The Invisible Burden of Tourism, part 3

While we have been working through stakeholder meetings, Martha Diehl is one voice that keeps asking to start with collecting data. Fortunately for the rest of us, her voice is getting louder on this issue. Megan Epler Wood agrees with Martha when she says that local stakeholder meetings are insufficient because they are not discussions based on data that all can share and comprehend. Instead they are often led by angry and upset stakeholders trying to persuade other with opinions based on anecdotal information and with governmental agencies have no budgets to manage tourism’s impacts. “Neither the gurus nor the protesters are advancing approaches that are genuinely constructive because they are based on opinion and anecdotal information.” (Sustainable Tourism on a Finite Planet, p. 26.)

Thanks to the efforts of Lisa Kleissner, and her contacts in Hawaii, we have been able to obtain the surveys used by the UH for its own study on the Invisible Costs of Tourism. It will be easy to adapt them to our situation. It surveys both tourists and residents. We are looking for one that similarly surveys businesses. This can be the beginning of our data collection strategy, if we can work with cooperation from MCCVB and Monterey County to obtain the funds necessary to implement this data collection process.

Continuing on with the article that relies on Professor Epler Wood’s work found here:

While figures proclaiming the number of visitor arrivals or tourism jobs have become common yardsticks for assessing the health of a local tourism industry, the study finds that destination managers often ignore other vital metrics. 

Those include each individual traveler’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, wear and tear on local infrastructure, threats to biodiversity and demand for land and housing.

Failure to confront these hidden costs is starting to degrade the customs, culture, monuments, natural resources and other assets that make these destinations so appealing to visit in the first place.

In Barcelona, visitors swarm beaches and other beloved attractions, transforming places long loved by residents into virtual no-go zones for locals. Residents are being driven out of Venice as 30 million annual tourists bombard the Italian city, stampeding streets, sidewalks and canals and skyrocketing the price of rent. Poorly behaving tourists on Easter Island have made a mockery of the island’s indigenous culture, climbing on giant moai statues and posing with them for nose-picking photos

To turn this scenario on its head, governments and the travel industry must reinvest a higher percentage of tourism revenues into the destination, the study concludes. The first step toward achieving this requires destination managers to uncover the full cost of hosting each individual visitor. Only then can stakeholders figure out how to pay for those costs.

When such costs go ignored, the study finds that residents are forced to foot the bill. Or worse, the bill doesn’t get paid at all.

The idea is to make tourism pay its own way to the benefit of everyone.

To achieve this, the “Invisible Burden” study suggests local governments create a global trust or revolving fund account with apolitical leaders to finance the preservation of destination assets. (To be continued.)

5 thoughts on “The Invisible Burden of Tourism, part 3

  1. When we did the City of Monterey Bikeways Plan, back in 1973-74, there was an advertised meeting for volunteers. People were assigned hours to count the vehicle traffic in certain locations.

    A meeting for volunteers and assigned tasks might be a start toward collecting data on Highway 1 traffic.
    There are also mechanical traffic counters that can be rented.
    You’ve got to start somewhere. A volunteer task force is not a bad idea.

  2. Shouldn’t vehicle traffic be one of the first data points measured? CalTrans?

  3. You raise very interesting points however there are other points to be made and costs to consider. First the costs of maintaining California Highway 1 from the Carmel River bridge to say Cambria. I am guessing that this is probably the most expensive California road to maintain on a ‘per mile’ basis. This data should be available from the California DOT. Next is the cost of fire suppression. To quote Wikipedia, “The Soberanes Fire was a large wildfire that burned 57 homes and killed a bulldozer operator, and cost about $260 million to suppress, making it at the time the most expensive wildfire to fight in United States history.” I predict that this region will see as before, continued fire cycles, each more expensive than the last whether humans inhabit or visit this region or not because lightning will start fires. Right now all of these costs are a ‘burden’ on all California and all Federal Taxpayers who may, from time to time, wish to visit the lands that their tax dollars are maintaining for everyone.

    Let us imagine that in 1962 the initiative to create the Big Sur had succeeded. Then, as in the Marin Headlands a few years later, each resident could then have been ‘bought out’ by the Federal Government and given a “Reservation” from the Federal Government instead of land title from Monterey County and state California. As each “Reservation” owner died, their property would have been razed and joined to the open space of Big Sur National Park as is happening in Marin. Over time the benefit of this would be to significantly reduced to costs of fire suppression since the only actual argument to fire suppression within the Big Sur is protection of ‘life and property’. In time only the southern, eastern and northern flanks of the Ventana would have had to been secured and the fire would just burn out at the Pacific Ocean, as has happened for time immemorial. We would be back to the historic fire cycles and no one would have to die protecting private homes.

    Another thought is the status of Highway 1, this could be put to a vote. Perhaps the majority would decide that the costs of maintaining the road are too great and the road could be let to ‘return to nature’ as the road from Arroyo Seco to Memorial Park has. Big Sur could become California’s second ‘Lost Coast’ and a true National Treasure.

    Here is a thought experiment to get a handle on the economics we are really talking about, imagine putting a toll booth at the Carmel River Bridge, another at the Hunter Liggett – Los Padres NF boundary and another just north of Cambria. The folks who live within that effective enclave would be responsible for road maintenance, fire suppression and all other services they desire and in return they could charge whatever toll they wanted to the ’tourists’ who pass through ‘their’ enclave and burden them.

    While residents of Big Sur can think of “The Hidden Burden of Tourism” the rest of the country can think of the “The Hidden Burden of private enclaves along the Big Sur Coast”. Who is a burden to whom? Everyone can make the argument that ‘others’ are ‘starting to degrade the customs, culture, monuments, natural resources’ of their locals. When a resident of Big Sur takes the last parking spot at the Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point. Who is a burden to whom? It is just a matter of perspective. I offer this as food for thought.

  4. Nick has made some excellent points. I personally am fine with tourists on the coast, I used to be one of them. I think it would be cost effective and very helpful to implement the following: 1. Restrict mechanized traffic on all dirt county/forest service roads to residents only. 2.Provide public restrooms/parking on Hwy. 1 where possible. 3. Develop an additional campsite at Pacific Valley. 4. Increase law enforcement presence on the coast and on county/forest service roads. Biggest bang for the buck…No?

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