Photo: Wong's Bar, Bangkok.

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Should travel be rationed?

Posted by somtam2000 on 15/4/2016 at 16:34 admin

Interesting piece regarding getting tourism under control. I don't agree the Bhutan model transfers well, but the piece is worth a read. In particular:

"What is the logical endpoint of this? Sitting here in Bhutan, I can tell you. We will go back to the past, when the best foreign travel was reserved entirely for the lucky, the wealthy and Prince William. In the future, enjoying a summer holiday in Tuscany might be like having Centre Court tickets for Wimbledon."

You can read the full story here.

#1 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,863
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Posted by DLuek on 16/4/2016 at 00:56 TF writer

Interesting. The part about hoteliers in the Maldives making only 30-40% of rooms available for Chinese reminds me of places I've been in Thailand. I've talked to a few small resort managers who openly said they'll deny rooms to Chinese if they're sure travelers from elsewhere will book them later. Have also talked to some hoteliers who aren't on booking sites and have an unspoken policy of not accepting Chinese guests at all. Another doesn't accept Russians. Also read recently that authorities at certain tourist sites in Japan are trying to create special "zones" for the Chinese. And then there's the White Temple in Chiang Rai, where the creator at one point decided to completely ban Chinese people (he has since had a change of heart).

Personally I've never had any problems with individual Chinese tourists, but I would pass on destinations that are hugely popular with them simply because the large crowds detract from the experience. It's like for every single family of Europeans or Americans or Malaysians, there's an entire busload of Chinese.

Then again, I stopped by a restaurant on Ko Samet where the owner has embraced the Chinese by printing a Chinese-language menu and generally welcoming them. He said that business is better than ever thanks to the Chinese. Apparently his restaurant has received a lot of praise on some crowd-sourced review site in China -- the Chinese who were there at the same time as me were treating the owner like a celebrity, and he was obviously loving every minute of it! People working in tourism-related businesses often complain that all of the Chinese tourists' money goes to Chinese package tour companies; not so in this case.

I think that, as the article says, many places all over the world will eventually have to limit the number of visitors -- some Thai national park islands are already throwing this idea around. The question is: Will there simply be quotas on a first-come first-serve basis, or will the un-rich get squeezed out by polices like Bhutan's? I reckon it will depend on the destination. But if there's money to be made, it's human nature to try and grab it.

#2 DLuek has been a member since 19/6/2008. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,277
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Posted by antoniamitchell on 16/4/2016 at 03:31

Interesting article, and I don't think anyone will disagree with the author's disappointment on how mass tourism can change the character of a place - but one person's ruined ("all the restaurants were really crowded, and I couldn't take pictures of charming buildings or beautiful views without hordes of tourists in the shot") is another person's economic development ("my small town the young people had to all leave just to find work; now there are dozens of new restaurants, shops, and hotels, making good money for their owners, and creating lots of jobs").

Limiting tourist numbers doesn't have to go hand in hand with high prices. There are plenty of sites that have rationed tickets for a very long time - ie., the Alhambra in Granada, where you have to either reserve your tickets weeks in advance to get a slot on your chosen date, or turn up at the crack of dawn and cue for hours for the limited number of day tickets. That's doesn't limit attendance to the rich, just the organised or determined.

Hoteliers who are denying rooms to Chinese are probably the same hoteliers who used to deny rooms to backpackers (or at least treat backpackers with suspicion). I've noticed that, when I travel around the region with a backpack, most guesthouses want me to pay for my room in advance. When I travel with a nice weekend bag (designer, natch), most guesthouses are happy for me to pay on departure. Still the same me, wearing the same dusty hiking boots. Maybe it's just a coincidence, or confirmation bias in my memories, but maybe it's just silly profiling.

Like everything else, it's what the organisers or owners make it. Some will chose to go for the cash grab, or try and stereotype guests, and some won't.

#3 antoniamitchell has been a member since 13/5/2012. Posts: 539
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