which depend on tourism right now would be better off if they were able to create more stable, sustainable local...

        But on the other hand, many peoples' incomes depend on tourism. I thought the article was pretty dismissive about this consideration.

        I imagine the author's response to this critique would be that communities which depend on tourism right now would be better off if they were able to create more stable, sustainable local economies, echoing a bit of what other commenters have said already.

        3 votes
        1. skybrian
          Link Parent
          Maybe they would be, but easier said than done. (See my other response.)

          Maybe they would be, but easier said than done. (See my other response.)

  2. teaearlgraycold
    Link
    Unless tourism-based economies use this downtime to pivot to something else, or the wealthy suddenly have a collective moment of humility, I don't see any reason for this to change.

    Unless tourism-based economies use this downtime to pivot to something else, or the wealthy suddenly have a collective moment of humility, I don't see any reason for this to change.

    3 votes