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A Glaze of Tourists, or is it a plague?

I'm not sure what the answer is do you?

The first part of my title was inspired by James Lipton’s ‘An Exaltation of Larks, or The Venereal Game’. A fascinating, and at times hilarious, book on collective nouns. Some of the terms of game hunting date back to the Middle Ages, whilst others are modern inventions by James Lipton such as the next one on his list which is a ‘plague of locals’. And it got me thinking. Page 128 - James Lipton's An Exaltation of LarksI have certainly come across numerous glazes of tourists transfixed by a view or statue in front of them, but the word that comes to mind as I try and circumnavigate them is not glaze! A ‘plague’ seems far more appropriate.

The ease and general low cost of modern travel has brought many benefits, however as the number of visitors ever increases the benefits for the local community are beginning to be outweighed by the negatives. In Porto, and in the Algarve, locals have shared with us how they can no longer live in their home area because long term rents and homes to buy are increasingly unaffordable or unavailable, a direct result of foreigners buying holiday homes and short term rental schemes such as AirB&B. It isn’t just housing that is negatively affected by tourism. We’ve all read I am sure about the impact of cruise ships on Venice, and many of us will have heard a story or two from family and friends about a stag/hen party horror abroad. As local shops are replaced by tourist shops and bars, and prices in restaurants become exorbitant the risk is that the original charm and unique appeal which drew tourists will disappear and worst of all the village, town or city will become a hideous place to live and work. I’m not the only one to bemoan the impact of tourism in recent weeks; last Thursday The Guardian discussed how travellers consciously and unconsciously exploit and Andrew in October shared his recent tourism nightmare in Sintra.

Praça do Comércio, Lisboa
Even out of season there are small crowds

In some areas such as Venice and Amsterdam the nightmare has become the reality and the local authorities are being pressurised to urgently take action. I think Lisbon, Porto and Sintra may soon need to do the same.

Our personal solution is to travel out of season and to only eat in places favoured by locals in the hope our pennies will be more welcome. And the benefit for us is that we discover fabulous food and even more importantly avoid the queues and crowds as we like Andrew, cannot abide them. I am also becoming far more cautious with my blog, and quite often on birding posts will be vague about exactly where we have been! However it is a difficult one to balance as the reason tourism was encouraged in the first place was to support and build local economies, and in many areas tourism is the only thing keeping a place going.

I’m not sure what the answer is do you?

Belem on a Sunday
This is in March so imagine what it is like in the summer!

49 comments on “A Glaze of Tourists, or is it a plague?

  1. Pingback: A musical interlude in Faro – It caught my eye in Portugal

  2. The coming of Summer the tourists descend on the North Cost of NSW Australia. I travel the back roads to avoid the traffic and people wandering in the streets.My main gripe is the rubbish thrown from cars onto the highways and often when the tourists travel off the highway around the gravel roads near my place, the rubbish multiplies.

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  3. Hmm. Unsure about the tourist taxes. We’ve been there, we’ve seen it and we’ve possibly disturbed the locals if we did it as young backpackers, so now is it OK for us to deny it to other young people? I think the jury is out on that one. It’s easy to become incensed though. After my last trip to Florence a few years ago I returned home with the idea of suggesting that no one be allowed to visit there again until they’d first past an exam proving their interest and knowledge of the place. I was really into extreme anti-tourist mode. It took a younger person to make me think of when I was a youthful traveller when my only reason for not behaving as badly as they do today was probably that we would not have been allowed to! But I have a nagging feeling that even so, I had a desire to see these places that I’d read about and felt I knew, and I had a respect for them.

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    • Certainly don’t wish to deny anyone, maybe the tourist tax could be in proportion to the cost of the accommodation. So if you can afford and want to stay in 5* you pay 5* taxes, whereas hostels the tax can be minimal. Generally I’ve found though it is not the young backpackers which are the problem it is the stag parties, huge cruise ships and enormous travel groups.

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