The Invisible Burden of Tourism, part 2

As Megan Epler Wood stated in the quote I cited in part one, if local people are engaged in the monitoring of vital indicators to protect local resources AND the policy makers and tourist organizations like and actually listen and implement changes and develop the programs and frameworks to actually protect the health and well-being of the local populations, ecosystems, cultures, and monuments, then the civil disobedience witnessed in July would not be necessary. When local people do not feel they are being heard, but instead federal, state, and county government, as well as the tourist organizations mentioned above put money above the health and safety of the local population and of the delicate ecosystem, then frustration will lead to the kinds of behavior we have witnessed.

Continuing on with the article by Brittany Lyte from Honolulu Civil Beat, which can be found here:

“The famous case is Mallorca, where they were down to $30 per night for a hotel in the ‘70s because it was a very overcrowded tourist destination,” said Megan Epler Wood, director of the International Sustainable Tourism Initiative at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the lead author of the study. 

“And I attended a meeting in the Canary Islands where the mayor of Mallorca announced that they were going to tear down hotels and the whole audience stood up and cheered. And, in fact, they did it.” 

Mallorca has since recouped high-value tourism on the island in part by shuttering hotels, and also by establishing a new eco-tax on tourists in 2016 that is funneled into a fund to pay the hidden costs of tourism. Those include managing and upgrading systems for water use, waste disposal, land use, air and carbon emissions, transportation, community values and cultural heritage.

“You can drive a destination over a cliff,” Epler Wood said. “But the way to reinsert value is to properly account for tourism’s costs and then strategically look at reinvestment.”

The Key here is “properly account for tourism’s costs” — in other words, design and implement meaningful ways to collect the data about what tourism is costing Big Sur. (To be continued next Tuesday.)

11 thoughts on “The Invisible Burden of Tourism, part 2

  1. Hi Kate,
    Thanks for your excellent commentary. It takes a village and a country to protect. Glad Ellen and I, Robert from Carmel Valley could attend.
    Trying to support this early rise of local development and ultimately towards sustainable solutions.

  2. This is a difficult and complex issue without easy answers. I hope that all those who love the Big Sur region pay attention to this. I live in San Luis Obispo and make day trips to Big Sur two or three times a year. For the past 26 years, I’ve also a week camping at Pfieffer-Big Sur State Park. For several years, our annual camping trip was the only vacation my family could afford. The camping prices have increased to a great extent over the past several years and I now see fewer families of lesser means able to have the amazing opportunity to explore nature in a beautiful environment. I miss visiting with others who anticipate their time in Big Sur with great excitement and see it a time to be with family in a beautiful place. Balance is so difficult to achieve. I don’t want Big Sur locals to suffer and I certainly don’t like the impact of over-tourism on the delicate biosystems of the region. The balance will be to not issue a “send them back” message to tourists who assist with providing a tax base and employment opportunities. We are becoming a country of gated communities and “keep out” signs. The decisions the Big Sur community make will have a great impact on tourists of every income level, experience with nature, and reason for visiting. All I hope is that all sides are fairly heard and considered. I don’t know what the answer is and I am grateful for this blog so that I may observe the careful unfolding of the problem and the various views presented. Teaching us how to best love Big Sur without having those not from the area feel excluded or kept out simply because of living in the wrong zip code or not being part of an income bracket to afford Esalen or Post Ranch Inn or most of the restaurants will be tricky indeed. I’ll do what I can to help. We must avoid loving Big Sur to death. Educating those of us who don’t spend our day to day lives in the area will be important. Respecting and listening to one another will be key.
    Thank you.

  3. This sounds like an effort to make tourist destinations super expensive and accessible only to the uber-wealthy? As a former Big Sur resident currently living in Ashland (with very comparable issues), I need reassurance.

  4. Kate,

    It looks like something may have eaten your response to Ellen. It’s not visible that I can see.

  5. Damn. I’ve tried 3 times, now to post a more detailed comment, to no avail. Reader’s Digest version: Excellent comment. We simply want to protect this place for future generations, that’s all. We don’t want to exclude, or do away with tourism, we just want to protect it.

  6. OT – S/O to Kate and all that want to attend; The Rancho Canada unit at the Old Clubhouse of Palo Corona Regional Park, Mary Adams will be moderating another speak in on the Mid Valley Shopping Center (CV) new plans for remodeling and other upgrades to the area this evening from 6p – 8p.

  7. Great comments! One of the first things we need to accurately measure is traffic. I’ve heard the figure of 6 million cars a year ( feels like 10 million at times!) but that seems high. It’s one of the easiest data points to collect accurate information about, I believe.
    And yes, I think it’s way past time for a toll road— not high priced or as an exclusionary factor, ( except for tour buses $$$!) but as a gateway/ rest stop: Entering Wildfire and Scenic Protected Area…..

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