Thursday, September 5, 2013

Tourism Today

Tourism today

There has always been tourism.  Over the centuries the explanations have changed.  The Australian term ‘walk about’ is perhaps the best explanation ever.

The question of “Why” you are going on a “walk-about” is different, especially depending on whose is asking and often the personal reason for going ‘exploring’, “visiting”, ‘wandering”.

Buddhist genius, Trungpa, described Western motivation as “spiritual consumerism’.  There is a kind of “Pacman” mentality to the tourism of the secular materialists who deny their own religious frenzy for tourism while mocking medieval ‘pilgrimages’.  

Often tourism has been coupled with war and conquest.  Certainly the navy has attracted many sailors interested simply in visiting brothels in different ports.   It certainly wasn’t a good reason to sign up for WWII but many a GI returned with tales of Paris after his tour overseas.  

In the days of DH Lawrence some time ‘abroad’ was considered essential for the well rounding of the English upper classes. Byron’s journals are a great read of a writer ‘abroad’.  Today there’s a regular ‘travel journalism’ that has flourished as it’s own genre.

I have been a tourist and indeed like many Canadians look forward to the opportunity to do more ‘travel’ if ever I can retire.  The great times of prolonged tourism in the west are in one’s 20’s before or after completing an extended stint of schooling or at retirement when one has acquired sufficient assets to afford the cost.  In between, tourism is often about a week or two, maybe four, away from home as part of an annual holiday.  This competes with the obviously less costly alternative of kicking back in the yard barbecuing or hanging out at the local beach.

What has interested me in the last decades is the increase in ‘tourism’ of a sort that may well have always been around but was less in the normal consciousness.

  1. War Tourism – In the Civil War of the United States the gentlemen and gentle ladies early in the war road out to the ‘observe the war’.  Today the military describe increasing numbers of non combatant military and non military in the war zone. As one grizzly war worn Canadian sgte said, “I get tired of being the guy that shows the Ottawa desk brass around like tourists so they can get their promotions.  I’m supposed to ‘show’ them the war but they’re not supposed to get hurt. They’re at least military. There’s all the other government officials and dignitaries. Some are just voyeurs.  They’re there for titillation and to tell their friends at home.   Sometimes all we’re doing is showing people around the theatre. “  In addition to that there’s the hoards of “journalists, photographers, paparrazzi and general media’ today who flock to war zones like migratory birds.  There’s a thousand different ‘reasons’ given for everyone there ‘observing’ and those ‘observing so others can see’ but the fact remains it’s all about the killing. The soldiers are the game and everyone else is a tourist by comparison.
  2. Poverty Tourism – I confess I liked going to Mexico when a dollar or two bought me a hotel room.  Tourism for many has been going somewhere ‘cheap’ .  Paris was famous with artists at the turn of the century and then in the 30’s simply because it was cheap. Today it’s no longer a place for artists but rather art dealers and their banker art buyers. “Moveable Feast” of DH Lawrence and Hemingway era describes a Paris of poverty where poor artists could live cheap.  To day this is more likely to be found in Eastern Europe or Asia.  Young people commonly explain their flocking to such meccas as ‘ideological’ but the fact remains that in the cities where the booze, drugs , food and shelter are cheapest and the political climate is relatively safe, there will be the young intellectuals and artists.  The Greek Islands were that for Leonard Cohen and countless others. What is interesting is the ‘reason’ today for some of these tourists is that they claim they are there ‘in solidarity’ or for some ‘nobler reason’ than simple ‘tourism’.
  3. Missionary Tourism – I was amused to see a fellow sailor trying to raise funds for his cruise in the Pacific by declaring that he planned to ‘distribute bibles in the Polynesian islands”.  This was in the 21st century and since I’ve considered doing the same myself. The fact remains that I did sail my boat to Hawaii and thoroughly enjoyed sailing the Hawaian Islands as a ‘simple’ tourist.   Where ‘education’ was once sufficient explanation for ‘tourism’ increasingly there is a need to wed simple voyeurism with a religious motif.  So many ‘missionary’ projects depend on their maintenance by inviting rich and influential westerners to Third World countries offering them a chance to visit an orphanage and help build a church or some such thing while really providing a kind of tourism for those who might not otherwise leave the safety and normalcy of their own homes.
  4. Ecological Tourism – as Ecology has become the new Religion and Gaia or the Earth Mother as the new Goddess, a variation of Missionary Tourism has developed in the Secular Materialist sets with various ‘tourist’ projects set up for usually young and impressionable people to join the ‘war against climate change’ by visiting a damn or irrigation project.  
  5. Sex Tourism – I suspect this has been around since cave man times, men being men.  One caveman might well have said to another , “Hey, mate, care to search for a bit of strange”. Given the barreness of northern Ireland and Scotland and lack of riches, it’s historically recorded that the Viking and Europeans and countless other cultures were attracted to those regions perhaps solely to steal the incomparably beautiful women. Indeed the men there may well have taken up wearing skirts in hope of having a sailor get them away from Hagis and Porridge fare.
  6. Health Care Tourism – Since the time of Delphi and before the sick have been wandering off looking for cures wherever. Pain is as great a motivator as lust it seems even today when Mexican dentists , Thailand Sex Change Surgery and American Mayo Clinics compete for the sick tourists who today demand far more than the ‘baths’ or the ‘healing waters’.  I’m personally fond of Harrison HotSprings Spa near Agazziz, British Columbia.  Cosmetic surgery has long had a ‘global’ competition for tourist dollars with many competitive sites.  In the end the decision of one comparable surgical team with another might well be decided by whether there is a nearby golf course or beach depending on the procedures. Certainly Addiction treatment facilities, like Betty Ford, have catered to the tourism consideration of spas and pools and massage facilities.  Of course the end of the road poor and wasted patient is more likely to be dependent of a local church based service without any of the more ‘attractive’ amenities.
  7. Adventure Tourism – This industry has literally sky rocketed in the last decades.  It’s not new given the original Hudson Bay Company was called the “Company of Adventurers’. Though in those days ‘profit motive’ was associated with ‘adventure’ Today it’s more likely that the tourist servers will be the ones that make the money as opposed to the tourists who are willing to pay exorbitantly for anything from swimming with sharks, climbing Everest or flying to Antarctica.
In the end it's just a 'walk about' but it's always best if someone else pays.  I think Columbus did it best by getting the King and Queen to pay for his little adventure.  Of course today the favoured 'tourism' package is the 'government investigation' .  In Canada countless government officials took the opportunity to leave dreary cold wet snowy Canada to visit the hot Caribbean Island, Haiti, to "assess the islands need for foreign aid'.  Whatever.  A walk about is a walk about however one explains or packages it.  

1 comment:

Randy Apps said...

A good take on the subject.

I often wonder why some of us have travel bug and some never leave their own town.