Riding the Wave of Tourism, Without Fighting the Undertow
Wednesday, July 25, 2018 • Nice, France
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Dear Parler Paris and Parler Nice Reader,
Tourists Filling Rue Masséna
The New East-West Tramway in Nice, Moving Tourists from the Airport to the Old Port
You aren't going to hear from me in a while. Saturday I am winging my way over to the island of Corsica for a real week-long beach vacation where the only thing I will be contemplating is my navel. You might find it hard to believe that I am capable of doing nothing, but I can be as much a lizard or more than the next person, lying prone on the sand without budging except to float on the water...again without budging.
A group of close friends and I manage to take a week off every summer and our preferred destination is the French island, even though we have tested a few others. Nothing quite compares to Corsica. You'll learn why that is on August 6th when I am back, tan, well-rested and full of information for my next Parler Nice Nouvellettre®. For now, I simply want to contemplate not my navel, but the subject of "tourism."
My apartment in Nice is in the tourist quarter of the Riviera city. Rue Masséna is a pedestrian street lined with shops and restaurants patronized by an endless stream of tourists. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors and nationalities and they are happy campers, because they are...on vacation. The atmosphere is contagious and addictive. Being around them, I want to be on vacation, too.
Tourism is growing worldwide. According to Statista.com, "Worldwide, the tourism industry has experienced steady growth almost every year. International tourist arrivals increased from 528 million in 2005 to 1.19 billion in 2015. Figures were forecasted to exceed 1.8 billion by 2030. Each year, Europe receives the most international tourist arrivals. It also produces the most travelers: with approximately 607 million outbound tourists in 2015, the region had more than double that of the second largest tourist origin, the Asia Pacific region."
Naturally, this is because we are becoming more and more of a transient, mobile, global society. We can hop a plane, a train or an automobile without too much hassle or expense. We can hop on a bike, a moto, a scooter, or even skates and get somewhere other than where we were. We don't need an office anymore because we can work virtually. We don't need the post office any more because we can access our accounts and send our files via the Internet. We don't need a living room any more because we can watch TV on our computer screens. We don't need retail stores any more because we can order our goods online and have them delivered to our doorstep. We don't need to join organizations to meet people because we can connect online with the folks we'd most like to meet.
And because of this, we are a society of tourists, exploring all the world has to offer easily and inexpensively at any time of the year. Since we don't need to stay put in any one place for any serious length of time anymore, we leave our primary abodes and head for other pastures. Maybe we stay a weekend, maybe we stay a month, maybe we stay a year. No matter how long we stay gone, we're leaving one residence vacant as we're taking up another one.
If it's a weekend, then it might be that a hotel satisfies our needs. If it's a month, then we might want something more substantial, like renting a vacation apartment. If it's a year, then we'd surely want something resembling a real home. For these reasons, apartment hotels and vacation apartments became very popular, worldwide. It's been a natural evolution that not only cannot be stopped, but will worsen (or improve, depending on your point of view) with time and with the progress of communications and transportation technology.
Meanwhile, we're having growing pains. Airbnb made it simple and easy to rent out a blow-up mattress in a living room for a short stay, or rent a luxurious villa for a year. It was a timely idea that benefitted from the natural evolution of the growth of tourism. People, who are adversely affected by the phenomena, want to stop it or curb it or regulate it or complain about it. Not everyone approves of having tourists coming in and out of their buildings. Not everyone approves of turning full-time residences into tourist accommodations for profit. Not everyone understands, either, because try as they might, they are wasting their breath. They aren't going to stop it from happening. They aren't going to stop the growth of tourism, and even curbing it is a short-term solution to a wave that's going to land more and more pebbles on the beach.
Cities across the world are struggling to cope with the "problem." That's because they see it as a "problem" and not the natural evolution of the world. Why can't they just accept it and learn how to work with it, rather than work against it? Because, let's face it, they can't stop it.
This past week, I swam in the Mediterranean sea in the Baie des Anges. The waves were big and the undertow strong. I realized as I was riding the wave into shore that no matter how hard I tried to avoid it, I was going to get blasted against the Nice pebbles as the foamy water hit the shore. It was then that the analogy struck me -- people must ride the wave, not fight the undertow.
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