Tourism supports 1 out of 10 jobs across the world. That constitutes approximately 10% of global employment which amounts to something around 9 trillion. Souvenir shops, tours, Hotels, local shops, and restaurants are all supported by this emerging fomo reality that has so massively possessed our minds with its trending quality. As a matter of fact, traveling has been the status quo sign of our era with people assessing it as the most pleasurable activity.
I remember once I was obsessed with traveling myself. Eating Dutch pancakes, marching though the ghost tours of Edinburg, or visiting the beautiful cathedrals in Italy would consume me with inner bliss. I would return after each trip and feel content and more experienced in life as if I had gone through a great adventure that I managed to survive.
Yet if that was so important, why did it seem to lose its effect after only a couple of weeks? And was it really any different than buying an iPhone or shiny new car to show off to your friends? Traveling has become the standard mark of being a high-value individual that has a great number of interesting selfies.
The Importance Of Traveling
Traveling used to be the only way people had to visit foreign cultures and exchange information and goods. Something impossible to do with any other means back in the day. You would get to experience people with the same biological basis as you, and how they get to organize their world and their businesses to earn their living. How they manage their households and go about their lives. You would open up to things you had never conceived before and return back home having a better understanding of the human condition. What can be achieved and what are the possibilities.
But besides this informational necessity, traveling would sensitize you to the various problems existing in the world. You would see the fragility of the environment and how everything is connected. How the loss of one animal could lead to an environmental catastrophe of a massive scale. You would get to see how people are getting exploited for profit or how forests are getting ripped off so that there is more room for expansion. And all this capitalization could strain nature and lead down to our own eventual detriment. All things that could open the eyes of people to encompass a greater view of the world than the mere strict location they are living in.
This bigger awareness was crucial because you would understand that each person’s actions and ideas can have a greater impact on the world than you might have thought previously. But how does this necessity compares to the compulsive hunt of the ‘Golden Selphie’ that can give you the great number of likes you are looking for. How do all the litter, the erosion, and pollution that comes as a result of mass tourism, relates to all these aspirations, really?
Tourism In Barcelona
La Boqueria, is a large traditional food market at the heart of Barcelona and one of the most popular tourist destinations. It dates back to 1217 and it has been a culinary icon with its beautiful cooked foods and fresh ingredients.
For a food lover, this market would be nothing but a sacred place. But now instead of all the authentic goat and meat, it used to be so well known about, it has turned into a tourist attraction that packages food to visitors with all the accompanying ribbons and labels. What used to be the place that locals would cover their real food needs has become the destination of the groups that enter the market for entertaining purposes and transformed the nature of the place itself. The actual attraction of going through a genuine, authentic place with its cultural uniqueness has lost its character to become a superficial sight.
“Barcelona risks losing its soul. We need to seek a fair balance between the best version of globalization and keeping the character, identity, and life of the city. This is what makes it attractive–it is not a monumental city, and it is not a world capital like Paris–its main feature is precisely its life, its plurality, its Mediterranean diversity. We want visitors to get to know the real Barcelona, not a ‘Barcelona theme park’ full of McDonald’s and souvenirs, without any real identity.” — Ada Colau
Tourism In Venice
On the other most famous European destination in Venice, things are not going quite well either. It is rapidly becoming a ghost town, having more tourists than actual citizens. It receives more than 30 million visitors per year and the limitless cruise ships that take place daily have caused significant environmental damage to the waterways.
“Now in Venice, every square meter is a business opportunity turned into an Airbnb or a hotel or some enterprise to make money. Before, Venice was a city filled with residents, with real life. Now it’s been turned into something else. It looks like Pompeii or Disneyland. We don’t know what kind of future we have.” — Gasparinetti
The real issue with traveling is the identity crisis. One that grows from within and eats the host like a parasite. Imagine you have a group of people, with their particular ways of living and cultural qualities. They diverted from the global way that commands all behaviors to be the same and created a path of their own. They have a unique perspective on how to systemize education, enforce taxes, or organize the members into society. And then comes tourism and all the little economical bursts that come along with it. It gives the opportunity to this culture to cultivate easy money by just packaging this culture and selling it over to them through its various manifestations. Their cuisine, symbols, and dressing code are all wrapped into a shiny box and sold over with a discount ticket. Locals are happy to make some bucks, tourists are happy to have a sign to remind them of this unique experience.
But what happens eventually is that whatever ways were developed to sustain their civilization is transmuted to a theatrical play that extracts money from tourists. What used to be a way of making an income and surviving through whatever means you had in your environment, has given place to the easy money that comes in the form of tourism. And the problem here is that all the real growth with its sustainable profits and gradual improvement has lost its purpose. Eventually, it all becomes a meaningless game to attract visitors and make their living out of the ways it was created in the first place. And what would happen, in case of a cataclysmic event that would restrict tourism for a while? What are the effects of COVID in particular, in the countries that base their income mostly in tourism?
COVID and Tourism
All major areas of tourism have shut down radically for as long as the pandemic is held. Hotels and flights have been banned for the most part, and access to foreign countries restricted almost completely. That has a straight impact on all the tourism-related jobs, cutting its earnings to a small fraction of what used to be. Obviously, no industry is really unaffected by COVID, but to the degree that an economy bases itself in tourism and external means to make its living, things will always change radically depending on the circumstances.
From the country perspective, tourism is like a person that makes his studies in anthropology but works in sidekicks and temporary works to make his living. Although it sustains him in the short-term, it is not suitable for the long run and doesn’t offer value on his main subject.
The Negative Impacts Of Traveling
We always used to think that traveling is a positive thing that enforces local economies and helps other countries by creating new jobs. If there was a particular millennial quality that could describe perfectly the psychology of this generation, there is nothing better than traveling. It subscribes to the philosophy of doing as much as you can, enjoying everything life has to give and moving from one thing to the next in a fast consuming pace. In millennial logic nothing is permanent and nothing should remain the same for too long. Changing jobs every couple of years, visiting new places, receiving a constant flow of notifications, renting in all areas instead of buying, and so on. It seems that his generation is all about to change and experience than anything else.
There is an eastern philosophical motto that has become my favorite one, for the last few years. “Where ever you go there you are”. It means that it doesn’t matter if you are in Chicago, Italy, or some part of Kenya, however you may interpret the world and behave towards it, is gonna remain the same. Visiting an island won’t remove the emotional baggage you are carrying and no amount of traveling is gonna do the work for you to take care of your inner self. Many times after traveling you will find out that whatever issues you had in your past life still manifest in the new environment in some way and it takes a different direction if you are about to solve them.0