Australia is a great country for tourism. And I love to travel. And tourism boosts the economy. But I’ve had enough. There are too many tourists. We don’t want any more.
Travel is no longer ‘special’
Tourism is great when it is special, unique. But when everyone goes to New York, London, the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, the Great Barrier Reef, whatever, wherever, it’s no longer special or unique. Our friends travel everywhere. I can’t keep up with it all. Everywhere they go is ‘amazing’. And you must have pictures of it, to send to all your friends.
But when I go into the Melbourne CBD now, which is hardly a global tourist hotspot, it’s full of foreign faces, foreign languages. In fact, it’s just like…many other cities in the world.
But when you travel, you want to see something different. You don’t want to see Aussie restaurants, Aussie brands, Aussie people. (If you do, you should stay home. It’s a lot cheaper.) And when I travel, I’m now surrounded by hordes of tourists almost wherever I go (unless it is to out of the way landscapes that require people to actually do something, like walk), hordes that largely resemble the hordes of people I see in Melbourne. We’re all doing the same things – ticking off places to see and eat and stay at from tourist guides. Why? So we can say we’ve seen them, ‘done’ them.
A photo is worth….virtually nothing
I’m no longer interested in other people’s photos. And no one really wants to see my pictures, for the same reason. I love good pictures, I love travel, I love landscapes, but really, how many picture of X in front of the Y do you need to see?
Economically tourism is promoted as a growth industry. But too many tourists actually degrades tourism and also degrades the lives of people living in tourist hotspots. They become Disney movie sets, with thousands of tourists crawling over them every day, so no one can really live there. Indeed, in some places, there are only tourists now. No one does live there. What’s the point of another million tourists visiting a country or a site to the people who live there? The less tourists who go to a place the better it is. We need less tourism, not more.
Self-interest or self-realisation?
Of course, I’m arguing from a very privileged, self-interested position. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to many places over many years. But what I realised quite a few years ago is that what I love about travel is learning about the culture and ways of life of the people who live in a place…and the natural landscapes, not the manmade artifices of cities, buildings and shops. And as the internet spreads information, ideas and pictures, you can see and learn about all this without travelling. Everywhere you go is becoming like everywhere else. And if you couple that with horrible plane experiences, horrible airport and long queueing experiences, constant packing up, moving on, unpacking, waiting for people in your group and more, that ‘amazing’ trip is actually not amazing at all.
So what should we do?
- Recognise that travel is not ‘good’ just because it is ‘travel’. Realise how much of your trip time is actually taken up with boring, mundane, non-value adding activities and choose trips that minimise this.
- Recognise that less travel makes travel more special for you and those experiences more valuable to you personally. Choose carefully those experiences that will really make a difference to you, regardless of what others think or do.
- Recognise that, socially, large scale travel is destroying many wonderfully unique places. The more people who visit Rome, the more Roman history is worn away and the less there is for those who come later.
- Limit the volume of tourists to any particular place by limiting accommodation, limiting tourism services, making tourism ‘special’ again.
- Tax tourism more. Tourists are lucky to visit a place. They don’t have a ‘right’ to visit. It belongs to someone else. Make tourism cover all its costs. Make it subsidise the local economy for the benefit of locals.
Now where will I travel this year? And why?