a project co-funded by the EU promoting Sustainable and Responsible Tourism in Mediterranean countries involving Italy, Lebanon, Spain and Tunisia
not-Sustainable Tourism and its identity and cultural consequences
From the beginning of the modern tourism, heir of the “Grand Tour” carried out by the great high culture rich people in the centuries 17th-19th, tourism has been often based on stereotypes, insulting and damaging the local cultures, not only in the “colonial lands”, but also in the Mediterranean European ones. The English poet Shelley described Italian people of the visited regions as “a stupid slave tribe
without any chipping of intelligence”, and more insulting were the words of Defoe, Mark Twain, Goethe, Dickens, while Byron carried out and described sex tourism in Italy and the Nugent Guide (1749) connected the name of Venice to Venus and described the town as “the best in Europe for spending a night with a bitch”.
The not-Sustainable Tourism, in any age, is disruptive of the local culture in different ways:
- exotism, reducing local cultures to their chippings and only to market-goods;
- savage invasion of foreign models and disrupting of the community unity (especially between youth and elders);
- pushing to transform sacred, ritual, traditional elements into market goods for tourist and to decrease the quality of local arts and handicrafts for a mass-production (sometimes to substitute them with imported items), with the consequent lost of values, traditions, knowledge and skills;
- false rehabilitation of local traditional architectures, traditions, ceremonies, handicraft, contributing to the real disappearing of the true ones;
- development of additional stereotypes both among the tourists and the local people and pushing the second ones to act basing on that stereotypes more than on their own identity.
In the most recent times, the increasing interest for the “foreign cultures” and for “interculturalism” and the fight of many local communities, NGOs, social actors against the disruptive effects of the not-Sustainable Tourism have started to change some characteristics of this situation. But also many initiatives of declared intercultural-oriented tourism create real dangers, under a “responsible” mask, to the local culture, identity and dignity.
For example, the promotion of the Sahara tourism in the Kebili-Douz-Tozeur area of Tunisia as a cultural one, in opposition with the mass-sea side tourism in the Hammamet coastal area, presented also as “new promotion of the Sahara cultural traditions” is characterized by the following elements:
- full ideological continuity with the 1930s French colonial models on the same theme;
- reduction of the local culture to chippings for market;
- overcrowding of fragile sites, destroying the environmental bases of the same local culture;
- pushing youth to accept false elements of “their” culture (handicrafts from Northern Tunisia, amusement parks related to the “One thousands and one nights”, etc.) through museums, tourist equipments, etc.;
- mixing local handicrafts with imported low-prices gadgets;
- transforming ritual and sacred events (marriages, trance rites, etc.) in market events (folk festivals, pay-for-acting ceremonies, spectacles in the tourist villages, etc.)
In other places, the “revitalization” of ancient traditions (as the “canto a tenore” in Sardinia) and of ancient cultural sites (as the “Desert castles” in Jordan) has been the occasion for totally reinventing their characteristics in a tourist-oriented and false way, creating a new “canto a tenore” very different from the real one and showing as “Desert castle” in an empty, arid land what at the origin was not part of a defensive system but of a network of “Paradise gardens” with water, palms, flowers, animals and erotic activities!http://www.unep.org/resourceefficiency/Business/SectoralActivities/Tourism/FactsandFiguresaboutTourism/ImpactsofTourism/Socio-CulturalImpacts/NegativeSocio-CulturalImpactsFromTourism/tabid/78781/Default.aspx