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FRAN: Hello, it’s Francesca Turauskis, and whilst On The Outside is taking a rest, I’m excited to share an episode from another podcast that I think you’ll like.
THIIIRD Waves is one of the outputs of THIIIRD magazine, a platform that amplifies marginalised voices through print, events, and on the airwaves with their podcast. The show explores the intersections of culture and activism, and brings their listeners interviews and discussions with guests who have knowledge and lived experiences on the topic they talk about.
The type of things they’ve covered in the past have included toxic masculinity, cancel culture, cultural appropriation and more. But the episode I’m sharing with you today is about ethical tourism. This is a topic that I think is very relevant to listeners of On The Outside, but because we’re focused on the UK, we wouldn’t necessarily cover something like this. And as the world starts opening up again, many of us are planning holidays and travelling further afield for the first time in a while, so I thought this was a great time to share this.
This episode was first released in July 2020, and Hosts Daniela, Rhona and Tryb explore things like how communities are affected by tourism and what a more conscious approach to travelling might look like. Then Daniella speaks to Tom Selwyn who is professorial research associate at the department of anthropology and sociology at the London Middle East Institute. He is widely published in the field of anthropology of tourism and pilgrimage” - which for those of you who know my origin story is of great interest to me - he also founded the MA in The Anthropolgy of Tourism, Travel and Pilgrimage at SOAS in 2010.
Without further ado, I hope you enjoy and find value in this episode!
TRYBE: Hello and welcome to Third Waves. Third is an intersectional publication, celebrating culture, heritage, and diversity. And on third waves we will do the same.
RHONA: I am Rohna, Stylist creative director and founder of Third.
DANIELA: I'm Daniela. I'm a writer, musician, and producer at
TRYBE: Third, and I'm tribe dj, radio host, and music editor at third.
DANIELA: Okay, so should we kick off by just discussing maybe the idea of tourism itself? For me, something that's very interesting to think about is why do people travel? And I feel like one of the reasons why people do it is to kind of go outside of your own comfort zone be challenged by new viewpoints, and hopefully come back with I don't know, a broadened scope of your understanding of the world, right?
DANIELA: But what's also interesting here is that you always leave your footprint in one way or the other. So it's not like it's something that you can just do and think. You haven't touched on other people's lives, et cetera. What do you guys think about tourism as a kind of general concept?
TRYBE: Yeah, I feel like there's many positives to go traveling and being a tourist as you mentioned, traveling allows you to see more of the world and get yourself out of your bubble so that there's more out there because it's very easy to be I guess, so grounded in the idea of your home and what, let's say London is to us, that you forget that there's different ways of doing things, there's different ways of being. So traveling allows you to experience that, even if it's just briefly, even if it's a surface, it's just an opportunity to get yourself out there and connect with different cultures and people. What do you think?
RHONA: I mean, I'm a busybody, so one of the best ways I get to take a break is when I travel somewhere else. True. Just because I have no commitments, you know? Just lose your sense of
DANIELA: Having to be places. Yeah,
RHONA: Exactly. So for me, relaxation and disconnection almost to a certain extent and allowing yourself to be around something which is quite unknown, is a pro to traveling.
DANIELA: Yeah, think it's quite interesting that you two kind of touched on the different aspects of why people travel or people's different interactions. It might be just switching off and someone being immersed in that, or it might be going with the explicit intent of finding something new. But I'd love to just maybe get into a bit of personal stories about your travel experiences where you've been. I mean, we've all been very lucky to travel around the world, actually.
TRYBE: Do you know what, I have been very fortunate. I've been Trav, I've traveled quite a few places such as I did coast to coast of South America and I also worked on a cruise ship for a while for Pano Australia. So I did definitely get to see quite a few places in the South Pacific and Australia and Southeast Asia. One of the things that stood out to me, <laugh> a bit messed up when you think about it, is we would land on these islands in the South Pacific and we'll be there with our cameras or with all the kind of eagerness of, oh, this is a new place, and these are small remote islands that have their own distinct communities and I guess have a couple of boats or ships that would land every couple of weeks. So they would just casually be the kids there would be casually learning outside, they'll have outside classrooms and we would just walk past their lessons and taking pictures, especially because they looked very distinctive with some of them had blonde hair as you've seen in pictures and stuff like that.
And people would be there with their camera just intruding on these personal moments of learning in a educational space. Another moment that stood out was when one of the islands we landed on had a, I guess a reputation for a colonial reputation for being an island where the people used to cannibalize people or invaders of their island. So part of what they've created as a touristy aspect of their island is that people could come over to a fake pot or cauldron and stand there while one of the islanders would pretend to be cutting off your throat and cook you. And you would see people, tourists taking pictures of their husband or their children while this was happening as if it's a kind of touristy experience that you can all participate in, which was I felt it was quite it didn't fit well with my spirit as people say. So there was a lot of moments where I found myself stepping away from being a tourist and deciding I don't want to participate in this.
