A Plea to Take Global Tourism Seriously: ‘It’s Nothing Short of a Planet-Threatening Plague’
Travel Blog • Julia Ross • 09.02.08 | 10:31 AM ET
In a rousing op-ed for the Washington Post, journalist and author Elizabeth Becker issues a plea to American government officials, journalists and travelers: Ignore the impact of global tourism at your peril. With 898 million people traveling the world last year, global tourism has reached a tipping point, she argues—one that has inflicted potentially irreversible damage in places like Angkor Wat and Venice, along with fueling an insidious sex tourism trade in Asia and Eastern Europe.
“Global tourism today is not only a major industry—it’s nothing short of a planet-threatening plague.” she writes. “It’s polluting land and sea, destroying wildlife and natural habitat and depleting energy and natural resources. From Asia to Africa, look-alike resorts and spas are replacing and undermining local culture, and the international quest for vacation houses is forcing local residents out of their homes.”
Setting aside the innumerable benefits of foreign travel we take on faith at World Hum, is Becker unduly alarmist? I don’t think so. A $7 trillion global industry that accounts for 8 percent of all the jobs in the world deserves critical attention—something I haven’t seen much of in U.S. media, with the exception of a few venues like National Geographic Traveler.
Interestingly, in a 50-page research paper Becker completed while on fellowship at Harvard, she takes U.S. newspaper travel sections to task for not giving global tourism the serious coverage it deserves.
“Why not report the story and interview the locals who wait on tables, the ministers of tourism, the civic activists, and chambers of commerce and ask them what tourism means to their community?” she asks.
With newspapers in crisis, I don’t see travel sections changing their stripes anytime soon. All the same, I’d like to see somebody—in any medium—pick up the issue and run with it.
Related on World Hum:
* The Op-Ed Page is the New Travel Section
* Iyer and Theroux: Two Very Different Perspectives on the Op-Ed Pages