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Losing culture to tourism?

Travel Forums General Talk Losing culture to tourism?

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1. Posted by tway (Travel Guru 7273 posts) 9y

In one of the local papers, I found an article today about Old Quebec – the historical section of Quebec City (also a protected UNESCO site). Residents were talking about how they were losing their city to outsiders. As Old Quebec becomes a more and more popular tourist destination, rents are becoming more and more unaffordable, and outsiders – notably Americans, for their proximity - are buying up homes and living there maybe a few weeks out of the year. Local merchants can no longer afford rising rents, and big chain stores are moving in. Even the one and only local grocery store closed up shop so they could make a nice profit.

The residents are afraid that Old Quebec is losing its charm – what attracted people to it in the first place. This got me thinking about New Orleans – a place I was disapointed to discover felt pretty much like any other big US city. It had lost much of its charm to, I assume, the whims and demands free-flowing cash of tourists.

As it becomes easier and more affordable to travel, are we collectively turing the places we visit into bland replicas of one another? Is it inevitable, since business goes where the money is? What can we do?

I really, really love Old Quebec – I can’t imagine it turning into another dull tourist attraction that just plays the part of Old Quebec every day. :(

2. Posted by magykal1 (Travel Guru 2026 posts) 9y

Well, I guess this is the flipside of the availability of global tourism. I think it happens a bit everywhere. It really emphasises the responsiblity we have for choosing where we spend our tourist dollars though - not just spending our cash on tourist tack, multinational hotel chains and manufactured attractions, but on local industry and hospatality, and on attractions which use the funds to preserve culture and history.

Having said that, I'm surprised that isn't the case in Quebec - I would have assumed it would have been reasonably keen to preserve culture etc...

3. Posted by tway (Travel Guru 7273 posts) 9y

Quoting magykal1

Having said that, I'm surprised that isn't the case in Quebec - I would have assumed it would have been reasonably keen to preserve culture etc...

Quebec in general is - they were referring to Old Quebec, which is a walled part of Quebec City. It's not particularly big - it runs along the waterfront for maybe a mile - but it's of huge historical significance. The governmens here do a lot to preserve and protect the culture, but they also want to attract the tourists.

From what I read, it's private homes and businesses that are being bought out by 'outsiders', and that's what's chaging the authenticity of the place. One resident said that 3 of his neighbours only came to live there a few weeks a year.

4. Posted by Isadora (Travel Guru 13926 posts) 9y

It's not only happening to historical areas, but also to places that were once visited for being beautiful, peaceful and an escape from someone's "real world". A classic example is Sand Point, Idaho. It was known for it's scenery, fishing and quaint charm. Housing was reasonable and the village itself still had that "small town" ambience. (I was there in 1985.) By the very early 90s, Sand Point was "discovered" by the hopelessly hip and wealth from California who proceeded to build their summer homes, jack up prices, increase taxes and ultimately forced a retreat of the locals. Resorts and condos dot the scenery which isn't very appealing.

Generally, the whole of Florida is the same. The snowbirds move down, condos are thrown up everywhere and the small tourist attractions (that made Florida fun) are hanging on by a thread or forced out completely by the likes of Disney and Busch. Salaries have not kept pace with inflation and increased property prices. Saint Augustine with it's history was able to maintain some of the "old flavor", but it's quickly fading away. Those with money and power will always win out over those who don't. The sad bit of it all, those "have-nots" are usually the charming parts.

I enjoyed Las Vegas when we were there for a convention, but what I had in my mind compared to what I actually saw was disappointing. I wanted the old Las Vegas Strip, the Rat Pack, the glamour depicted in old movies... What I got was family-friendly everything. Families pushing baby strollers and toting screaming children around the perimeters of the casinos while different families performed the same routine on the strrets at 2am. (I know I'm clueless sometimes, but not everything needs to cater to everyone...) Las Vegas was losing money so the city did what it thought was in the best interest of it's residents. If we ever go back, we now know what to expect. Until then, I think I'll stick to watching the original Ocean's Eleven.

5. Posted by Endymion (Budding Member 8 posts) 9y

Tourism is an diverse aspect of our future that both gives a location negative (over development and eco-tourism problems) and positive (economic growth and world awareness). In my opinion i hate to see a beautiful piece of nature be destoried by excessive tourism. South East Asia was my biggest let down. The region is so amazing that i easily fell in love but one thing really destoried my experience and love for some places, seeing shop after shop selling what is regarded as "souvieners", bar after bar with western sports advertised and in big letters "american style burgers" etc etc .. It takes away what the place once was.

Probably the biggest change was when i was looking at photos of my parents on Phuket, god knows how long ago. There was only a few hotels, buffalo walked the streets and it was hard to find someone that can understand english. Now, just look at the place..

6. Posted by danalasta (Travel Guru 519 posts) 9y

Quoting Matt (Endymion):

South East Asia was my biggest let down. The region is so amazing that i easily fell in love but one thing really destoried my experience and love for some places, seeing shop after shop selling what is regarded as "souvieners", bar after bar with western sports advertised and in big letters "american style burgers" etc etc .. It takes away what the place once was.

