Do you get any tourists in your area? Too many? Not enough? How do you feel about it? I'd love to hear.
These sorts of questions have been on my mind a lot lately, as Europe eases out of lockdown and a lot of places, including here in France, are getting ready to welcome foreign tourists again.
Some people are nervous. Some people are thrilled. A lot of people are nervous *and* thrilled. (I would put myself in that last category, by the way.)
My own feelings aside, the reopening of tourism has made for a lot of interesting work for me over these last several weeks. People have strong feelings, and it's been fascinating to listen to them think it all through.
The Writing Life
Amsterdam is one of those places that has wrestled with big questions about tourism for a while now, so it was a privilege to speak to politicians, activists, residents, restaurant owners, hotel owners, cannabis retailers and, yes, a prostitute for this story that I wrote about the city for The New York Times in March.
And then in April, I got to spend a dozen or so hours on the phone with people who spend their working hours thinking about how travel can do less harm and more good in the world. I learned a lot. And then I summed up the best and most useful lessons in this article, which ran on Earth Day in the NYT.
And then we got to May, and suddenly the opening-up news was all over the place. My editor asked me to write about Greece, which has already started welcoming vaccinated and Covid-negative tourists from the United States and a handful of other countries. Next week, Greece will extend the same terms to tourists from anywhere and everywhere. Tourism makes up more than one fifth of the Greek economy, so the past year has been really hard. But still, a lot of the people I spoke to had mixed feelings.
What do you think -- would you go to Greece this spring? Tempting, I know...
Two books about travel and tourism have captured my attention lately. I would strongly recommend both of the following:
We Came, We Saw, We Left,by Charles Wheelan. This one is mainly just a lot of fun. An American family takes their three teenaged kids out of school for a year and goes on a pre-pandemic, round-the-world journey, highlights of which include one flesh-eating parasite, several Complete Family Meltdowns, and more dad jokes than I care to remember, frankly, but I was still entertained. (Bonus for anyone with young children: you get to watch two people do a very admirable job of parenting their teenagers. That's not going to be easy...)
Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism, by Elizabeth Becker. Less fun, but no less absorbing, this 2013 book dives deep into the many promises and problems of the global tourism industry. Becker digs into issues like worker rights, sex tourism, "voluntourism," and cultural exploitation. But she also describes a number of places that are getting the balance right, and reaping the rewards. This book has given me dozens of story ideas.
That's all for now. Thanks so much for reading! Sending you love and hugs and delicious revenge fantasies,