Why Tourism Kills

| February 22, 2013 | 2 Comments

slider-sluThere are two types of tourism.

1. Resort: this is when you go to another country so that you can stay at a resort that’s a dime a dozen, and go to the pool and beach surrounded by other tourists who have no interest in the actual country in which they are.

2. The Guided Tour: this is when you go on day trips with an attractive tour guide who all peppy-like tells you about various historic sites and old rocks.

I am strongly opposed to both of these. I’m opposed to them because I think they kill culture.

Perhaps one could argue that the first doesn’t kill culture so much as ignore it. But I think that’s a sin in itself. To me, resorts just take up space that could be put to better use; they function as a sunny bubble for people that simply want to brag about their relaxation to their coworkers when they return. Why must space in incredibly interesting countries be used for this? Can someone buy an uninhabited archipelago somewhere and just make one big resort, and get rid of the others?acropolis with tourists

But my real beef, pork, venison and mutton is with the guided tour. Guided tours kill culture. Why? Because they turn historical, cultural sites into tourism that has no relevance to the modern culture, and exist only for themselves. Let me give you an example: I lived a little over three years in Greece, and visited the Acropolis maybe twice. The reason for this is that the Acropolis is utterly removed from modern Greek culture. It’s a place where tourists go when they visit Greece, because it is utterly “Greek.” But the problem is that the tourism has removed it from Greece. It has next to no archaeological use anymorewhat was going to be found has been foundand now it is mostly just being renovated to accommodate the tourists. Visiting the Acropolis is certainly not the way to experience Greece.

SDC11374I dislike this type of tourism because it comes at the expense of travelling, which I think is a significantly different beast. Travelling is experiencing a country like the people who live there do. Travelling is going to a country and eating in local eateries, listening to music in local clubs, and in general experiencing the culture from the point of view of someone who lives there.

Otherwise what is the point? If you follow the guided tour you take part in something artificial, something which was created to maximize the amount of dollars coming out of your pocket. It might be enjoyable enough, but that’s because it was designed for you to enjoy, not because it has anything intrinsically enjoyable about it. If you want a handjob, there are cheaper ways to go about it.

So here is my advice: cultivate your connections. In a world getting smaller and smaller, make friends with people from other countries, or friends of friends who live in other countries. That way, should you ever find yourself abroad, you know who to look upsomeone who will show you around, and help you experience the real country, and not what the airlines want you to see.

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Category: featured, Food and Travel

About the Author ()

An expat and perpetual wanderer, Tino studied Linguistics and Psychology in CAS. He now teaches Spanish in Detroit. Interests include: bulky journals, tattoos, Arizona black&white tea, food, C3, introspection and over-analysis.

Comments (2)

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  1. shannonwj says:

    I definitely agree with you, Tino. This summer I stayed with a French girl I had met in the US a few years ago and it was the best experience… much more personal and inspiring than other travel I had done.

    On another note, cultural immersion can even happen without traveling too far– getting to know international students or people even from another part of the country is just as rewarding as traveling somewhere else… and maybe we can meet them in their homeland one day!

  2. Nicole says:

    I agree, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing the guided tours if you’re trying to get a better understanding of the country. It’s important to have some knowledge of where the country has come from in order to understand it in contemporary times. Of course that could be gained from a history book or even a quick glance at Wikipedia, but it’s something different entirely to stand in a place that was so important to so many people, even if it was hundreds or thousands of years ago. And different people appreciate different things–beautiful architecture, storytelling from the past, etc.

    It is a shame that a lot of people go to these places for the sole purpose of getting a photo in front of them or telling people they’ve been to x, y, and z historical places. But when the goal is not just to check some sites off a list but is also to understand the past, and therefore to some extent the present, of people and their surroundings and culture, it can be an amazing experience. Supplemented, of course, but actually making an effort to understand contemporary culture in the ways you suggested.

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