Thoughts On Tourism (Reading List)

Over the years, without my really paying much active attention, my attitudes about tourism have shifted. I mean, I’ve never been super keen on conventional tourism, as in going on “getaway vacations,” cruises, or package tours (though I have done some of that). And I imagine many of you probably have similar feelings.

I’ve tended to prefer long stays and immersion. Like when I spent five weeks roaming around England, Scotland, and Wales back in the 80s. (My first time going overseas by myself.) Or when I took a month-long rail trip around Japan (I was living and working in Tokyo at the time). On those trips, the streets and everyday shops were always more of an attraction to me than the comme il faut visits to ruins or museums (though I could see the value in visiting ruins and museums, and did a good bit of that too). Really though, I would almost always rather just sit around chatting with some local in a pub or café. Or walk into a grocery store or convenience mart and see what’s on the shelves.

So it’s not as if I was ever a very tourist-y tourist. But, in recent years, I’ve started to feel more cautious about even the “educational” type of travel. Some of it is concern for carbon footprint. (But to address that concern, a traveler can purchase carbon offsets, something I have written about on this blog.)

But even beyond the environmental concerns of long-distance (especially international) travel, I have noticed within myself a more humanitarian, social, economic concern that until recently I might have had a hard time articulating. In the past few months I’ve stumbled on some readings that not only expressed a lot of what I’d been feeling, but also brought me to a deeper level of awareness around travel. A few months ago I started building an electronic “scrap file” of links on this topic. I added and added to it, but then turned to other topics and forgot where I stashed the “tourism” scrap file(s?). But as I find it/them, I will be sharing the links with you here. Watch this space! (Update: Yay! I just found one of my link-stashes! See below.)

Further Exploration:

“Are We Doing Vacations Wrong?” (Yes Magazine): “From the economic instability that tourist cultures bring to their overuse of natural resources that exacerbate climate disasters, to glaring labor exploitation and gendered oppression that keep poor women of color living under the boot of White supremacist patriarchy, participating in the mass tourism industry is more likely to spread social inequality than staying home would.”

“Lovely Hula Hands” (Haunani Kay-Trask, Revolutionary Frontlines blog): “I would imagine that most Americans could not place Hawai’i or any other Pacific island on a map of the Pacific. But despite all this appalling ignorance, five million Americans will vacation in my homeland this year and the next, and so on into the foreseeable capitalist future. Such are the intended privileges of the so-called American standard of living: ignorance of, and yet power over, one’s relations to Native peoples.”

“Pandemic Returns Hawaii To Locals” (AP article in Daytona Beach News-Journal): “Locals, many of whom depend on tourism jobs, have long felt ambivalence about living in an island paradise that relies heavily on visitor spending, but many saw an upshot to a health crisis that threatened their livelihoods – reclaiming favorite areas long overrun by crowds. … ‘What the pandemic did was give us all a moment to pause, a number of months, to rethink everything,’ said state Sen. J. Kalani English. ‘What it proves for us is that old model of tourism, which is, you know, mass bring 11 million visitors a year, didn’t work and people were tired of it.'”

U.N.: Skiing May Not Spread Coronavirus But Slopes Still Risky (AP article in Daytona Beach News-Journal; article focused on European countries known for ski tourism): “… the danger of coronavirus spread from skiing is from many of the other activities linked to the sport. The real issues are going to come at airports, tour buses taking people to and from ski resorts, ski lifts … and places where people come together,” Ryan said. “We would advise that all countries look at the their ski season and other reasons for mass gathering,” he said, warning that indoor socializing after skiing might be particularly risky.” (I’m including this article because it made me wonder if a few Euro ski-resort town locals are — like some Hawaiian locals mentioned in the above-linked article — breathing secret sighs of relief because maybe the lack of tourist crowds will give them leeway and time to enjoy the natural attractions of their own places.)