DANIELA: I think what's really fascinating about those two sort of moments is that one is where the local community are engaging in what they do on a day-to-day basis. So these kids are going to school, which happen to be on a beach, and you guys happen to walk past and decide, oh, they look interesting. Let me take a picture of them with total disregard of what was happening in that moment and what their interaction might do on a basic level, distract these kids from their lesson. And then the other example is where the local people have seen that there's a commercial benefit to staging something that is off an ancient customer or whatever and then benefiting off that. And actually both of these examples are very uncomfortable for different reasons.
TRYBE: Yeah, definitely it, it's true because I guess like you mentioned on one side some people might be taking agency over their tourism and how they are perceived and how they want to capitalize on it whilst the other, it's I guess to a certain extent they've agreed to have cruise ships land on their island but these children do not have necessarily agency to have their lessons intruded upon that.
DANIELA: Yeah, that's a good point. It's like people making decisions for people. Exactly. And you've also been to South America, right?
TRYBE: Yeah, yeah, yeah. South America was cool. I really enjoyed so I went to Brazil, Argentina I traveled quite a bit around Brazil and then Peru. And one of the things that I picked up on as I was traveling was that there's two ways I felt, and anyone can weigh in on this, there's two ways to travel. You could travel by being an active tourist by staying in the holiday resorts and doing the organized trips that your, let's say your hotel or your hostel or whatever organized for you. And then interacting mainly with other tourists whilst on the other hand, you've got people who I guess make the effort to integrate in the community. So those are the people that try and pick up the language. Those people are the people that are maybe living or staying with the people in the community and maybe trying to learn a bit more about the culture. Both are valid in the sense of, because we were saying there's different ways to travel, but it, it's very obvious when you are traveling that sometimes you come out of it and you've only interacted with, let's say, other Europeans because that's who you've been, I guess, going on these trips with and sharing hotel spaces with, whilst on the other hand, people who actually have gained something from actually being in the community. No way is wrong. It's just a difference.
DANIELA: And Rona, how about you? Is there a travel that you particularly remember
RHONA: About? I would say I kind of discovered my passion for traveling maybe when I went to Vietnam. So I was out there for six weeks, which for me is quite a long period time period of time to be somewhere on holiday. And one of the things I did notice about being in Vietnam and the way I was holidaying there compared to some other people I was with was sometimes in Vietnam. Obviously because of the Vietnam War, there has become this whole commercialization of, say, the caves where the vie used to use to hide and battle from the US and et cetera. They have become quite commercialized spaces and spaces that people like to visit. You can go and you can spend money on getting a ticket and viewing those. And for me, that was just not something that I personally felt moved to do. I didn't personally feel moved to go in see these spaces because I felt quite uncomfortable in these spaces to be very honest with you. And it didn't quite make sense to me why I'd go to a place of war with a tiny bit of historical context and understanding of it. I don't quite understand what I'd be doing there. So though I understood that obviously the Vietnamese, the war in Vietnam is a massively important historical event that happened in the country I just felt uncomfortable with the idea of basically going through the caves myself and pretending I was a Viet Con person. It was just wasn't really something I wanted to do.
DANIELA: Well, I suppose the thing I wanted to say was that I can totally understand why that felt really uncomfortable and I feel like I would feel the same. And yeah, I'm also thinking if you visit a place like Vietnam and don't acknowledge the Vietnam War and engage with that on some level, that would be also kind of weird. It's totally what you were saying, the kind of presentation that you've encountered there just feels, yeah. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, just not.
RHONA: Yeah, right. I think the difference for me, I remember one of the first things I did do when I went to Vietnam is I went to they, they had quite a new museum that was built, and in the museum you can learn a lot about the Vietnamese war. So it wasn't, I was just saying I'm not interested in this aspect of the history. It was just more like I didn't understand why going to certain places and going through the caves, I dunno, for me personally, that felt like a bit weird and I didn't really get a strong explanation from anyone else who was going that persuaded me to go or made it me feel more comfortable with going. And that was just something I chose to opt out of.
TRYBE: I think it's quite interesting because through tourism, I guess there's a level of reflection of how a country wants their culture and their history to be seen and observed by their tourists.
RHONA: Also, just using Vietnam as another example. Another instance has come to my mind, which I actually did participate on this one, I can't remember exactly where it was. I think it was in someone's palace, but basically they had a body that was embalmed Yeah. Of an emperor, and you kind of went on a tour and it finished at this emperor's like body basically.
RHONA: And I think I went because I was like, oh my gosh, the architecture of those buildings is, it's just amazing. Do you know what I mean? And the history is definitely something I'd like to know and understand, especially if you're going to be in an agriculture know and understand. But then I do remember waiting a very long time to see this body, and then when I was in the queue and I'd finally seen, wait, do you know what I mean? Mm-hmm. Walk past the unbound body. I remember thinking, damn, that body's been like that for two, what was it, a few hundred at least
RHONA: And I kind of felt sorry for it. Yeah. I can't lie. I kind of felt like, give it a rest, give it a rest. No, God, it was kind of a bit like we're all just walking past
TRYBE: Yeah, I know
DANIELA: What you mean. It reminds me of, this is a bit of a side point, but in the museum what's it called? The Royal Institute of Physicians in London where
TRYBE: I see all the old surgeries and stuff like
DANIELA: That. There is the skeleton of the tallest man or something, and next to the skeleton there's a little placard, which is basically the will of this guy, because throughout his life he was basically taught and showcased as the tallest man. I don't know if he's literally the tallest man ever, but very tall man. And in his will, he basically said, when I die, please not let my body be displayed for people to see
RHONA: <laugh>. Wow.
