Tourism is good, actually
Don’t listen to the haters
Tourists are annoying. As a kid growing up in New York City, I was raised to look down on slow-walking visitors, with their eyes pointed upward in amazement at the tall buildings rather than watching where the hell they were walking. At Harvard, the first-year dorms are right in Harvard Yard, meaning that you’re essentially living inside a tourist attraction with random visitors annoyingly gawking at your hungover self as you try to drag your ass to class. In DC, when tourist season strikes, all these people are suddenly in your way, standing on the left side of the Metro escalators, blocking commuters from going about our day.
In addition to being annoying, tourists are cringe.
Tourists are so cringe that veteran travelers know you’re not supposed to go to places that are “touristy.” You want to find the real stuff. Last summer, we went to Paris, then Antibes on the Mediterranean coast. But on our way back to Paris, we stopped for a few days in Lyon. Lyon is not as nice as Paris or as interesting as Paris, but it has its virtues, one of which is that it’s much less touristy than Paris. The summer before, we spent some time with friends in a Tuscan town called Montalcino, which was lovely but also very touristy. One day, the other dad and I took a bus to Buonconvento nearby, which is much less nice… but no tourists! It was a refreshing break from the cringe.
But I’m afraid these undeniably cringe aesthetic considerations motivate a lot of bad policy commentary.
Everywhere you look, people are arguing not just that tourists are cringe or annoying, but that tourism itself — the act of people traveling for leisure — is harmful. There are takes about how beach resorts are bad and about how remote workers visiting Mexico City is bad. Takes about how “over tourism” is destroying tourist attractions, and takes about how it’s bad when college alumni like to visit their former college town to watch football games. And, of course, tons of cities are trying to curtail AirBNB and other short-term rentals. The stated reason is never “hotel owners don’t like competition, so we’re doing them a favor.” It’s always something about how it’s undesirable to have more tourists coming to your city.
And I think people need to get a grip on this.