A Glaze of Tourists, or is it a plague?

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!

Author: BeckyB

It had been a good life walking, cooking, photographing, volunteering, blogging, and best of all spending time with MrB, family, & friends. Sadly it no longer is. Suddenly and unexpectedly I have become a widow.

49 thoughts

  1. John Carter made the same points on Silver Travel recently, Becky. I don’t really complain about it because I’ve not often been a victim. Lisbon in October was perfectly manageable and we were almost the only people on the Aqueduto. It depends where you go, doesn’t it? On the other hand, Lumiere in Durham has become a victim of it’s own success. There were a couple of serious people jams. I’d better just stay at home, in the warm, and watch National Geographic. Mick would be perfectly happy 🙂 🙂

    1. Certainly does depend where you go . . . . unfortunately I don’t think there is any answer, and I know I am as much of the problem as the next person.

  2. New Yorkers struggle with their feelings about tourists all the time. I’m proud of my city and want people to really know it, but at the same time I’m frustrated when visitors are not respectful or aware of the affect that they have on our daily lives.

  3. We like to stay for a week or so and we’ve found that early morning and later in the afternoon are the best times because most tourists only stay for a day. I like the term “glaze” because often you see large groups with their eyes glazing over as they rush from one thing to the next, with no time to stop and enjoy. We’d rather travel independently and take our time.

    1. Exactly! And with the obsession of taking a photo and then rushing off to the next place, I am sure many can’t even recollect later where their photographs were taken.

  4. Although south Florida is a tourist haven, I avoid the beaches most of the year. When we have house guests who want to see the sights we do enjoy sharing their experience despite crowds and long lines.

  5. I share your dismay at the effects that mass tourism is having in certain places, but it is also affecting parts never visited by tourists. In many areas of Sicily, and other parts of Italy, inland areas are dying as young people flock to the areas frequented by tourists because there is work, money and a more attractive life to be had there. Working the family farm is back-breakingly hard, poorly paid, and often seasonal. The young ones cannot be blamed. Drive through the countryside and all you will see are boarded up houses in villages with maybe just a few old couples left alone to survive as they may. That is immensely sad to see. And while I dislike the hoards of tourists that throng ‘my places’ I hate even more those who wield selfie sticks and don’t really look or absorb where they are. Whatever happened to culture?

    1. Ugh selfie sticks . . . I hate them too! This obsession with proving where you have been with photos rather than memories, horrid.

      Sad to hear about what is happening in Sicily. The Algarvian hills and much of Alentejo are experiencing the same. Some villages only 1 or 2 people in their 80s are left – dreadfully sad but as you say totally understandable.

  6. I am not going to complain about low cost travel but it really is the culprit. Budget airlines are delivering a big cargo of people to popular destinations every day. I was genuinely surprised by how busy Lisbon was when we were there. The less accessible places were much more comfortable, In Coimbra there was a lot of graffiti anger directed at tourists and local landlords about how people are being forced out of the city.

    My tip relates to the Greek Islands – avoid those with airports and the cruise ship destinations.

    1. Definitely the culprit but as you say we are all enjoying the benefit 🙁

      Good tip on the Greek islands . . . . one of my stepdaughters joined her boyfriend’s parents on a cruise – not something she would ever normally do – and she said it was just horrid when they arrived somewhere . Like a flood of people pouring off the ships.

      1. In the Colossus of Rhodes, Henry Miller wrote prophetically: “I began to get the feel of it, what Greece was, what it had been, what it will always be even with the misfortune of being overrun by tourists.”
        In Mykonos during the summer an average of 6,000 people a day arrive on cruise ships. The population of the town is just 3,000 and that doesn’t include the land based tourists!

        1. A big problem is that as they try to cut costs and avoid the big chargers they increasingly try to find alternative ports so you can never be sure exactly where they will turn up. I went to Kotor in Montenegro a few years ago and there was a cruise ship there that was bigger than the old city itself!

  7. Skye is another place that is suffering from overload. I don’t know what the answer is either because I AM a tourist and I want to see all the places so it would be churlish to deny other people. Also, many livelihoods depend on tourism. More investment in local infrastructure would help, but who thinks that’s gonna happen?

    1. Exactly – I am very aware I am contributing to it as much as I bemoan!

      Hadn’t heard that about Skye 🙁 I’ve never been but want to, perhaps I should explore instead one of the more inaccessible islands that do need the tourism. I wonder if increased tourism taxes would help with the infrastructure?