DANIELA: Yeah. And yet, oh man, what's happened to this skeleton? So yeah, it's a bit of a side point, but I guess that kind of ties in a bit to the voyeuristic aspect of just wanting to see things and then the disregard of the agency, as you were saying before, tribe of what people in the situation, even if it was in the past, what they might have wanted.
TRYBE: Tying that in, it kind of reminds me with and tying into what I was saying before as well about the favelas. I know that they have some in Argentina and they have it in Brazil and I'm sure, and in Cape Town they have some stuff as well in South Africa, and it's become a marker of the culture, if you know what I mean. If you think about Brazilian culture, how Bali funk has arisen from there and how it's supposed to be very, I guess, vibrant places. But these are places that have arisen out of a lot of segregation, a lot of poverty some of it from the government's, I guess, policies that they've had over centuries, but yet it's become such a kind of touristic hotspot, if you know what I mean. So when I was there, you can sign up for tours or you can sign up for Bali funk parties in the favelas. So you'll be going to these places where people live and experiencing, they've even opened up host hotels there, if you know what I mean. It's quite interesting. But again, like I said before, it comes down to the agency. How much agency do people have over their homes or their environment being turned into touristic spaces especially if it's arisen out of a lot of, I guess positives and also negative experiences.
DANIELA: Yeah, I guess the word that keeps coming to my mind is opportunism, and then this is a word that we talk about all the time, whether it's on the third magazine or in our events or wherever. As you were saying, Rona, after this tour that you went on, it was obviously really, there was an opportunity there to learn something about history and that's where you wanted to go. And yet it was seized up as an opportunism moment by some people. And maybe that one was a good example and there's bad examples. But for me, I feel like that word is a really important kind of context around all of this discussion.
TRYBE: And another interesting aspect of tourism is, like I said, the way that we are perceived it gives us the opportunity to look at the way we look at ourselves as a country. So one of the things that I found quite interesting talking to Canadians and people from the US is that when they go to the uk, they don't just go to the uk, they go to the whole of Europe and UK is one of the stops in their trip to them. We are part of the European experience as much as we possibly, especially with Brexit, don't see ourselves as much as especially with the, I guess we are in an island, but to them we are kind of part of that. And our history's so much welded into that as well. So it's interesting the way that we are perceived in the way that we perceive ourselves there's a bit of sometimes a difference.
DANIELA: Yeah, true. Okay, so we always want to have some context around our discussions and oftentimes starting with definitions or facts and figures. So we've kind of collated some information and definitions around topics around Tourism Tribe. Would you mind starting us off with the just definition of what tourism is?
TRYBE: Sure thing. I'm sure you've heard most of these phrases being thrown around, but not actually know how to kind of pin it down or how it fits into what we're all talking about. I'm going to start with tourism. The definition of tourism is the commercial organization and operation of holidays and visits to places of interest.
DANIELA: So I went on the UN website, not often that I do that but yeah, so I went into U United Nations World Tourism Organization website. There's a quote here, which is today the business volume of tourism equals or even surpasses that of oil experts, food product and automobiles.
TRYBE: That is crazy.
DANIELA: It is a big, big old industry. And the other thing that was interesting on the website was that I came across this infographic where they kind of listed out the kind of different reasons why tourism matters. And so I'm just going to read a couple of these out. But basically to me, a lot of these points are double edge sword. So for example, one of them is cultural cultural preservation. One is environmental protection one is jobs that make sense, one in 10 jobs in the world is related to tourism. Wow. Economic growth. That again, kind of ties in. That makes sense. Apparently the figure here from 2018 is that 1.6 trillion US dollars in exports are related to tourism. Dang. And it makes up 10% of world the world's GDP and 7% of the world's exports. The things that really stood out to me, but probably the points about cultural preservation and environmental protection because I can see how tourism can through encouraging people to engage with history and engage with animals, you are aware of these issues and people start, I guess donating money to charity or whatever, different ways of putting a positive on that.
We know that tourism for sure damages these things directly. So yeah, they kind of feel like doubles sword to me. Should we talk about adventure tourism then?
TRYBE: Yeah, so adventure tourism is a type of tourism involving travel to remote or exotic locations in order to take part in physical challenge and outdoor activities. So you find that with people who like to go surfing and go to remote places in Peru and places like that to get good waves, or you find that with rock climbing and what's those bungee jumping extreme kind of activities that you wouldn't necessarily get in Let Sayer UK
DANIELA: This year has been an especially bad year for people who go to Mount Everest. 11 climbers died in 16 days. And first of all, I want to just recommend a really amazing book by John Krak called Thinner is very well written and gives a very kind of comprehensive overview of what some of these issues around climbing mountain Everest are. But there are many things that contribute to these deaths and one of them is overcrowding on people trying to reach the peak. I think there was a figure of something like 800 climbers were trying to get to the peak and back within this kind of weather window that was just completely impossible. So people were getting stuck getting overexposed in that kind of altitude. And also there are many climbers who go there because they can afford to pay for a tour of that kind, but yet they might not be experienced enough or in the physical condition to actually take on that type of challenge.
