Tourism is often a very dirty word. Nobody wants to be a tourist per se, they would always much rather be a traveler, a cultural ambassador, maybe even (gasp) a visitor … but never a tourist.
Perhaps it is a dirty word because it is associated with voyeurism, or because it is associated with pure Leisure, something western civilization’s party-poopers have been fighting against since the Greek word was invented. Don’t believe me? Check out one of the most important 20th century philosophy books you have never read: Leisure, the Basis of Culture.
However, probably the biggest reason Tourism sounds dirty to so many ears is that it leaves an indelible mark on everyone it touches, and often not in a positive way. If mismanaged, left unchecked, or the planning process excludes local guidance, Tourism can potentially end up devastating livelihoods, create social ills and pollution, and destroy a community’s sense of place and character.
Sure, we like to travel. But the tired cliché that humans are possessed with finding out what is over the next hill is not always true: many of us are quite content in our very own security bubble. Sun, Sand and Surf are the biggest reason why we travel anyway.
So why even bother with tourism and all of the potential downsides? We must be tourists. Why? To bring about world peace, silly!
And I am not alone in thinking that Tourism can bring about world peace: UNESCO does, UNWTO does, National Geographic does, and the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism definitely does. But, as I said earlier, Tourism can be a very, very, very detrimental thing to a lot of people and our planet.
This is why I love Regional Tourism Planning!
Over my next few posts, I will explain what Tourism really is and how, as planners, urbanists, and yes, as tourists, we can help bring about world peace.
Now that is what I call a cliffhanger.