In many instances, tourism is a great thing. It can do heavy lifting such as supporting an economy or bring an influx of trade and opportunity. But we also all need to be weary of our tourism practices and how they affect those around us. The current state of Venice is a great example.
Venice is one of those incomparable dreamscapes. If it weren’t a real city, it would be the sort of place someone would think up for a movie. Could you just imagine a screenwriter somewhere daydreaming about a perfectly quaint romantic city complete with historic buildings, colorful alleyways and serene plant life? They would probably ask themselves “How could I make this city even more romantic? Well, what if instead of a car ride to get from one spot to another, people had to take a moonlit cruise in small gondola that could glide along a blissful canal between the buildings?” It seems almost too perfect to be real, and yet here it is, nestled in Europe, this Romantic Utopia.
However, being such a beautiful dreamscape is proving to have it’s drawbacks for Venice. It now has the uncomfortable reality of being treated as a theme park, with tourists arriving, entitling themselves to the city’s merits and wonders, and then disappearing in the blink of an eye with no understanding of the impact their visit has had on the city. Many tourists take day trips, meaning the city is crowded for locals during the day often making it impossible for them to traverse the teensy walkways in order to go about their daily lives. It also means that although the city is inundated with people, it isn’t seeing much economic growth from it. Because people aren’t staying the night, Venetians aren’t seeing their hotels, restaurants, or local shops booming. In fact, many local Venetians are having to leave their beloved homes to make room for tourists without seeing any of the economic benefits that are supposed to come with having a booming tourism industry.
So, what can we do to be part of the solution? The good news is there are a few things and they are rather easy.
Firstly, and we say this with the most fervent passion: please always be mindful, respectful and humble to the locals in the city you are a visitor in. We get that being on vacation is exciting and you want to get things done, but being in people’s way when they need to get to work, pick up their kids, or go grocery shopping only makes the locals resent tourists and diminishes the sense of community and welcomeness tourism should build. Most cities on earth were not built for tourism alone, they first and foremost serve the people who live their lives there, so please don’t treat it like Disney World. If locals are rundown by tourists’ attitudes and demands they’ll probably start to resent visitors, and that means it’ll be harder to experience authentically the places you love. People won’t want to give you directions when you’re lost, or point out some cute hidden gems like restaurants or cafes that tourists wouldn’t otherwise notice. The people are part of the place you’re visiting, so please, treat them as such.
Secondly: support local. I’m sure you hear this regularly, especially if you’re from the United States. Supporting local business owners and communities helps them thrive and keeps the culture alive. If you’re passing through a beautiful city like Venice from a cruise and not spending any money in the city you’re taking advantage of this beautiful place and culture, while only supporting the major cruise-liner you arrived on. Doing things like staying in an AirBnb, or a local Bed and Breakfast or Hostel can make a world of difference. It’ll also help introduce you to the people who make up the culture you’re experiencing, so don’t miss out!
Lastly, please make sure to do your research before you go anywhere. We rogues are all about just taking off and going, but we buy wifi on the flight and search to see what’s going on wherever we’re about to land. If the culture is suffering from tourism they way Venice is, make yourself aware and participate in changing the way tourists are viewed or behave, don’t just be part of the masses that ignore it for their own benefit.
For more info on what Venice is currently going through please check out this NY Times article, and as always, thanks for reading! Now get out there!