But then the tours, the company who organized the tour feel like they've paid all this money, so I should help them get there. And then there's this weird pressure going on where people don't feel like they can back out and that can be just actually deadly. And the other thing for me that oftentimes is forgotten in all these stories is that of something like 200 body count in the history of people climbing Mand Everest a huge number of that are the Sherpa people from the local community who take on this very dangerous job because there's very good money and find it hard to back out of it. And yet would they be putting themselves in that position if it wasn't because there was a kind of really lucrative job opportunity there? I don't think so.
TRYBE: This kind of ties into the whole thing about tourism being an opportunity for a lot of people who let's say sometimes there's not much opportunities in their country, but at the same time, to what risk,
RHONA: I think also it kind of neatly leads into the idea of environmental issues that can be sort of intensified by tourism. Obviously waste and plastic is a international issue, but Venice at the moment are particularly struggling. The sort of sanitation workers in Venice have quite strict instructions regarding dispensing of the waste. They can't really keep up with how much has been deposited into the bins. We have this very small place which is being flooded with lots of tourists basically. But on top of that, there is this sort of double standard that is existing in Venice at the moment where they're very strict guidelines and fines being administered to locals when it comes to how much waste they produce and how they're getting rid of their stuff. But these same fines do not apply to the tourists. There were loads of protests about this and some hotels like the Nova Ca Center hotel and the hotel flora have taken action and are trying to reduce the amount of waste by stopping using plastic bottles and that sort of stuff.
DANIELA: That's quite powerful, isn't it? Because what you're talking about there is grassroot action against something that isn't right. They're having all kinds of issues. So another problem is, I guess you could call it a gentrification situation where majority of the houses I've heard of flats on Venice Island itself are not owned by locals. And that's a real problem as well, isn't it?
RHONA: Yeah, I currently, at the moment, some hosts for Airbnb in the city have 135 listings, so 135 home listings, which they're reaping cash off out of, which is great for some but also in terms of actual rentals since 2015, that's tripled from 2,441 to now 8,320 Airbnb, which is a massive increase. The only good thing is that in, well this month actually Fair Bmb has now launched, which is a non-for-profit home sharing site that now allows well now only permits residents to be hosts. Oh wow. And it limits you to one home. Yeah, that's a big difference. And also takes a 15% cut, which is then put back into the community or put into social projects back into Venice. So that's really cool. That sounds amazing. That's a good step forward. I sure should check them out. Have you been before? Yeah,
DANIELA: I went to Venice and one of my best friends lives in Venice who lives on the island. And one of the first things that she said to me was like, people who live on the island, there's very few of us who are actually locals, like a very small percentage is majority tourists. And there's a huge gentrification problem, and we feel like we are the last stand
RHONA: That's so crazy. We
DANIELA: Just trying to fight against that. And the rent is extremely expensive on the island. And so you can definitely feel that tourism is a massive engine. I mean, we don't really have time to get into it right now, but talking of engines, there's the whole cruise ship problem in Venice. But yeah, I'll just say that's something to look into.
TOM SELWYN: Hello?
TOM SELWYN: Hi Tom. Hi. Yeah. Thank you so much for talking to us about tourism today. So Tom, you've worked a very long time in this complex field of anthropology and tourism. Is there anything that you are specifically focused on at the moment?
TOM SELWYN: Yeah, well, I'm actually writing a chapter about why people travel that's they're going to be published fairly soon. So that's what I'm working on at the moment. I've just finished a long chapter about Brexit, but there are all sorts of relations between Brexit and travel. But the specific thing that I'm working at the moment is this question about why people travel. And I dedicate it to Alan Cordi, who was a three year old boy who died tied on his way from Syria to the west because he was bombed out of Syria. And I think that the field of tourism and pilgrimage by the way, so it's tourism pilgrimage and the cultural industries must include people who are forced to travel rather than those who just choose to travel. So I think that we need to talk about refugees as well, and you can see this in all sorts of ways. I published a book on tourism not so long, well published several, but in them there is a very instant about a hotel in Greece that in the summer is for tourists and in the winter is for refugees. So they do indeed cross and the Mediterranean region is possibly the region in the world where they cross most. Obviously.
TOM SELWYN: What I found interesting is that your work covers different types of travel tourism being one of them because one of the things that we were discussing about tourism is that people's, from a tourist perspective, people's desire to go places are complicated. So there are different motivations and different things that people seek out when they go places. And so when you use the word tourism or travel it actually covers a whole range of behaviors.
TOM SELWYN: It does.
TOM SELWYN: It's interesting that your work is act so much broader than that as well.
