Tourism and our cities


Sir, – Orna Mulcahy makes some valid points about the exponential rise in mass tourism that is overwhelming some of the world’s great cities (“Some cities near breaking point from city breaks”, Opinion & Analysis, January 9th).

Sadly it is not only the cities that are being damaged by mass tourism; it is also the environment and the indeed the culture of the countries we visit.

Travel is a privilege and in terms of the environment, cheap air fares are an unsustainable privilege. Most of us in the West are fortunate to be able to travel, when many millions in the world through poverty are not. The price of our privileges are shouldered mostly by them, not us. Our grandchildren will shake their heads in astonished disbelief that in our time, there was often very little in the price difference between flying from London to Bangkok, than it was to take the train to Manchester.

The desire people have to impress others via social media by being photographed in ever more ludicrously exotic places is damaging to the environment and to the integrity of everyone’s culture.

It is a flaw in our humanity that people sit in Starbucks in California wishing they were instead in Venice, while people in Starbucks in Venice wish they were being Instagrammed, Starbucks mug in hand, among the cherry blossoms of Japan. We have become discontented with where we are. Meanwhile a creeping sameness creeps into a world that becomes more and more dulled with the homogenisation of corporate sameness.

Recently David Attenborough, who has had the privilege to travel the world as a naturalist, said that of all the places that he has visited, no place pleases him more than the part of London were he has lived most of his life. As someone who lives not so far from him, I would agree.

The same I can say for Dublin and for the wonderful unsung places that I am familiar with in Ireland.

We are not galley slaves that must grunt and sweat for 11 months of the year until we can use an overcrowded Paris or Venice as a backdrop to our social media fantasies.

If we had the courage to request a healthier work-life balance and reached out in friendship to improve our local communities and our local environment, we would realise how unsatisfying it is to sit in a Parisian restaurant, being served by an Estonian waiter, with a family from Coventry on the table to our right and to our left, a nice couple from Carrick-on-Suir, desperate for a chat. – Yours, etc,