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"Tourists are vulgar, vulgar, vulgar" – Henry James

Before you read, think about the following issues:

  • What changes have taken place in the way people spend their holiday?
  • How has it affected the destinations they visit?

Changes in tourism

There have been many changes in the patterns of work and leisure. These have come with the technological development of some industrialised nations of western Europe, North America and the Far East and have led to the situation where more and more people have the money and the time to spend on exploring all kinds of tourist attractions. Tourism has become a major industry and for many countries the source of most of their revenue. As it is such an important source of income every effort is made to make sure that prospective customers, tourists, are encouraged to visit places of interest and leave some of their money there.

For example in the UK, people’s tastes have changed alongside the growth of its population’s wealth, and with education being available to people from all walks of life. This has brought about the situation where what people find attractive is not only the azure waves of the Mediterranean, the snowy slopes of the Alps or the more traditional holiday in seaside resorts, but also places of heritage, like York Minster, Stonehenge or Venice, visited by growing numbers of people hungry for authentic historical experience.

The following figures reflect the scale of the growth. In the year 2001:

  • tourism accounted for as much as 4.5% of British GDP (Gross Domestic Product),
  • 2.1 million people worked in tourism (7% of all UK employment),
  • UK sites were visited by 23 million foreign visitors,
  • 101 million overnight and longer visits
  • and 1.3 billion (!) one-day trips were made by UK residents.

Naturally such an influx of tourists cannot leave their destinations unaffected. Hordes of curious onlookers have become a normal feature of the most popular places. But it isn’t only the tourists’ presence that robs the places of their original atmosphere, though. Eager shopkeepers and local entrepreneurs go to great lengths to increase their profits by making the places even more "attractive" than they already are. Hence the multitude of stalls selling all kinds of trashy souvenirs as well as a great number of other attractions – fun fairs, shooting ranges, motor-boat rentals – aimed at filling in whatever free time tourists have.

It all seems to work very well both for tourists and local businesses. But how does the cultural heritage that originally attracted the masses fare amidst all the commotion? Do tourists realise that what they see and hear on their holiday is no longer what it is supposed to be: the heritage of the days gone by?

Activity

Following the reading activity "Tourists are vulgar" students may be asked to discuss some of the following questions in pairs or groups:

  • Are there any places of this kind in Poland?
  • What can be done to prevent the problem from getting worse?
  • Why do people visit certain places more often than others?
  • What problems and benefits do people living in such places have?Students may then present their answers in various forms: oral presentations, charts, posters, etc.

  • "Paradise Lost" - introduction
  • To buy or not to buy
  • Paradise Lost Gallery
  • Activities and links

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