TOM SELWYN: Yes, I think actually travel is it's important to include travel. So we're talking about travel tourism and if you go back into historical accounts of travel particularly for example to my favorite medieval traveler, Eden Battuta, who was Moroccan very famous Moroccan traveler. He went for about 25 years or so all around the Muslim world and beyond. And he originally went because he wanted to make a privilege to Mecca, but in fact he was very keen on looking at cities and buildings and listening to intellectuals and to debating all sorts of things along the way. So it was a very rich experience that he had in those long years of travel and he hasn't spent because he had to earn a bit of money to keep going. He spent quite a long time as a judge in Delhi and his travels kind of opened up the whole field in quite a good way. Basically what he said, and what other people have said more recently is that travel and tourism are about a combination of education and experience. He was one of those famous Arab travelers. There were several of them but he is the most famous and he's written about by Tim McIntosh Smith, who's written several books about him and he's an archetypal traveler from whom we can learn a great deal about the nature of travel and tourism and pilgrimage. So
TOM SELWYN: Could we go to this Israel Palestine area? A lot of your work is focused on that. I'm not a really expert in that area, but one thing that I wanted to ask you about was this idea that what Israel is to a lot of Jewish people around the world where it's considered a kind of homeland. And I've always been fascinated by the idea that Jewish people from other places who live in other places go to Israel to visit and see it as a kind of returning home in a way. And yet of course that's not their place of actual residence and their kind of influx into the area with certain feelings of entitlements can have huge impact on the local community.
TOM SELWYN: Yeah, okay. Well, I suppose the first thing to say is not specifically about Israel Palestine. I'll come to that in a second. But the first thing to say is that many people in the world, and possibly most people in our world have a conception of more than one home. I mean, if you think about the huge number of migrants, it's not just the 71 million refugees, but there's many more than that who move around the world for jobs because they want of what sorts of reasons. That doesn't mean to say that they give up the idea of their previous home or their previous homes in plural. And most of us have an idea of the place that maybe we were born and we have feelings towards that and feelings towards the place we live in at the moment and feelings towards the place we might go in the future or something like that.
So the idea of people having an idea of one home is not, in my view, particularly realistic. I think that people have ideas of more than one. And if you think of all the communities that we had in this country Britain from the Afro-Caribbean region from South Asia or whatever it is, I mean the evidence every bay is that people who come from these areas certainly have a conception of the historical area which their family connected to. They have a feeling for that, but they have a very strong feeling for the places they live in at the moment, mainly in Britain. So here's an example of people with ideas of more than one home. So it doesn't surprise us. I think that people can have these ideas coming to Israel and Palestine. It is certainly true that many Jewish people in the world regard Israel as a homeland or some kind of homeland.
Some Jewish people make Ali to Israel and go and live there and in a sense, I suppose feel that they are living out their life in what they regard as their homeland. Other people, other Jewish people visit Israel and feel that they've visited a place which is in a sense their biblical homeland and so on. And some people, there are some Jewish people who say, well, it's not our home is in London or New York or wherever, and Israel is Israel and so on. But we don't want to necessarily think of Israel as our home. Now as far as my kind of work on tourism is concerned, one would say is that I think that it's fine to feel that your home is there in Israel. I mean that that's fine, that is not fine, is if you then extend it and you make the populations who were there before if you occupy them, if you make life very difficult for them, if there is a, there is a huge inequality between contemporary Israelis and Palestinians and that is unacceptable. And it doesn't follow from the idea that Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people. You can have a homeland and you can be there, but that does not imply that you have to occupy and oppress somebody else who also regarded regards it as their home. And I think that the scholars presently working on tourism in the area would say that it would be a very good thing if these kind of issues were explained to tourists and prs as they come.
And that really the task of the tourism industry in that area is to try and speak something about the truth of the history of the area, the truth of the society and culture of Palestinians as well as Israelis, and work towards a situation where there is complete freedom of movement between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. And instead what a lot of tourist guides, particularly Israeli tourist guides who are talking to pilgrims and tourist to come there as if the region was more or less the same as the conception of what the biblical region was. This is obviously completely unrealistic. It ignores the local people and is not really at all sensible historically. I mean obviously <inaudible> moved on, we're in the 21st century and so on. All of these complicated issues need to be talked about with honesty and with truthfulness, rather than giving tourists from the west or the global north some kind of idea that this is in fact a biblical region. In fact, it's a region for all three religions. And indeed more than that, it's not just Jews, Christians and Muslims who live there, but also there's a strong Hindu community also and an African community and so on. It's a multicultural multi-religious area and it should be talked about to pilgrims and tourists in those kind of terms.
TOM SELWYN: Would you be able to speak to the idea of privilege in a more general sense? For me, I feel like tourism is inherent, inherently privileged pursuits. And with that there are lots of tensions and issues that come with it.
TOM SELWYN: You could say that tourists in general are privileged or tend to be privileged, but then if you think about it that's not necessarily true. I mean, lots of people will go on holiday who don't have a great deal of money but then may take a reasonable package tour or chartered tourist offer, go to a tourist resort in the college, for example, go to Myorca go. I don't think one can necessarily call them privileged. And the other thing is that provided the local tourism organization in the resorts that they go to, whether these resorts are in Myorca or Greece or Cypress or wherever, if the local organizers, the local government of the area concerned, are really careful about yes, looking after the tourists, but also possibly primarily looking after the local people by ensuring that taxes are used in sensible ways that buildings are not obstructive to local people, that local services are shared and perhaps local people have privileges over access to those local services, then the tourists are not so necessarily privileged.
