Monday, September 3, 2018

New York Times: ‘Overtourism’ Worries Europe. How Much Did Technology Help Get Us There?

Photo by Salt Water New England
Farhad Manjoo wrote, in his piece in The New York Times:
“[Overtourism]’s a level of tourism which is degrading the enjoyment that residents have, but it’s also degrading the tourist experience, because the tourist who is endlessly queuing behind backpacks of hundreds of other tourists is not discovering the real or the authentic place,” said Justin Francis...
“You can’t talk about overtourism without mentioning Instagram and Facebook — I think they’re big drivers of this trend,” Mr. Francis said. “Seventy-five years ago, tourism was about experience seeking. Now it’s about using photography and social media to build a personal brand. In a sense, for a lot of people, the photos you take on a trip become more important than the experience.” <https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/29/technology/technology-overtourism-europe.html>

Tourism has always been a Faustian bargain for the hosting region.  The primary advantages of tourists are the money they bring, and, as a secondary result, the motivation for a community to preserve and invest in unique aesthetics and culture.

However, as Mr. Manjoo points out, technology has made travel cheaper.  This not only creates overtourism, the point of the column, but also undermines the motivation of a community to tolerate some of these interlopers.  One can expect to see more anti-tourist ordinances, though perhaps not at the high-end.

While the summer house remains a nice model to put down roots, it is not a viable financial option for many.  A compromise may be returning to the same place year after year, avoiding the temptation of treating it as a resort, and instead finding a productive role in it.

There are people who, everywhere they build a new house, have stricter zoning laws follow.  Some new technologies may follow a similar path, diminishing what they purport to improve.

48 comments:

  1. Let us not forget that the event of overtourism (is that a word?) has yet to occur. It will occur in the next decade when China decides to permit its 700,000,000 middle class citizens to travel to the United States, permission which today is non-existent. When that happens, and it will happen, you will see 'travel restrictions' as never before.

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    1. You seem to be misinformed. China doesn't restrict it's people from traveling to the US. We have three friends from Manchuria arriving on Friday. Over the past 18 years, we have had several Chinese friends visit the US and stay with us. Most people in China have been and still are too poor to travel to expensive places like the US.

      Aiken

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  2. "Overtourism" is a word like "underserved." Or maybe "underprivileged."

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  3. Without question at least one Italian city - Venice - should charge an entry fee. Any non-Italian, non- resident ought to pay, say 50€, upon arrival. This fee should be charged upon arrival at Santa Lucia or alighting AliLaguna or a water taxi from Marco Polo airport. The most unique, and some say most treasured, city in the world is bleeding residents. It badly needs revenue to maintain itself.

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    1. There are, in effect, tourist taxes in Venice - the rip-off prices charged by Venetian restaurants. This is just one example - https://cruisesafely.com/venice-tourist-rip-off/. The victim was even mocked as a "skinflint" by the Mayor of Venice - https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/venice-mayor-mocks-tourists-who-were-ripped-off-by-waiters-rn5z7pzkx.

      Every few months, there is a media story of tourists being charged hundreds of dollars for a simple lunch in Venice. A group of Japanese tourists received a bill for over $20,000 - https://www.ctvnews.ca/lifestyle/travel/venice-restaurant-that-ripped-off-tourists-slapped-with-hefty-fine-1.3776896

      It's not unusual for cafes to charge $20 for a coffee. Tourists also pay more than local residents for transport and entry to museums. Adding taxes would only add insult to financial injury.

      I recommend Spain as an affordable alternative to Italy and France. The food is better and and much cheaper. The waiters are friendly and won't rip you off, even in the tourist "hot spots".

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  4. 1. The European tourists are in the attractions. Paris, London, Venice, Rome, Athens. There are fewer in Northern Ireland, Wales, places that are raw and cold. 2. Anon@5:22pm. You are correct. Our daughter in law is a Chinese National. She was amazed at the number of Chinese in Houston. There are several areas in major Texas cities that cater to Chinese tours and tourism here in Texas. ( Our DIL is working on her citizenship)

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  5. I see this as a real concern. Having lived abroad twice, I see a huge difference between how tourists behaved and how they were treated even a couple decades ago and today. Traveling today can be a bit like going to Disneyland, being in an artificial environment with loads of other travelers. (I think steering clear of traveling in peak season and not traveling in groups of people from your own country help. Edinburgh and Paris, for example, can be delightful, less crowded and more authentic in January and February. And I tend to seek out the more remote places away from the other tourists.) I also agree that since travel is so readily available now, many famous places are just to be ticked off a long list of places to breeze through, snap photos of and move on. I could have said it much better but, yes, traveling is just not the same today. More's the pity.