  8. Jude’s right, and it applies in Devon and to some extent Dorset as well. Local people cannot afford to buy a home, rental costs are becoming prohibitive, and the social housing has been sold off!

    1. I just don’t understand why local and national governments are so slow to take action . . . .and then when they do, their responses quite often cause as many problems as they try to resolve. 🙁

  9. The Cornish economy is based on agriculture and tourism so of course tourists are a necessity, but it does mean that many homes are holiday lets or second homes and as a consequence there are fewer homes on the market for locals to rent or buy. The beaches are packed in summer and at Easter and the roads here are not built for the large vehicles, the motor-homes and the caravans that seem to get bigger each year and nor are the car parks. St Ives passed a ruling that any NEW homes (and I emphasise the new) cannot be bought as a second home, but that doesn’t really deal with the issue as there aren’t that many new homes being built. Within the tourist industry jobs are usually low paid and often seasonal so getting any kind of a mortgage must be hard. I often think that places that are so reliant on tourism will eventually just become like a theme park or film set. No one really lives in them any more, just actors playing the role of the friendly baker or organic greengrocer. And everyone seems to be cottoning on to the ‘out of season’ to the extent that there doesn’t seem to be such a thing any more!

    1. 🙁 not really to sure what to say as you are right on every point and I just don’t know what the answer is . . especially as like Anabel I am not leading by example as i want to explore as much as anyone else.

      I think tourism taxes though would at least help the local economy and infrastructure.

      1. There has to be a fine line between taxing tourists enough to help the local economy but not enough to put them off coming. I think higher taxes on second homes and council tax for second homes would discourage people from having them. But is that the answer?

        1. That’s a good point about the tourist taxes . . .. and definitely agree about higher taxes on second homes. . . however until we get a government that really acknowledges the issues and spends appropriate time on exploring the options, I guess nothing will happen.

        2. Indeed. I try to avoid the truly tourist regions whenever I travel away from home, but like many others there are certain spots you just want to see for yourself. I think it becomes a problem when locals are outpriced. Like when it pays more to rent as a holiday home than as a permanent rental, and a lot of Airbnb places are no longer the owners house, let out for a short time, but a property purposely bought for rental, but without paying the business rates. Now that really has to stop.

    2. I can’t disagree but you have to go to obscure places, like me- not tourist heaven! You can’t live on the doorstep of St. Ives and then complain because other people have discovered it’s beautiful. And do you mind not suggesting higher taxes for my second home? Hopefully it will soon be my first. 🙂 🙂

      1. To be fair there aren’t many obscure places in the west country and we didn’t plan to live this close to St Ives specifically because of that tourist aspect, but couldn’t find a suitable property with a garden and parking in Penzance. My complaints are really to do with the fact that locals living on local wages are priced out of their home towns. And I am sure that applies equally to the Algarve.

        1. I agree on the locals being priced out . . . . . it is a huge issue in Porto, and we’ve been told it is becoming an issue in the Algarve. Having said that however many of the houses in Olhao were becoming ruins and it is thanks to wealthy northern Europeans that they are being restored. Such a difficult one to resolve, especially when I know I am part of the problem.

    3. I can echo that as I live on the Isle of Wight and we have the same problems, one of the biggest being our narrow roads unsuitable for the enormous coaches that are arriving daily. Still on a traffic problem, the other bugbear is mainland drivers who can’t slow down when they come on holiday and think they can drive as fast as they do on the mainland, tailgating to try and push the slower (and safer) drivers along. On one hand, it’s amusing to see them rushing past immune to the loveliness all around them but it’s also sad.

      1. I always felt the Island years and years ago should have followed the Zermatt model of no petrol or diesel vehicles, with the exception of tractors, ambulances and fire engines! And if only they had kept all the railways.

      2. PS I always laughed at myself when I came off the island to visit family that I thought doing 60 was very very fast!

      3. I think in Cornwall it is the locals who speed 😀 I cautiously approach every twist and turn expecting a horse or a tractor, but the locals (including some tractor drivers) seem to just fly round them without a thought.

        1. Learnt my lesson in IoW when I discovered a parked police car on a blind bend – fortunately not only did I miss him he didn’t notice my skid!!

  10. We have rented apartments on Tenerife, La Palma and in Luz / Algarve but the owners were Swiss, German or British (these apartments were usually situated in the normal countryside). For our next trip to Tenerife we now know a local, but we first had to visit them personally for getting aquainted, otherwise no rentabel for our next stay. So it is not always easy to do something else!

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