Tourism Dollars Wanted…or Are They?

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I just saw two very interesting reports on the BBC’s Fast:Track program.  The first was entitled, “Is Barcelona Being Spoilt by Tourists?” and the second was “Can Tourism Save the Greek Economy?” Since I’d recently been to both places, I paid close attention…and, after viewing, I can’t say I’m left with the warm fuzzies.  Here’s why:

Barcelona claims to be overrun with tourists, nearly year-round.  I find it interesting in these days of economic uncertainty that tourists spending money could possibly be a problem.  Apparently there are just too many tourists and they’re not the right sort.  I got the feeling Barcelona would like”better” tourists.  Read: wealthier.  Several times during the video, I heard the term “better quality tourists.”  Hmmmm…

I am pretty sure they don’t mean me.  I admit I’m a pretty lousy tourist.  I don’t trash hotel rooms or run amok in the markets but I’m not a big spender while on holiday either and that is the problem.  Better quality tourists (e.g. wealthier tourists) spend more in the local economies.  It seems they don’t want more people like me who broke the bank just getting there and who must watch every penny spent thereafter.

The story was similar in the video on Greece.  While the report did talk about how the Greek tourism industry needs to break out of the “sun and sand destination” box, soon I heard the terms “luxury tourism” and “higher quality tourist” again.  The Greeks want tourists to leave some serious cash behind.  Video footage showed several new luxury resorts (one on Crete) that I could not even afford to drive by let alone stay in.

Here’s the thing:  I’m sorry some in Barcelona are displeased with the quality and quantity of tourists that pour into their lovely city.  Truly I wish I was wealthier (for a myriad of reasons).  If I were, my travel budget would explode; I would love to drop wads of cash in the Catelonian economy –  I loved Barcelona that much.   I would also do my part to help the Italians and the Greeks.  Sadly, this is not my reality.  Having said that, I’m sure the people of Barcelona would change their tune if the tourism dried up (sub-standard quality or not).  Greece might very well sink beneath the sparkling waters of the Aegean if people like me didn’t seriously increase their debt load to have a look at their marvelous ruins, experience their ancient culture, and drink copious amounts of ouzo.

While I’m sure it would be awesome if all of the tourists on Las Ramblas had balance sheets like Warren Buffett, can any tourism industry afford to shun run-of-the-mill tourists who don’t fit into the “luxury” category?  I suddenly feel unworthy and that is a shame – I might think twice before going back to these places.  I’m not one to linger where I’m not wanted.

I must point out that these reports on BBC caught me off guard because never in Barcelona or Greece did we feel like our euros weren’t good enough – we were greeted warmly everywhere we journeyed in the Mediterranean region.  Except in Monte Carlo.   I got the distinct impression I will never be good enough for Monte Carlo regardless of my balance sheet.  Don’t worry, Monte Carlo, I will not try again.  In the unlikely event that the Monegasque economy falters, I will not be anxious to come to their aid.

I’m sorry Barcelona and Greece, we’ll try to do better next time.

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