As Cape Charles, and the Eastern Shore lean more and more on tourist dollars to survive, is this expansion being done at the expense of locals and their lifestyle?
It’s not just our little village, but other places around the world are grappling with the same problems. Venice is struggling under the strain of huge tourism numbers–the city is now talking about charging tourists to access even the city’s central square — Piazza San Marco.
According to advocates for a tourist access fee, the city suffers when cruise ships bring in large groups of tourists who then crowd into Piazza San Marco, disrupting local commerce and creating inconvenience for the locals. What’s worse, these tourists, it is claimed, do not spend enough at local shops and retailers to cover the material and immaterial costs of their visit. Locals, of course would not have to pay to access these areas.
Venetians are now looking for a way to manage the flow of tourists and their impact on the quality of life of the locals.
Local business groups argue these fees are detrimental to what should be a public place, that the main square, “should be part of the cultural heritage of the whole world.”
We get it. These fees are really just an additional tax on tourists, and that is bad for business.
The tourists themselves, who of course want free and unfettered access to these spaces, make similar claims.
In her article in Travel “Why I’ll Boycott Venice If it Charges for Entry,” Jackie Bryant notes that to charge a fee would be to limit “access to a literal and figurative representation of a city’s life force,” and that urban public spaces ought not be “commodified,” owned, controlled, or characterized by any limitations on access.
On the other side, the UK’s Independent, Justin Francis has noticed the aggressiveness of this position:
This arrogance in tourism extends to turning a blind eye to the disruption that such massive numbers of tourists cause to local lives. Venetians are becoming notorious for being hostile to tourists, but have these tourists paused to consider why a local might feel that way?
In my view, the local person has more right to enjoy walking freely through their city — where they live and pay taxes — than a tourist. This is their right. As such, Venice must protect these rights and ensure that the crowds are not so vast as to destroy the ability of local people (or tourists, for that matter) to enjoy the square.
But, charging people to see a popular tourist destination, such as the British Museum or the Louvre, is not unusual.
This does sound like a new and first world problem. In the past, there was no practical need to control tourist access to our town. The wear and tear on the infrastructure produced by the small number of tourists was not large enough to be worth the trouble and inconvenience of controlling access.
But things have changed. The influx of tourists was never imagined by the people who built this town and its public spaces.
Right now, the discomfort is really minimal, and the strains on local population and local infrastructure is short term and manageable. If tourism doubles, triples or quadruples or is cubed, what will living in this town really be like?