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