I think there are all sorts of cases in the world where they are privileged and particularly possibly in the global south, and that's very unfortunate. And that results in the same kind of inequalities and so on that we were talking about earlier in relation to Israel and Palestine. Once we move back then to Israel Palestine, it seems to me that in many ways tourists and pilgrims to the Middle East are privileged in the sense that certainly Jewish tourists are privileged in the sense that they are regarded as being people often with kinship links to the area and who don't have any kind of much responsibility, shall we say towards Palestinian residents. Their concern is more or less exclusively with the Israeli population, not the Palestinian population. And I think that is unfortunate. It's also very unfortunate, but that evangelical Christians, for example tend to come to the region and tend to tell the organizations looking after tourism in the region tell and actually tell tourist God what they want to hear.
What they want to hear is some version of history, which privilege, privilege is the biblical period more than anything else, celebrates things like King David and all that kind of thing. And completely ignores the existence of a large part of the population of region, which is the Palestinian community or the Muslim community or whatever. And in that sense, there's a very unfair sense of privilege with those two particular types of tourists for others too. So in a nutshell, what I'm saying is that it doesn't necessarily have to be the case, but all tourists are privileged over the regions into which they go. But it does sometimes happen. I'll give you a couple of examples.
TOM SELWYN: I suppose what's interesting that's coming up here is that a real danger of tourism of any kind really in regards to any region or whether it has to do with an area of turbulence is that it's very, very easy for a hegemonic story to take over. Yes. And it's quite dangerous in that sense, actually.
TOM SELWYN: Yes, I think you're right. Actually friend of mine has written a book about, which is an island which is part of France. And the point that he makes is that this is a very beautiful island with mountains and lots of trees and plants and so on. And the whole of the effort of the government is to make it as garden as possible. And the reason for that is that people from the metropolitan areas of France look at the island and go to the island as if it was some kind of garden that they control, if you like. And it's an example of I don't know, the rock developed rich world looking at the less developed poor world, which is full of all sorts of natural things and then sitting in hotels and so on. And what is ignored completely are the working conditions of those people working on the coral reefs and sea or on in the trees or the parks of the country. And so any sort of critical understanding of the social and political and economic structure of the island is ignored. What is presented above all is this beautiful garden like place that is basically for our enjoyment.
TOM SELWYN: Yeah, I agree. I visited room in Ireland a few years ago and it was an amazing experience, but even whilst I was there, it's very present the sense that you are in a very manicured space. Yeah. I mean when you go hiking in Mafa, you feel like you are somehow in the Alps just by the way that it's managed, and it's hard to shake the weirdness of that, I would say.
TOM SELWYN: Absolutely. And I think your phrase, manicure of place is a very good one. And that apply to the Alps as well. It does apply to the Himalayas, it applies to all sorts of places where people from of the west or the global north go and more or less do what they want. And the economies a subsident, their needs are climbing the ice mountain or going to the most beautiful landscape imaginable, that the actual conditions under which that takes place are not really the subject of their journeys. So it is a sort of way in which the global North imposes, this is our agenda on the global south. I think you are right.
TOM SELWYN: What would be an advice that you might give around how to travel more ethically?
TOM SELWYN: First of all, I wouldn't necessarily say that people are always traveling unethically. I think that probably people would like to, people have a broad range of views about ethical troubling. But I suppose the one piece of advice is that actually look at what is happening around you don't necessarily think that what you read on the guidebook is the correct kind of information. You look at the actual people and society around you, and you think about how your journeys are going to affect them well, rather than badly. And I think some of the things that we've talked about in terms of manicure places or hus or Israel, palestine or whatever, are examples of areas that where tourism and pilgrimage actually are not particularly ethically based. And I think that it's very important that they should be. And it seems to me that if you actually begin to know, try and find out the real knowledge about the places that you're visiting, then that will stand you in good stead.
And I can give you one example, which is actually in Jerusalem. There is just next to the walls of Jerusalem, there is an area, a village called Swan. And this is predominantly a Palestinian village where people have lived for a long time and which is now subject to visitations and exclusions by settlers, and where the whole place is being actually transformed into something called the city of David. And I think that that is unethical in the sense that the people living in this village, this neighborhood, are being subject to very unethical political pressures. And this is something that we should be very careful to avoid.
DANIELA: Okay. Thank you so much for talking with us. If people want to find out more about your work and follow your publications, where would the place to go for that?
TOM SELWYN: The place to go would be the School of Orient African Studies website, SOAs website. And we are running a summer school actually this summer on tourism and P image and the cultural industries. And there's all sorts of information there about the kind of stuff that we do as a team. So people are very welcome to get in touch with any of us.
RHONA: So now it might be interesting to talk about the perceptions of countries and the sort of stories that we tell about them and how that influences tourism. An example of this is a country like Egypt. Egypt is somewhere we tend to go to visit the pyramids. Another example could be the Caribbean. We go to the Caribbean for beaches and sunshine and maybe a bit of rum,
RHONA: What happens to the tourism in these countries when things like natural disasters or politics affect the perceptions and the myths that are told around these cultures?