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    1. Susan, Winter is the only time to visit Europe, fewer of those pesky " Mericans."

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    2. I spent two years in Germany and loved it. My son spent a year there and my daughter three. My son, now living in L.A., says Germany is the best place to live. It's clean and orderly (said he). I will say, however, that I remembered it to be a rather cool climate.

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    3. Hi Susan, you've said it very good. To nail it, I'd suggest to name the todays development tourism equals consumerism.

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  6. Traveling is a completely different set of considerations now. Three decades ago a woman could travel alone, meet up with other young people with nary a concern. And this was before wifi and Internet everywhere which is supposed to provide better security - constant contact with home. In my time I traveled solo & had the time of my life; often arrived home before my post cards.today I would not do the same. When my children in their turn wanted to travel, I insisted they go with a group. We were relieved & assured each time we got a instagram or post of where they were, places & people they met. Thrilled that they could experience the Spanish Steps, the Lourve & Rive Gauche, the Alhambra and other places I had been years before, places that they had only heard & read about.

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  7. Sounds like Farhad stood in line this summer.

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    1. He makes very good point. Britain has been suffering from over tourism for decades. It's not just cities like London, York and Canterbury but areas of natural beauty such as the Cotswolds and the Lake District. At times, it's impossible for local residents to get around.

      Bars and restaurants are packed. Museums and art galleries (generally with free entry in London) are filled with Chinese and Koreans. They have little real interest in the exhibits, only in taking selfies and posting them on unsocial media.

      There used to be classy places that the tourists had difficulty finding but the internet has changed that. Then there is the problem of rampant knife crime and muggings, like New York pre Giuliani. The middle classes, especially retirees, are escaping to the country and who can blame them?

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    2. Americans used to be classy, but that seems to have been entirely abandoned in today's extremely reactionary cultural and political environment. As if it is known whether tourists are interested in museum exhibits, some just perpetuate racially motivated stereotypes. The Boogeyman is hiding around every corner and he's coming to a town near you!

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  8. “Before the development of tourism, travel was conceived to be like study, and its fruits were considered to be the adornment of the mind and the formation of judgement.”

    “Tourism simulates travel, sometimes quite closely. You do pack a suitcase or two and proceed abroad with passport and travelers checks. But it is different in crucial ways. It is not self-directed but externally directed. You go not where you want to go but where the industry has decreed you shall go. Tourism soothes you by comfort and familiarity and shields you from the shocks of novelty and oddity. It confirms your prior view of the world instead of shaking it up. Tourism required that you see conventional things, and that you see them in a conventional way. Tourism can operate profitably only as a device of mass merchandizing, fulfilling the great modern rule of mediocrity and uniformity.”

    Paul Fussell

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  9. It isn't just Europe, the Galapagos Islands and Iceland are being overrun with tourists. In Iceland, their native tongue has been subsumed by English. Iceland has produced several good police procedurals (available on Netflix) and half the time they are speaking English mixed with Norse. In the Galapagos, the ecological attractions are being degraded by so many visitors. Even in places like Boston (with its too narrow streets) and Maine (Route 1) jammed with huge, smoking trucks and lots of day trippers are suffering. These popular places should charge a visitor fee. It would reduce the number of feet and help rebuild infrastructure of these historic/scenic/popular places. I know I would be wiling to pay a little extra for the privilege of visiting these wonderful destinations. I think most people would.

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    1. I would, too. About three years ago, I arrived in Kennebunkport - off season - and the streets were jammed with people. I stopped in at the visitors' center and learned that cruise ships were dumping hundreds of people into the town! SO disappointing!!

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    2. Susan, I'm curious what time of year you visited?

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    3. This has happened to Bar Harbor as well:
      https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/31/us/bar-harbor-cruise-acadia.html

      I remember one summer taking the passenger ferry to Bar Harbor from across the bay in Winter Harbor. It was an extremely foggy day and as we pulled into Bar Harbor all of a sudden out of the fog rose this enormous cruise ship -- it was like passing by a glacier.

