Sunday, December 16, 2007

Doom Tourism

More on tourism from the New York Times... a follow up of sorts to their previous piece on Antarctic tourism. Author Allen Salkin discusses the emergence of a branch of "ecotourism" some are calling "doom tourism" - visiting places predicted to disappear or dramatically change in the very near future. Currently, that includes sites like the Arctic, Antarctica, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and the Amazon - places viewed as under threat from global warming and industrial activity. While there are some interesting connections and points of analysis between these kinds of tours, the development of "ecotourism" since the early 1990s and the histories of "adventure" tourism, Salkin makes some odd choices to drive some of the points. One is pointing to the increase in travel to cities like Buenos Aires as a parallel to the fact that there is a Baskin Robbins in Katmandu and five star hotels in Goa, India. Tourism covers a broad range of desires and practices, so to move from a focused discussion of eco-adventure-doom tourism to more general travels to distant (in terms of the privileged Euro-US sense of geography) locales and cities doesn't do service to the complexity and significance of what's going on. The article could have easily, and more compellingly in our estimation, moved from the Euro-US desire to witness disappearing ecosystems to the surely disappearing ability for many to to travel anywhere, much less far-flung locations, that will accompany a fuel and energy crisis. The link between the privileges that are the cause of ecological destruction and those privileges that facilitate the leisure travel to witness that destruction go beyond a simple analysis of carbon footprints.
Another kind of doom tourism that could be discussed is that practiced by some Evangelical Christians in relation to Israel and the Book of Revelations. A couple of years ago, there was talk of some plans to build a Christian theme park on the Sea of Galilee. Of course, Bill Moyers has made the connection between the thinking present there and the environmental policies of the current Bush Administration and the religious right-wing of the US in general. And if the "Left Behind" series isn't sci-fi tourism for the religious right, we don't know what is.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Touring New York City

The New York Times has expanded its ongoing Weekend Explorer series of walking tours, led by John Strausbaugh, in New York City. All the tours are available virtually as a Flash-player application and as a download to actually use on a walking tour. The current tours include "Brooklyn's Freedom Trails", "East Village: Paths of Resistance", "The Gangs of Hells Kitchen", "Upper East Side: Insiders and Outsiders" and "P.T. Barnum's New York"

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Psychedelic Tourism

A friend just sent us this article from San Diego about tourists going to Mexico in search of the hallucinogenic cactus plant, peyote. Those travelers searching for the mystic experience offered by the plant are referred to as peyoteros. The article's main point is the danger of extinction that the plant is facing due to a number of recent activities. Although the tourism component is significant (and provides for a better "human-interest" narrative), a smaller portion of the piece discusses what sounds like much more devastating activities - greenhouse tomato production and silver mining. Where the tourism story becomes more interesting is where it connects to the evolving micro economy of places like Real de Catorce. The economic relationship between the peyoteros and the region sounds a lot like the widespread phenomenon of ecotourism, where it's a balancing act of preserving both the non-human and cultural ecologies while navigating the economic potential of tourism in the face of cultural, economic and spatial encroachment.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Toxic Tourism, the book

We just finished Dr. Phaedra C. Pezzullo's most recent book, Toxic Tourism and plan on writing a review, which we will post here. But in short, it's a fantastic account of the use of toxic tours within the broad, but not yet well enough known, environmental justice movement. Through an account of three specific tours, Pezzullo paints a picture of how egregious environmental racism and injustice in the US are and the potential for what we might more broadly call tactical tourism to intervene. From the politics of corporate-sponsored cancer awareness campaigns to the ongoing battles in Louisiana's "Cancer Alley", we are shown how groups of people decide to creatively resist the inequitable distribution of illness and death. And the book is not light, although it may be brief, in its analysis of tourism and critique of capitalized reason. Look for a more detailed review in the near future, but while you're waiting, we recommend reading it.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Next Stop, Antarctica

A recent article in the New York Times discussed the growth in ship tours in Antarctica. The story discusses the increase in accidents and deaths that are likely to accompany the growing number of tours, with the recent sinking of The Explorer, a tourist vessel operated by G.A.P. Adventures of Toronto, which luckily resulted in no casualties. Turns out that a few people have been discussing the negative environmental impact of a tourism boom on the sans-national continent. Greenpeace wants a moratorium to the region. Here are some interesting general stats on Antarctic tourism, including the fact that over 11.5 thousand tourists from the US visited between 2005-6.