Monday, October 3, 2016

Overbooked by Elizabeth Becker

When I first flipped through Overbooked, I was rather disappointed that neither Singapore nor Japan got their own chapter. Now that I'm done, however, I feel rather relieved. I like to think that these two countries are doing tourism right, but what if they aren't?

Overbooked is a look at the economy of tourism, and how it's affecting different countries. It's grouped according to a theme, and within each theme, a certain country is highlighted as a case study. The result is an easy to read book that doesn't feel like it's crammed with too much information - on the contrary, the amount of information feels just right.

The themes are:
1. Cultural Tourism
- France sort of does it right
- Venice is probably going to die from tourism
- Cambodia is definitely not doing tourism right and Ankor Wat is at risk (but then again, they do need the tourist money...)

2. Consumer Tourism
- On how big cruise ships suck your money, don't need to follow very high standards (and hence pay terribly low wages and pollute everywhere) and don't really contribute to the economies of the countries they visit. But they'll never admit that
- Dubai: artificially made shopping destination.

3. Nature Tourism
- Zambia is still free of the crowds of tourists (for now)
- Costa Rica seems to be doing it right
- Can Sri Lanka use tourism to help rebuild its economy? (maybe)

4. The New Giant: China
- The government is very, very involved

5. The Old Giant
- Strict visa regulations turn visitors away.

I must say, this book was eye opening in a rather bad way. I've been on cruises, I've been to China and Dubai (and Cambodia on a volunteer trip) and I never really knew how my actions impacted the countries. Especially Cambodia, where my school friends and I went to teach in an orphanage for a day and participated in "dark tourism" (although it was technically an educational trip) - I now wonder if the kids that I taught were orphans, or if they were just bought/taken from their families for the tourist dollar.

The tourist industry is something that is only going to grow bigger, and all of us will be participating in it in one way or the other. I think that it makes sense that we read this book to spark a conversation (if not within a group than within ourselves) on the type of tourism industry that we want in our countries and that we want to participate in.

1 comment :

  1. I haven't traveled very much outside of the U.S., but I have heard some of the horror stories out there about tourism and the impact it has on certain parts of the world. It really is something I wish more people knew about. Would it change their behavior and eventually the tourism practices? I would hope so, but I'm skeptical.


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