      I've stood in long lines to enter the Louvre and the Uffizi. I stood in line this summer to see the Churchill War Rooms in London. Queuing up a half hour to buy an ice cream cone is a bridge too far.

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    4. Do crowds get crazier today? The more people- the crazier the vibe seems, then multiply by Rx/rec. drugs/drink... I use to think my older family members were "stick in the mud" for avoiding large groups of people.

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  10. The article speaks of large scale tourism, where our experience deals with it at our local level. The fact that some of our neighbors now offer their houses as Air BnBs doesn't bother us much. However, most of them advertise that they don't charge a penalty for last minute cancellation. This allows their rents to be swayed by weather apps and that is a tough thing for inns to compete against. Weather apps are a technology that greatly harms our local tourism by so often being wrong. A lot lot money and volunteer hours went into an event held last week-end that suffered a virtual, though not a real, rain-out.

    As usual, Muffy, your short essay was smarter than the article you highlighted.

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  11. Like Nantucket in August! My God, can hardly walk on the sidewalks, or drive through town...

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  12. Living in an area attractive to tourist, one appreciates the conflicts the residents feel. Tourism supports local business and provides an appreciation in value of real estate. However, during periods when the tourist find the area most attractive, restaurants and beaches are packed. The problem can be solved by eating at home and not going to the beach or by just leaving. The real problem comes when visitors decide that this would be a good place to retire.

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    1. ...and a local can no longer afford to buy supplies, groceries, gas, etc because the shops raise prices that tourist can afford.

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  13. Having just returned from Europe, Spain, France, and Italy, I can assure you that over-tourism is alive and well....with myself being one of the tens of thousands of participants. While I didn't like all the crowds, I do appreciate the opportunity to have gone and see sights I haven't been able to in the past. While I saw many, many nationalities, I can say that the majority were of Asian descent. The crowds were just awful, but then again I was in the touristy areas. I did have the opportunity for a few drives in the countryside to some small, no-name villages, which were equally beautiful and less crowded. Travel is a wonderful experience for which I am truly grateful, so I suppose it is worth it. I can't speak for the locals who live there...I can imagine it is frustrating for them.

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  14. I think there are different ways to look at this. Many of us, I suspect, take our summer vacations at the same place every year, typically a beach. Sometimes we even have a place at the beach, if we're lucky, shared by the extended family. It's difficult to consider yourself a tourist under those conditions and, anyway, that might not count. You're summer people then. It really isn't putting down roots, though, not where we had a cottage.

    Then there's the rest of the world. There have been tourists for a long time but it used to be the leisure class who travelled. Travel was not only unhurried, it was slow to begin with. But that changed a long time ago.

    There was a time when young people took the grand tour as part off their education, if the family could afford it. My wife did that. I don't know if tours like that are still available. But I am informed they were not leisurely. No mention of crowds, though.

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  15. The entire idea of "overtourism" is at its root an elitist notion that says more about the complainer's snobbery, not wanting to stand next to, wait behind, or even have to see the rabble that can now afford to travel to their favorite haunts, than it does about tourism itself. "Sniff. Oh NO! THEY are here now." Nothing new. The suburban guy with the plaid shorts and camera around his neck has been the butt of jokes for a long, long time and I find it very distasteful and frankly not very Christian.

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    1. Dear Anonymous @ September 5, 2018 at 12:58 PM
      I too was lost, but now am found,
      after hours of ferreting out the phrase “frankly not very Christian”
      I have found this The Official Test of ‘Not Very Christian’ Christians
      Now go, REJOYCE, and be empowered with humor-
      http://stuffchristianslike.net/2009/06/05/554-doing-things-that-are-not-very-christian/

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    2. Even Jesus had to get away from the crowds sometimes...

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    3. Actually, Dave, your description above is quite accurate. And it's not "elitist" to take exception to beautiful spots being overrun with what you (accurately) describe as "rabble," particularly if the complainer is an actual resident, or a regular, respectful visitor.

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  16. All about the $...
    who has it- uses it for whatever, where the money goes to and the actual why, what happens then, etc...
    the big picture of it all.

