Synopsis: The global effect of mass tourism cannot be overlooked in its negative impact on the local culture and traditions .This blog studies its impact in the social structure , degradation of moral values and the economy of the countries affected and the backlash the mass tourism suffers in some parts of the world.
The effect of mass tourism
Source : Google photo
These days you can see the tourism within the country and outside grow remarkably giving rise to the notion of mass tourism. There are group tours that are organized by the tourism department in many countries and there are tours offered by the airlines specially the budget airlines that have led to the growth in tourism in a phenomenal way.
The newspapers are full of advertisements that offer a 3 day package tour to many parts of the world that include air fare, hotel and transport and often some help in procuring the travel documents and visas. You can only wonder what anyone can see in 3 days in a country like China or India that has so much to offer and can keep you busy for months but the average tourist does not care.
He gets off the plane, rushes into a bus and furiously clicks his camera pointing at anything and everything to watch later, hops onto the waiting bus to take him to the next attraction. There is tremendous time pressure to see everything the tour offers within the time provided so the tour guide keeps this pressure on the group by saying that you must be back in exactly half an hour or you will risk of being left behind.
That scares people in a foreign country so they rush and return to their buses panting with exertion and not really enjoying the Taj Mahal or the terra-cotta army in China. To make people observe the time provided, the guides will accompany the group with a bull horn in hand so that no one wanders away alone getting lost or mugged by unscrupulous people who are out to make hay while the tourism sun shines.
To make the matter worse, the tour buses are clearly marked with huge signs like TOURIST that attracts all the rabble who want to make quick money so a cup of tea that normally sells for only 5 Rupees now sells for 50. The vendors grin while pocketing the loot and say that the tourists are rich and they are foreigners so they are easy to cheat.
There is another scam the locals are very good at. I saw it in India where the guide will bring you to particular shops where you may buy a few touristy things and where the guide quietly collects his commission from the shop owner. The owners are no fools because they include the commission they have to pay in the price they charge but the tourist either does not know or care.If the shop owner refuses to pay commission to the guide and charges a lower price to his customer then the next time the guide will not bring the tourists there and boycott.
If you go to Agra which is a favorite tourist city, you will be assailed by the rickshaw drivers waiting at the railway station and will offer to bring you to the sites like Taj Mahal etc. at a very cheap price but will stop at numerous shops whether you like it or not and collect commission if you buy something there. The shop owners are Shylocks who want their pound of flesh and will not let you go away easily without buying anything. The same thing happens in other countries. Only the degree of exploitation varies.
In Bangkok the tuk tuk drivers will offer you their service for less than a dollar for half a day but will always bring you to the jewelry shops just in case you buy something there because the government pays for their gasoline if they bring you to the shops.
The other scam the tour operators advertise is to say that the tour will last 3 nights and 4 days to make it sound of a longer period than it really is although people are not so easily fooled.
The countries that depend on tourism as a source of major revenue try to make it easier for the tourist to get a short duration visa upon arrival often for free because they are eager for your tourist dollars. There are millions of people who are employed in the tourism industry worldwide and suffer if for some reasons the tourists stop coming.
The advent of budget airlines has fueled the mass tourism in a way that was not possible a few years ago when tourism was so expensive but more enjoyable. I remember the time when a round the world Pan Am economy class ticket valid for one year was sold for about 1200 US dollars but the passenger had the choice of spending the entire year travelling and stopping at all the places where Pan Am landed but that was in 1960s and the Pan Am has gone out of business.
Now such a fare around the world will cost a lot more so most people join the 3 day 4 night deals with their digital cameras in hand. Never mind the rush and the palpitations.
The camera toting tourists attract scalpers like fleas to a street dog in Tijuana who take full advantage of the situation because they know that these foreigners will not come back so they cheat them. The locals are smarter and will fight back and bargain like crazy.
But the bargaining is a skill that is a learned experience. If the seller asks for 50 US dollars when the price is far less than just offer 20 and start walking away. They will catch up with you soon and offer 30 which can be whittled down to 25 if you do not show much interest. People from industrialized countries are in general very poor bargainers because back home everything has a fixed priced on them. It is really no wonder that the scalpers crowd around the Americans and Japanese more than others.
The effect of mass tourism on locals:
Source : Google photo
This is a topic less discussed but felt just the same everywhere. I have seen the tourists showing a careless attitude toward the locals when they strip naked to swim in the rivers or other places where the locals are modest. A lack of understanding of the local culture or their indifference toward it has the negative effect on the locals who are shocked.
In many religious places, the priests insist on dress code that all must observe and deny entry to anyone who does not wear proper clothes. In some countries like Thailand, they will offer you pants to wear where shorts or miniskirts are not allowed in some shrines of religious importance.
