“Less is more” tourism

So you didn't actually go to the Coliseum. So?

So you didn’t actually go to the Coliseum. So?

Where would you find hordes of (often) unsmartly clothed smartphone-backpack-camera- totting people of all ages and sizes and colours calling out to each other in barely recognizable languages as they follow their flagbearing guides? Or alternately, same species muddling along like a giant amoeba in same flavor caps, T-shirts or scarves?

Anywhere in the world that’s meant to be a tourist attraction.

1.8 billion trips are expected to happen in 2030°. That’s worldwide travel, including business but mostly tourism. I don’t want to even think of how that’ll impact our climate change and survival of the species emergency. But more simply, what about the quality of all that tourism?

Italy has a large number of cities and towns that depend on tourism for a big chunk of their livelyhoods, so tourists are encouraged to come. But talk to any local in any one of these lucky places, and unless they own a souvenir shop, a restaurant or a hotel, you’ll find their tolerance level has reached a tipping point. The sheer number of tourists, their noisiness and often lack of visitors’ etiquette is driving many locals to petition their mayors for anti-noise, anti-loitering, pro-curfew, pro-decorum laws.  Some northern European cities have already applied some of these, but Italy being Italy, should any such legal miracles ever happen, you’d come up against the indifference-to-enforcement culture.

Mainly because the chaos was generally there way before the invasion.

Rome is a case In point. I go to the historical center about once a week to see clients, and haven’t been enjoying it at all for a number of years already. The center’s turned into a pretty Disney-esque sequence of places that “have to be seen”, with sweltering elbow-to-elbow masses – 38° C perceived as I write – queueing up at tourist-trappy pizzerie or snaking around the Vatican walls to catch a rapid – “not-allowed-to stop as you walk by” – glimpse of truly unique art treasures. Plus smog, traffic and tour coaches (there you go with the enforcement: the coaches are not meant to get anywhere near the central areas!), not to mention public transportation union slowdowns. Or summer bus & metro schedules, ha!

In fact, what with the “crisis” and many Romans having to make ends meet, B&Bs have mushroomed all around town, and now pretty much dot the center. Average rates have plummeted. Nice, say average tourists! But they have no idea of the noise, crowds and stress level holiday they’re in for.

So what to do? Looking at it from a tourist’s point of view, I believe all would greatly benefit from a re-think of what they want to ultimately take away. Presumably good memories of a few places, good memories of certain foods, good memories of quiet evening walks (cooler then). Right? Well then don’t aim at seeing it all, choose just a very few ruins, exhibits, monuments, parks, whatever’s your thing. In our digital age, what you’ve missed (?) you can capture after in glorious HD TV or DVD , on superb documentaries or Internet galore.

So you didn’t actually go to the Coliseum. So?

This applies to tourism everywhere in the world. I also suggest it’s best not to aim to stay right at the heart of things. A hotel or B&B a distance from the main sights, where the locals really live, is often so much more pleasant, relaxing, and un-Disney-esque.

Years ahead, it’s the memory of a breezy late afternoon that’ll bring a smile to your face.

When in tourist mode, “less is more” has been my philosophy for a number of years now. I come back enthused and refreshed from my holidays, and wouldn’t have wanted to selfie anyway.

How would you feel about travelling today… and not trying to “see it all”?                                          


° source: UNWTO Annual Report 2014

photos:  Coliseum: http://www.kingsacademy.com

clip art: www. ClipArtHut.com

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16 Responses to “Less is more” tourism

  1. equipsblog says:

    I have a sister who is an example of the You Will See, school of thought. I don’t like to travel with her. If I see something I want to explore, or rest, or taste or drink, I want to be able to do just that, even if it is not on the schedule.

  2. Very good essay. On one trip to France, I was an ambitious sightseer in Paris. But the second week? Hit the beach at Antibes and did not get up.

  3. jetgirlcos says:

    This is a marvelous post. I love the idea of “Less is More” and in fact I had planned a similar post! May I link to this one when I do? You’ve really hit the nail on the head as far as I’m concerned! 🙂

  4. Mél@nie says:

    @”So you didn’t actually go to the Coliseum.” – nope, not yet, but we did go to Japan, Taiwan, and Hawaii several times… all roads lead to Rome, so it can wait à la retraite, ’cause it’s less than 2h-flight from Tolosa! 🙂

  5. Bea dM says:

    Thanks for commenting! Yes it’s a bit of a vicious circle. As I see it, in an ideal world, individual tourists would only choose a few places to visit (possibly not the most touted aka Coliseum), leading to less people at each venue. I’m told that central government planning /marketing, aimed also at “distributing” visitors to other great towns/cities on the territory can give good results as in France.

  6. Bea, great post. The idea of travel is so much nicer than the reality of travel…at least that’s what I have found. I went to Rome and, oh, the crowds and the lines! Yes, the sights were magnificent. Even the masses of people added something to the experience, but only because I’m such a people-watcher. I didn’t like bumping into so many strangers as I walked the streets, though.

    My idea of a vacation involves relaxation, not rushing and pushing. But how else does one experience any popular tourist destination? There are too many people wanting to visit the same places at the same time. And these places rely on tourism for their economy. Complicated situation, indeed.

  7. Ellen Hawley says:

    A friend who’s traveled likes to tell himself “If I didn’t see it, it wasn’t there”–not meaning that he has to see it all but that he can relax and see what he sees instead of making himself crazy trying to take in everything.

  8. Hi Bea,

    A very thought provoking post. I am with you on not trying to “see it all.” I’m more for seeing the unknown places, the places that really show what a country is like.

    I have the same feelings you do as I walk around Boston and I see all the tourists. I am happy that they are here, enjoying the city, but I’m not sure a “duck tour” with quacking sound effects really captures the essence of Boston.


    • Bea dM says:

      yes, I did mean to make you stop and think! added bonus, less people at each “sight”, less crowds everywhere. I’ll remember not to take the “duck tour” when visiting Boston (first time) next month, though it sounds intriguing 🙂

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