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  17. “You can’t talk about overtourism without mentioning Instagram and Facebook — I think they’re big drivers of this trend,”

    That's one of the main problems - social media. Not that long ago, if people found a quiet, beautiful place, they would keep it a secret and it would remain a quiet, beautiful place on the whole. Nowadays, social media is breeding many narcissistic traits in its users. Travel bloggers, lifestyle bloggers and 'influencers' have a ridiculous desire to shout "look at me and look at where I am" to the whole world. In turn, their voyeuristic followers feel the need to emulate their online heroes.

    There is a trend in the UK at the moment of pubs making themselves 'Instagram friendly'. Landlords are spending thousands on flower displays so that social media users will flock to take photographs of the pub and give them online exposure. Whether they stay for a few pints is unclear.

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    1. Well said, Mad Dog. Everyone can now see where everyone else is thanks to the need to post it all online. Thus, the desire to have, see, and do as well. We travel and take photos, but we only share them with someone who asks to see them, and then it's done privately.

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  18. There is an easy and simple solution to all this worrisome overtoursim: build a wall around your favorite areas. Have strict vetting of tourists. If anyone tries to enter without authorisation, deport them immediately and if they come with children, put the kids in caged detention facilities, give them space blankets, and deport the parents; then forget about the kids. This to serve as a deterrent to future tourists. Oh, and yes, get Mexico to pay for your wall.

    Aiken

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    1. Overtourism? Too many people showing up? Aiken, you're absolutely right.

      Simple solution for a flood of “tourists”. Easy. Just let everybody into your country with no restrictions whatsoever.

      Like Utopias?

      For example, we should transform America the Beautiful into an overcrowded, crime and drug infested Third World flop-house filled with the dregs of the earth (we’ll call all these dregs “tourists” to make it sound better). All "tourists" welcome here --and you never have to leave! Ever. Free schooling, welfare and Health Care for all (See also France, Britain, Sweden, Belgium, Italy, Etc.)

      Yes, no borders, no wall, no laws for “tourists”. Please come on in everybody and bring your kids -- no qualifications necessary. Gang member with a murder and child trafficking conviction? No problem! Let us put out that welcome mat for you paid for by the taxpayers.

      Come on in -- we love these special “tourists,” and overtourism is fine with us.

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    2. Sounds like New York City a hundred years ago.

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    3. Robert,

      Tell us what you really think, lol.

      Aiken

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    4. Sounds like El Paso, 2018. Its now called Hell Paso and even Texas won't claim it.

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  19. The Pyrenean Hive, from Hills and the Sea by Hilaire Belloc. No, not Delft.

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  20. Trust Robert to find a way to use a post about tourism as an argument for his crypto-fascist Trumpian view of immigration. Robert, have you ever taken the time to read this blog and find out what it's actually about?

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    1. Do you actually live on the border,
      where it is mandatory to be inside by dark to avoid what/who over runs everything?

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    2. Sorry—again, this has what to do with the subject matter and theme of this blog, which is primarily New England, with a healthy dollop of country living, antiques, a bit of Anglophilia, and mostly a culture where this exact sort of political ugliness is considered vulgar and divisive? Run along now. Find a bridge to live under, or at the very least, find another blog to troll. It's so boring.

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    3. Anonymous September 8, 2018 at 2:55 PM:

      Aw, shuddup!

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  21. Thank you Robert Reichardt September 8, 2018 at 5:11 PM
    I think everyone is valid-
    I always learn something by what is posted; stellar vocabulary, correct grammar, forgotten proverbs, global information/resources, insight of street smarts, fresh new ideas, reasons for old tried and true heirloom traditions/standbys. Perceptions of pride and prejudices. Spirituality vs religion. Politics, barometer of Doodlebug crazy. Reasons for good etiquette, when silence is the best answer, down home recipes, good humor, armchair travel, assorted product reviews, the love of dogs, appreciation of good tea, and the fine art of changing horses in midstream.
    Whether you agree or not what a gift to be able to glean a bit of all things thus getting a legitimate glimpse into worldly education and universal knowledge base. God bless ‘em all…
    Then there is the pleasure of fantastic “story” photography!

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    1. To what are yo referring when you say "changing horses midstream'?

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  22. So true. Well stated. Traveled in Italy this summer. More Americans than Italians. Still beautiful, but we were herded in and out Vatican City like we were chicken parts at a Perdue farm. Then on the other hand, spent time in Truro, CC. Loved every second of it including the shark scares.

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  23. Thank you for this blog post. Your cozy postings allows brief harbor from an otherwise tumultuous world.

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