I think change of some kind is inevitable, and not always welcome. There are probably ways and means of resisting the changes but if the change involves the creation of wealth then anyone resisting these changes will not be thanked for their efforts. I'd always like to think, however, that the 'real nature' of a place will always be there, somehow. No matter how much Sydney may resemble London, or Singapore may resemble New York(in the way that large cities begin to look alike) enough of the local influence will hold to keep these places distinct. Places become fads and when the next fad comes along, people move on and I think the old values will shine through, but perhaps I am over-optimistic
I don't think you are being over-optimistic. I agree completely that each place is distinct and interesting. But it may not be distinct and interesting in the ways that a traveller expects on going there.
Frankly, I have lived in Canada for 36 years now and have never met a beaver trapper, been in an igloo or been dog-sledding. Those are images that no doubt will resonate with people outside of Canada as being Canadian, but they are really historical archetypes. The Canada I am most familiar with is urban, and while walking around in downtown Toronto could lead one to potentially confuse it with New York, I have found that people in Toronto aren't like New Yorkers, just as there isn't a single "American" image that I can find. Each place has a unique and distinct vibe that one can find.
I always have found that while visiting the "historic" districts or the prime "sight-seeing" places in a city I am visiting yields some interesting pictures, I have always had more interesting experiences in going to a non-descript, non-touristed neighbourhood in the city. The individually of a place is there, it's just not to be found where the guidebooks point you.
I agree that places change and tourism helps (or hurts it). I think tourism affects developing countries a lot differently than developed countries.
For example, over Christmas vacation my girlfriend and I travelled to SEA. I was really bothered by what I saw in Seim Reap. We went to see Ankgor Wat. I remember flying in and the airport was probably one of the nicest that I have been in. And on our way into town and around town we passed countless 5 star resorts that were open or under construction. This bothered me because more than likely these resorts are not owned by Cambodians, but International companies. Which means most of the money will be flowing out of the country and the Cambodian people will be paid very little.
Also, like was mentioned before, these resorts will offer all the amenities of home and try to make the tourists feel like they haven't left. Which I think is even more disturbing because people will not see the poverty and problems that still exist in Cambodia. I am afraid that these resorts and tours will allow tourists to easily turn a blind eye to all the needs of people in Cambodia. So when people return home they will not be affected or are still able to believe everything is right in the world.
While we were there we went to a 5 star resort for dinner and to see some traditional dancing. I remember there was an older couple sitting near us that complained about everything. They moved there table so he didn't have to crane his neck to see the dancing and they complained because her whiskey and water came mixed. She wanted the water on the side. Maybe this isn't such a big deal, but it felt like the complaints people would make at home. Also, it flew in the face of my travel strategy of "going with the flow". Maybe this mentality is an age or a money difference. I'm not sure. But, it did upset me.
I think this is where the problem and difference lies. Cambodia can not afford to turn any tourist or their money away. One or two dollars makes a HUGE difference to everyone in Cambodia. This money also brings in the changes and pressures from the tourists. Whereas in Quebec City, Banff, Canada, the U.S. they can afford to make rules that limit the changes that happen.
I just wish I had an idea of what to do about this. When we were in Cambodia we got off the tourist circuit and saw the poverty that still existed. We tried our best to interact and talk with local people. However, I think is a personal choice and some people don't want to do it. It would be nice if we could try to educate travellers on the impact they can have on other cultures. But, again I'm not sure how to do it.
These are some of my thoughts,
Looks like it all comes down to money - whether we're talking about developing or developed countries. Although there's absoluely nothing new about that.
Yes, Tway, it all boils down to money...Not surprising, with the all-powerful tourist lobby in their corner, the developers are not encountering much trouble! The way out? To save our heritage, etc we have to figure out ways to ensure that no country or city is in a position to need tourism to survive!