TRYBE: One interesting example would be to look at Egypt. As you mentioned, Egypt has a strong narrative of being a place of great historical significance with the pyramids and artifacts that has a strong connection with France and the UK and Middle East. But as soon as I guess the Arab Spring happened there was a great, I guess, plummet in the terms of their tourism because obviously no one wants to go to a place where there's an uprising and civil unrest. But an interesting thing about Egypt is the fact that Egypt is known for its pyramids. But it's funny because there pyramids can be observed around the world, and whilst Egypt probably has the most well preserved pyramids, there's apparently more pyramids in Sudan. Yeah, there's pyramids in Mexico and there's a few scattered around the Middle East itself as well. And it's interesting, I guess because of the historical narrative and connection that we have to Egypt that let's say Sudan or Mexico doesn't necessarily have the same narrative and can exploit those aspects of its tourism as well as Egypt can or was able to before the Arab Spring.
But it is interesting to look at how things that in the country politically, or as we said, civil unrest can affect the way that to your tourist industry can suddenly disappear or plummet. But then also you can look at the Cuba as another example in the sense of, I don't know if we are, we're going to be referencing Netflix and podcasts and books throughout this episode, but there's a great Netflix series called Cuba and the Cameraman I'd definitely recommend you guys checking it out. And he goes to explore Cuba over a period, I think it's about 30 years or something like that, during I guess the rise of Fidel Castro towards his pretty much to his death and seeing the way how his, I guess, political shaping of the country affected the people, the local people. So when Fidel Castro first came to prominence a lot of people were frustrated that Cuba became a kind of, I beefer the back place of people from Florida and the us.
So this is the 1950s. If you want to have a good time, you go to Cuba, you smoke a cigar, you go see flappers and dancers and stuff like that. And a lot of people were annoyed by that, and they were scared that their culture would be eroded from this type of tourism, even though it was bringing in loads of money. So with the rise of Fidel Castro, he pretty much kind of flipped that on his head and said, no, we are going to encourage different aspects of our country. We want to have everyone educated, et cetera, et cetera. Not to say Fidel Castro was perfect. There's definitely aspects to <laugh> his leadership that is questionable. But what was interesting was towards the last kind of episode of this whole series, you see how after the floor, the fall of the U S S R and Cuba had suffered greatly by the fact that they didn't have a country that they were dependent on no more they turned back to tourism.
So a lot of these people who were highly educated and skilled under Fidel Castro now was out on the streets selling trinkets and doing whatnot to make a living because they no longer had that kind of source of standing in society, and it no longer meant anything. So it was quite sad to see him kind of walk through. And then these people were saying, yeah, I used to be an engineer, or Yeah, yeah, I used to be a doctor. But what's quite interesting with Cuba is throughout all this upheaval up and down it's become a place where people like to go to see 1950s people say that it's been frozen in time and that because of the fact that it, it's kept a lot of its cars, it a buildings are quite the same from its colonial and post-colonial era. And so it looks very different from what we would be exposed to, let's say in the UK or in the US because of the fact that it's frozen in time. So part of its selling point as a tourist is to go and see a relic of an island, which is quite weird how that's become, I guess, selling point of cultural association for tourists. Now, and this is quite a recent one, what
RHONA: I found was quite ironic about that was the fact that obviously one of the reasons why those buildings were kind of kept the same was it's quite clear in the documentary that there just wasn't any money to renovate. So when you're going around people's houses, people are like, look, I jump over this ditch to get to the other side of my house because I can't repair the ceiling. Do you know what I mean? But it's almost become fetishized because of its sort of 1950s feel and it's sort of vintage look. And that's really in at the moment. But actually it's come from the fact that after the US left poverty. Really? Yeah.
DANIELA: Have you guys been to Cuba?
TRYBE: No, I really want to go. I haven't been. No, I really want to go. Yeah,
DANIELA: Because somebody was recommending me to go to Cuba, and what they said to me was literally the country is developing now, so if you want to see Cuba the way you imagine being Going out, and
I mean, that just totally highlights this two-sided situation, right? And this very uncomfortable situation. Whereas like you were saying, fetishization of wanting to, I mean, obviously some people want to just get close to the history and that's fine. But yeah, it's kind of very inherent in that uncomfortable thing of exploiting a situation that I mean, people suffer for, right?
DANIELA: But very important aspect that we want to bring in is the topic of going to resorts.
TRYBE: So as I mentioned earlier there's like, there's different ways to travel and tying into what has also been mentioned in terms of the experience of the locals when resorts and hotels are sub compared to those who are traveling to these places. So what has been found in places like Jamaica and some places in Africa as well, where certain beaches are cornered off for hotels for these tourists to come and experience Jamaica or these places, which locals can't go to. And so it's again, tying into the whole segregation of the community and the tourists who go to visit the country, and especially if the community's a big aspect of that country, and yet you are only experiencing them through those who maybe are serving you while you're lying down on the, you know what I mean? It definitely is quite a different way to experience a country
DANIELA: And to do with this kind of resort thing is the fact that local communities end up losing access to what is once their space of residents or even their way of income. The fact that beaches are caught off for the clients of the resort means that people can't go to that beach anymore. And that was your home.