With the spread and intervention of capitalism into Third World societies, tourism has also had the effect of turning Third World places, landscapes and people into commodities.South East Asian countries are no exception. Tourists have become unwitting necrotic travelling agents of change. Essentially tourists consume elements of a vacation in the same way as they consume other objects or commodities. This is perhaps most obviously evident in the packaging of Oriental culture, history and imagery into convenient souvenirs sold by vendors throughout the tourist enclaves.

Everything is commoditized into a sanitized, tourist-pleasing, and overly simplistic package to be bought and consumed by tourists eager to move onto the next item. Trips to a country are sold as a package, but it is more importantly the country itself that is being transformed, along with its uniqueness, people, and cultural heritage, to be sold as a commodity to the golden hordes of tourists. Phuket is a victim of it, like many other "hot spots" in SEA.

Maybe you should read:Frances Brown's Tourism Reassessed: Blight or Blessing? where he takes a critical look at the new age tourism, and asks: Where will the ultimate tripping point be reached? Does every potential island need to be westernised as soon as possible? If so, what will we and our grandchildren be losing out on?

And, has anyone asked the indigenous island peoples, with their fragile eco/social systems, what they want for themselves and their own descendants?

dana

7. Posted by Mel. (Travel Guru 4567 posts) 9y

Hello Tway

I think there are tourists, as well as locals, that are disappointed when places lose some of their old charm.

I think we can help prevent this loss of the old ways, by not demanding to have things, that we have at home, while travelling. Locals will cater to our demands, if we pay and then changes happen.

Mel

8. Posted by marlis (Travel Guru 1167 posts) 9y

well said Mel,
Tourist who cant live without Airco should not comlaine about Windmills disturbing the landscape....
asking for fast food restaurants and in the next moment that the little restaurants with the sooooo wonderful food are gone...
many people forget that every thing has to sides,you cant ask for all the modern things and comlaine that the old things get less or disapear complet.Local people selling there old houses along the waterfront because the get offers the can not resist and then the new owners build condos or big modern houses...
I could go on and on because I hear so much from the tourists who come for diving to "my"Island.
Marlis

9. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 9y

I really, really love Old Quebec – I can’t imagine it turning into another dull tourist attraction that just plays the part of Old Quebec every day

What should a place be? While I understand the desire to save and maintain the history and culture of a place, the question is do we do that at the expense of the evolution that all places that are vibrant, living communities go through?

I haven't read the article about Old Quebec, but I've read familiar articles about neighbourhoods in Toronto (though without the historical significance of old Quebec City). In Toronto, areas that used to have very cheap rents attracted artists and bohemians. As the city has grown, and continues to grow, more and more high rises replace the funky lofts with no heating that the artists lived in. The artists are forced to move out (because the rents are too much), and in move the yuppies.

At first blush, that sounds bad. But in a city like Toronto that is projected to grow in population by millions of people over the next decades, do we protect low-rise, low rent neighbourhoods and move everyone out into the suburbs, increasing the already crappy traffic and transit situation?

I don't know the answer. I, like most travellers, would much rather go to some place that is undiscovered and authentic. And even in my own home of Toronto, I like certain neighbourhoods and am sad to see them changing (gentrifying) over time. I was just walking around yesterday and lamenting the fact that some of the areas that I used to like to walk through have changed away from their distinctive and quirky origins.

But again, I don't want to force any place to stay the same just because I want an "authenic" experience. It's not fair for me to say that some place has to stay the same and that a region's culture can't evolve, even in ways we don't want it to evolve.

10. Posted by tway (Travel Guru 7273 posts) 9y

Quoting GregW

I really, really love Old Quebec – I can’t imagine it turning into another dull tourist attraction that just plays the part of Old Quebec every day

What should a place be? While I understand the desire to save and maintain the history and culture of a place, the question is do we do that at the expense of the evolution that all places that are vibrant, living communities go through?

I completely understand what you mean. Even as I was writing, I realized the irony of wanting to visit a place that would remain untouched by visitors. Kinda like trying to study wildlife and believing your presence doesn't change animals' behaviour.

New Orleans was so singularly disappointing, though. It felt like no one there was living the New Orleans experience - they were just dressing up for the part. Every shop sold the same things, every restaurant had basically the same fare, every club felt contrived. Maybe I'd played it up too much in my mind from watching old movies, but the whole place just felt like Anytown dressed up as "jazz" for Halloween. All we ever saw were great, bumbling tourists in a sprawling tourist attraction - which we were, obviously, a part of. I dread to think Old Quebec might meet a similar fate.

I dunno - can we still visit places that are untouched, or at least retain their original feel? The only place I've been where that's true is Cuba, once you leave the resort. With no advertising, no money for repairs, poverty, sanctions, and no US tourists (again, for the proximity and the sheer number of people who could potentially visit), Cuba is by-and-large untouched and unchanging. Then again, I don't know what it was like before tourists got there.