Thursday, June 08, 2023

The Collapse CV: Tourism

26 May 20XX+1

My Dear Lucilius:

As I was going about my tasks this morning – checking in the greenhouse (yes, it appears the quail brood did in fact hatch; ability to count the chicks is limited as they are scuttling about out of sight, but I have at least three), checking on the garden (we are having some rain, which is nice), and so forth – when it struck me that today would have been Memorial Day on the calendar. And as Memorial Day, among other things, it would have indicated the effective opening of Summer.

The tourist season is something that sustained many businesses and people here, as well as elsewhere in the world. I remember – perhaps you do too – when the big push came that “tourism” was the new way forward to economic prosperity. As other industries trailed out or died, it was tourism that would bring wealth, rather than the invigoration of existing industries or the creation of new industries. And there was no need for those new industries either: tourism was the panacea that would solve every regions economic problems.

Tourism, of course relies on several factors. It relies on a population that wants to travel. It relies on a population that has disposable income to enable travel. And it relies on a stable world where travel is a thing which can be accomplished.

Every Summer in years past, even last Summer when things began to look bad, the tourists would flock in from all of the country. They would not stop here so much as we are simply a stop between locations, but go to the towns on either side and you would find tourists filling the cafes and shops, wandering the streets, filling the bed and breakfasts and campgrounds, marveling at nature in the state and national parks. And every year, for three months, the surrounding communities would become flush with cash as the tourists came and went.

Tourism is one of those activities that I am of two minds about. On the one hand, I enjoyed going places as much as anyone else and seeing new things (although my deceased wife enjoyed it far more than I ever did). On the other hand, I am cognizant of the damage that an economy reliant only on tourism does. It fails to encourage the development of local industry except for very specific items. It eventually limits the opportunities that locals will have (server/cook, retail sales, or specific indoor/outdoor activities). And it makes the local economy incredibly dependent on the larger economy. If there is a hiccup – as there has been in more than one instance in our lifetimes – the tourism economy grinds to a halt.

This Summer the retailers, were they to open, would find not customers; the kitsch and “local products” would sit on the shelves. The restaurants would serve no food, the bed and breakfasts and campgrounds will go empty. When the cash economy ended, the tourist economy evaporated as well – and left nothing in its wake but goods and services that now have no meaning.

Throughout most of history, tourism or simply going anywhere remained the province of the military, government, the wealthy, and those such as merchants whose job required that they travel. For most, they remained where they were due to cost and risk.

I am fortunate that I was able to go many of the places I desired, Lucilius. Within a generation if nothing changes, such things will constitute the stuff of stories and pictures in books. “Here There Be Dragons” may once again become a legitimate geographic designation.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca


  1. Nylon125:22 AM

    "When the cash economy ended"......those are prophetic words right there TB.

    1. It certainly feels like it Nylon12, as much as I hope it is not so.

  2. You bring up a lot of really good points here, especially considering the state of things in the world today. Having once lived near heavily visited tourist areas (albeit off the beaten path), I'd have to add the increase in traffic to the list of local negatives. RVs everywhere, general crowding, and trash everywhere. It's harder as a local person to go anywhere and do what needs to be done. Sadly, visitors seem to not understand that they are actually guests and not gawkers.

    The important point though, is "it makes the local economy incredibly dependent on the larger economy." Yet who can resist on tapping into that larger stream of wealth without thought of what happens if the stream dries up, is dammed up, or otherwise diverted? The old farmer wisdom to not put all the eggs in one basket still seems relevant today.

    1. Leigh, having just come back from a country that is largely dependent on tourism, it rings even more true. Although most of the towns and cities we went through were fully functioning units, from speaking with our guide The Plague shutdown hit their economy hard. One can imagine what that - ten times worse - would look like.

      And yes, people always moving through viewing other people living their lives almost as an "attraction" has its own issues.

  3. Anonymous6:48 AM

    When Dad was alive and active in the 1970's, he was an avid collector or Time-Life books and others with famous paintings and sculptures and other incredible works. I asked him at the time "If you had the resources, would you go to see them in person ?" He was non committal. I think he felt as long as he had access to those books with the displayed pieces, he wouldn't have to go see them - he had them for viewing whenever he felt.

    When my wife and I had young children, our vacation habits turned for a time to traveling the Blue Highways, staying in small towns that were peaceful. We weren't looking for excitement - we were looking for peace and quiet. We found that could be inconvenient - 5 0'clock came and the small rolled up the sidewalks because it was Suppertime. Strolling with a kid in back pack and stroller, city parks and quiet streets were the activity. It was nice.

    1. Having come from a place where a lot of history has been made and I have seen a lot of pictures of, I am ambivalent about going. On the one hand, I have an understanding of how the terrain formed the history of Greece as I could not have otherwise had and seeing the places where the great ones walked was tingle-inspiring. On the other hand, sometimes the view of items is actually better in books as you see everything through glass.

      Seeing small town America - or small town Greece - is something I appreciate far more now than I used to.

  4. The travel culture had it benefits and its unintended consequences.

    Google how far your breakfast traveled for an example. I LIKE COFFEE :-)

    I think about the visits to various parts of the world I've enjoyed. Even the day trips to see a major art museum and such.

    It's hard to compete with mega farmers enjoying subsidies when your cost to produce (without labor costs) makes your eggs for example twice or worse than Walmart.

    Community supported agriculture was a good idea but aside from high income yuppies there is little support after the initial purchase of a "seasons worth of produce, eggs and such".

    The COVID "Pandemic" showed us the weaknesses of globalization, a movie teaser version.

    Simple failure of the "Money" of the country causes massive disruptions.

    Proverbs 27 speaks to this 11Be wise, my son, and bring joy to my heart, so that I can answer him who taunts me. 12The prudent see danger and take cover; but the simple keep going and pay the penalty. 13Take the garment of him who posts security for a stranger; get collateral if it is for a foreigner.…

    A deep pantry was something my Grandmother was quite proud of. Her gardens and chickens kept the table filled.

    1. Michael, The Plague was certainly a preview in that sense. Unfortunately, we seem to be learning very little - or we are learning it and moving as slowly as possibly to remedy the situation, at least on a national basis.


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