TRYBE: Yeah. Yeah. And I guess that comes down to land and the privilege to be able to buy as a hotel, and I guess the people that own the hotel to buy off sections of land and be like, this is now <laugh> going to be for this, and no one else can take part or be and have connection to that part of the beach. It, it's sad.
RHONA: Yeah. I would say that I think what makes that sort of resort style of tourism quite not the best or the most ethical style of tourism is just the fact there's a complete divide in terms of who is benefiting from the tourism, the local people. If you are in a resort, you are literally, you know, your BI are excluding yourself or you are excluding the local community. The local community doesn't have the chance to economically or culturally benefit from you being there. But I'm sure if you using Jamaica as a example, if you think about why people also go to Jamaica, the people are sold as part of the package. You know what I mean? The food they create, the energy they have, the music they create, that's all part of the package for Jamaica. So it is, it's quite sad to feel like that they kind of get excluded.
RHONA: And I think in other countries, say Brazil, when the Olympics went over there, there was this massive feeling of, oh yeah, this is great because we've always looked at Brazil for sports and stuff like that. And it could be a massive opportunity the country to maximize off of that and it to bring in revenue because that's definitely something about the country and a wide portion of the community need is money. But actually what we actually saw happening there is that the government completely went into the favelas and took people out their homes. You know what I mean? Destroyed favelas. It was hugely damaging for the people who actually live in these places who have regular struggles anyway. Yeah. Do you know what I mean? And now they have this extra added burden because yet again, it's the whole fetishization, maybe the whole myth of what Brazil is supposed to be in trying to clean up the faves and et cetera, et cetera. So the community is completely not benefiting at all from this form of tourism. I see. And I feel like that's, for me is the worst or the least ethical way to
TRYBE: Travel, but then also to the idea of sanitizing or cleaning up the image of your country through destroying the community itself. Yes. Is very alarming.
DANIELA: Yeah, I was just going to say that it's so interesting that you bring up the Olympics into this discussion because I think you actually have to take a moment to think about the Olympics being an opportunity for tourism. But of course it is, when you think about the Olympics, you're like, oh, there's some kind of international relations, bridging of cultures and all kind of stuff, and about sports, all of our sports, except so many people travel to that place in the year of the Olympics, a to see the sports start and competitions, but also if for it to be an opportunity to see the country. So it's very closely linked. But yeah, I mean, preparing for the Olympics is a whole
TRYBE: Other thing. That's exactly it. And the question is whether the benefit of holding the Olympics and having those tourists come with all the <laugh> good pros and kinds of that tourism brings but yet having put in so much to prepare for it, whether it outweighs itself, whether the money you get in is worth everything. Especially because I, I've remember briefly seeing a statistic that said that the popularity in terms of tourism of Olympics, it doesn't hold up to the way it used to back in the day. So that's another question to hold whether it's valuable to have the Olympics anymore.
DANIELA: Okay. So like I said before, this episode has been quite an emotional rollercoaster, and it would be nice to try to end on bit of a positive note, I guess some reflections around the positives and also some more conscious ways that we can think about traveling, because obviously, like we said before, traveling is a great way of expanding your worldview, et cetera, et cetera. So yeah, Verna, take us away.
TRYBE: I think using the example of Cuba, you can see how if tourism is executed in the right way, it can be used as a way to rebuild an economy, to provide jobs while paying jobs for the people in the communities who live there. And just from a personal standpoint, I would also say it can be quite humbling to go to another country and to see how things work because it can be very different to your everyday life.
DANIELA: I guess for me, some of the things that I've been thinking about is, one thing is that I have these crazy German friends who are amazing or very sporty. I mean, they're like real adventurous and very, very fit. And actually like 80% of them, they're never going to fly again. They're going to make that their contribution to reducing their carbon footprint on this planet. So wherever they go and do their travels and adventures, they go there by train or day cycle there. Yeah. And I find that pretty inspiring.
TRYBE: It makes sense in the sense of there's, there are positives to traveling, but then there's other, there's positive ways to travel as well. Sure. And that's definitely one thing to explore maybe a little bit harder in the UK as we're an island, but we've got the Euro star and coaches, which is has its perks and downsides. And another thing that I found quite interesting was the fact that a lot of these grassroots communities that are trying to make their voices heard and say, Hey, we don't want this type of tourism. Tourism or this tourism is affecting our day-to-day lives in the community. So I think that's definitely if we pay more attention to people who are living in these places and saying, no, we don't want it, and recognizing that their voices should be heard is definitely a way to move forward.
DANIELA: Thanks so much for tuning into Third Waves. And yeah, we'd like to just say a huge thank you to everyone who gave us advice and their thoughts on this topic including Professor Debbie Lole and Tom.
TRYBE: Thank you for tuning into Third Waves and stay tuned online at Third Magazine on Instagram that's third with Free Eyes. I'm Ronna, I'm Tribe,
DANIELA: I'm Daniella.
FRAN: I encourage you to check out THIIIRD Waves on your podcast player right now. As Trybe said, that’s T - H - I - I - I - R - D with 3 ‘i’s.
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