In some places you can get into trouble if you ignore the No photography signs so a guide is needed to tell the group about such regulations. Often the rules are made to protect the business interests of the locals who want to sell you their expensive slides or photos.
But there are many pernicious effects of mass tourism on the locals. Soon young girls start to wear skimpy clothes because that is what they see on foreign tourists but it goes against the culture so you can imagine the clashes with the older and stricter generation that does not approve.
I remember a case when a teenage concert singer gave a show that was very popular with the young people but very unpopular with the old people who disapproved her skimpy clothes and her sexual gyrations on stage that made them show their anger by throwing tomatoes and even stones so the concert was canceled.
While it is true that the mass tourism brings in the dollars and employs a lot of locals in the industry, it does bring in the unwanted influence of ignorant tourist behaviors on the tradition and culture in a very negative way.
When we were in Naini Tal which is a hill resort town in the northern mountains of India, we were asked to vacate our room by the hotel manager because a tour group was arriving. He said that his income depended upon such tour groups and not on individuals like us because it was the tourist season.
Their dining facility was closed to guests and reserved only for the tour groups that travelled on package tours including meals. I saw this phenomenon in many places in India.
You have perhaps heard of the extortion by the camel drivers near the Pyramids in Egypt who will very eagerly get you up on a camel but then will demand a big amount before he will order the camel to let you down. Now try to imagine yourself stranded on a 10 foot high camel who only obeys his master and not you in the 40 degree heat. Suddenly the pyramids will lose their attractions.
The foreign tourists help raise the price of everything so it becomes harder for the locals to enjoy tourism at a normal rate that they can afford. In some countries as large as India, you are considered a tourist if you are from Deep South or some other parts of India therefore subject to exploitation by the locals. When south Indian tourists visit Allahabad as pilgrims, the boats men charge them exorbitant rates to bring them to the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna river. It is also the open season for the fake priests called pandas there.
Once my brother had to intervene and stop this abuse of southerners by the boats men but they retorted by saying that it was their chance to rip off the ignorant pilgrims who did not speak the language so they were fair game.
Our daughter was also fleeced this way at Haridwar by the so-called Hindu priests who offered her prayers etc. at a ridiculous price because the word tourist was written all over her speaking only English and therefore fair game. I forgot to warn her of these scalpers. There, anyone wearing saffron robe is called priest so one has to be very wary of them and avoid.
Another common scam is to tell you that such and such monument or site is closed for the day if the taxi man or the rickshaw driver does not want to go there for his own reasons.
The effect of mass tourism today has a deadening effect on the sensibilities of the locals as well as the tourists which does not bode well for the country as a whole. Some part of the culture is assailed and it leaves its mark in a way that can be unpleasant. It also promotes greed and dishonesty among the people who try to take advantage of the tourists to make money and make a killing even if it goes against their culture of hospitality and fairness.
It is true that the group tour participants are somewhat protected by their guides as we were in South India from unscrupulous people, some people still get taken advantage of.
I think tourism is great and anyone who can afford should go and visit other places because there are so many beautiful places to see and experience that can be life changing in knowledge and perspective about any country but it should not come at a price of leaving a bad impression on the locals because you were fleeced or you showed insensitivity to their culture by bathing nude.
As more and more people travel these days, the world as we know keeps on shrinking so the challenge is to maintain the balance between the enjoyments that sight-seeing brings and the problems that it creates in the mad rush to make money from the tourists thus ignoring their traditions and values.
If the mass tourism breeds the unscrupulous like flies then you can imagine its effect on the values and traditions of a country that degenerates slowly but steadily and one day may be lost.
It is like killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. If you take advantage of a tourist, he may not come the next time or may tell others about his experiences in the social media.
People are attracted to a country not only because of its Taj Mahals but also because they have heard that people are so beautiful, their traditions are so great and their values are so great and they are so hospitable.
It is hard to imagine how impressed you will be by the Taj Mahal if you are taken advantage of by the bad people everywhere. No one likes to be abused this way.
The best way to see and enjoy a country is not to be under time pressure and a part of these 3 days 4 night tours that only increases your heart beat rate and empties your pocket but to take it easy and go on your own.
I am not suggesting that you carry a bundle of weed ( translation- Marijuana for those who are not familiar with the colloquial term)with you to help you along and pierce your nose, ears and other parts imitating the locals but taking it easy is perhaps the best way. Some will go the whole hog and wear local clothes and tattoos but it does not fool anyone.
I know because I have done so myself going alone and did not regret it. So if you want really to enjoy visiting other countries, do so at your own pace on your own terms and sit and meditate at the shrine of Swami Vivekananda in Kanya Kumari where you will forget all your worries at least for a while.
Source : Google photo of the shrine of Vivekananda in Kanya Kumari ,India
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