The over-tourism phenomenon reaches Canada: Whistler mayor whining about day-trippers

It’s a tough act to balance. Canadian destinations and cities around the world want tourists to come and fill the coffers of local hotels and businesses. But sometimes it’s too much.

If you’ve been following the news, you might have seen protests in Barcelona, where locals recently protested the annual onslaught of tourists from Britain and other countries, who party all night in Las Ramblas after jetting in on cheap flights from the likes of Ryanair with money in their pockets. Venice also has complained, as has Iceland.

Today I read a story about similar sentiments in beautiful Amsterdam, where The Express in England says there’s a crackdown on bad behaviour in the city centre.

And, now it’s even reaching the True North Strong and Free.

In a story I spotted on the CBC (and aren’t we lucky to have it), the mayor of Whistler is quoted as saying she’s a little fed up with day-trippers who come up to the village and parade about but don’t appreciate the quiet, mountain culture and way of life. I suspect she mostly means young folks from Vancouver but she didn’t say that.

What Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden DID say is the wants “to attract those people who enjoy and appreciate our community culture,”

“We don’t necessarily want people who are coming up for a day, packing a bag with their lunch in it, and not really appreciating the mountain culture that we have,” she told the CBC.

“We have a significant machine that has to be fed, and if people are driving up to Whistler for the day … that’s not going to sustain our economy, not by a long shot,” she said.

I haven’t heard of any protests in the street, but it’s an interesting phenomenon we’re seeing in Whistler and around the world. Global tourism numbers jump every year, with thousands of airplanes criss-crossing the planet every day and sending hordes of camera-toting, selfie-snapping visitors to popular cities and churches and already crowded markets.

I’m as guilty as the next guy, seeing as I promote tourism by writing travel stories. Let the record state I was one of many folks wandering about on the Halifax waterfront yesterday, mingling with a large number of cruise ship visitors and others. I was in Nova Scotia for the annual Go Media conference, which brings travel journalists and tourism professionals together to talk about story angles and such for destinations across Canada. That includes Whistler, which had one of its tourism reps on hand.

Bottom line is I don’t really know what do about this. I wrote recently about how Hurricanes Irma and Maria decimated parts of the Caribbean and that it would be lovely if folks could take trips to damaged islands once the tourist infrastructure is up and running. That way we’d be helping folks out who really need it, rather than planting another set of Canadian toes on the sand in Negril or Punta Cana in the D.R.

(I had a trip set up some time ago to go to Barbados in a few days, which hasn’t been hurt by hurricanes and may not be the neediest country in the Caribbean in terms of tourism. I hope to get to Dominica to help out some time, or perhaps Anguilla.)

Try a visit to Volendam instead of Amsterdam.

I don’t think we all need to cancel our trips to L.A. or Barcelona, but it could be that we should consider avoiding some of those classic destinations that seem to be reaching the saturation point. After all, what’s the point of going to a city where you’re not really wanted, or at least where some folks don’t want you around. Instead of Barcelona, try the lovely city of Valencia a little south. Instead of Venice, head to Puglia or Sardinia. Rather than arriving in Amsterdam, try Rotterdam or a smaller, country town like Edam or Volendam. You might discover some cool things. You might get a warmer welcome, too.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Steve Threndyle 10 October 2017, 5:36 am

    There are a few trends intersecting, here. Number one is that clearly travel – especially within Europe – has never been cheaper, thanks to their discount airlines and the Air BnB/VRBO phenomenon. Number two is that those hulking, multi storied cruise ships are to blame; in a sense, all they are is mega hotels anchoring offshore and disgorging thousands of tourists at once. Number three is that the world economy is booming, creating a lower middle class who are obsessed with traveling, either to meet friends and relatives. In some cases, these are people who don’t have a prayer of ever owning a house in an expensive city like Vancouver or Sydney and are ‘chucking it’ until things go their way a bit more. Cheap travel and parties becomes their sort of drug of choice. None of this would be an issue save for the fact that unless artificial intelligence makes huge bounds in the near future, no one who works in the tourism industry can afford to live in the cities where they tend bar, wait tables, clean rooms, etc. They all need (more than) a little help to get by, but pricing really is a race to the bottom. The real problem lies with the global economy – far too many jobs are going unfilled because they don’t pay a living wage, and the company making the so-all

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