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Disrespecting the locals.
A tourist, an Instagrammer and an influencer walk onto a nudist beach…
As I have mentioned a few times before, I have a number of Google alerts set up to bring news stories about naturism and nudity to my attention. A while ago, there was an article about a group of naturists in Spain arguing that their traditional bathing spot was being overrun by clothed people and the naturists felt displaced and disrespected. There were stories of clothed tourists making fun of naturists, especially the women and even taking uninvited photos with their cellphones, which, let's be honest, is disrespectful even if people are fully clothed.
Traditionally, naturists will seek out quiet and secluded spots so as not to upset or offend anyone. By virtue of their seclusion, many of these spots have a natural beauty that is often missing from the more traditional tourist traps. In this increasingly shallow Instagram-worthy world, many people are flocking to these spots, not to stay and enjoy the natural beauty, but to snap an image for their social media profile. They pay little attention to their surroundings, or the effect that their activity has on others in the vicinity.
To be fair, these places are public spaces, and everyone has a right to visit publicly accessible locations. Perhaps it is more about the behaviour than the access.
Coincidentally, about the same time, there was an article in the Guardian about the effect that over-tourism was having on tourist places and the people who live there, The news wasn’t great. The article did mention the situation in Catalonia and the efforts of the local naturists to get the rules changed, but the article also went on to look at the wider issue of over-tourism.
The old town in the city of Dubrovnik reportedly banned wheelie suitcases, as the noise of them being dragged along cobbled streets by tourists became too much for the locals.
In Barcelona, there have been attempts to introduce one-way walking systems to cope with the sheer number of tourists. Being a local and having to navigate through tourists to get around your own city, must be frustrating and at times a challenge.
Amsterdam is a popular destination for young people for drunken stag and hen parties, perhaps not the type of tourists that we would want keeping us awake until the small hours. I can imagine the tolerance towards tourists wearing fairly thin after a short while.
Does the addition of significant numbers of tourists change the nature of the location? The more popular a location becomes, is it less desirable to visit?
Surely it is the behaviour of the tourist that has the biggest impact on the locals. Being disrespectful to the environment or rude to the locals is never ok.
I recall in 2009, visiting Canterbury Cathedral in England, and being struck by the amount of graffiti carved into the stonework. While much of it was historical, I was most disappointed by the recent additions. It could be argued that in another 500 years, today's scratchings will be historical records, but I am not sure that scholars will be interested that Gavin loved Tracy in 2008.
I guess, as a tourist, I try and be as respectful as I can to the locals and the environment. I am cognisant of the fact that I am simply a guest in someone else’s hometown and that it is a privilege to experience it.
International travel is more popular, and more accessible than it has been at any other time in the history of the world, and with an increased global population, looks likely to be with us for some time yet.
Short of a climate-induced crisis, or a world where international air travel is an unsustainable luxury, it seems likely that conflicts between locals and tourists may become the norm. While some might argue that the days of international travel are increasingly numbered, and may not be good for the planet, how many of us are willing to give up on the idea of travel for ourselves?
Like many of the choices we have around our impact on the planet, we know there are things we need to give up, but we all cry out, not me, and not now.
While we live in a world of increasing consumption, let us not forget that tourism is a form of consumption, and is a double-edged sword. While the tourism dollar may help the local economy, there comes a tipping point where the damage done to the environment and the well-being of the locals is not worth the income that tourism brings.
I am not against travellers, and I always welcome conversations with people from other parts of the world.
Since Covid, tourism here in New Zealand has reduced significantly, although it is beginning to increase again. Don’t get me wrong, I love travelling and visiting places, and I enjoy talking with and supporting visitors who have made the effort to travel all the way here.
NZ is often considered too far for people to travel to, something that shields us from the worst aspects of over-tourism.
If tourists want to come to our local beach, I would be happy to sit and talk with them in a respectful manner. I would be happy to engage in conversation, even if they don’t agree with my clothing choice, so long as they are respectful.
If a busload of tourists turned up at our beach spot, I might be a little more reserved.
If a plane load of tourists turned up, I might well tell them all to go away!
Conflict-averse as I am, the reality is that I would probably not say anything. I would simply pack up my things and move on to another secluded and sunny spot.
Returning to the original article about the naturists in Spain feeling disrespected by visitors to their nudist beach, it occurred to me that international tourists could learn a thing or three from the naturist philosophy.
Respect for yourself, respect for others and respect for the environment.
Thank you for reading. Have a comfortable day.
Those who pay the piper.
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