On travel writing and the death by a thousand cuts
inciteful and appropriate for today’s context. And yes, it was word of mouth. LP was handy for accomodation when arriving somewhere after a long bus trip if the dozens of touts at the bus door didn’t take you to a good cheap room - which they usually did! Word of mouth ....... Moratai and Halmahera are worth the long haul!
Quote from Tony Wheeler (speaking on 1995 ABC radio travel documentary) - "Now people often say - 'its all your fault, you did these guidebooks and if you hadn't done them all of this wouldn't have happened. But I went past Candi Dasa (Bali) on my motorbike and there was nothing there. A year or 2 later we got letters asking why we didn't include the resort area at Candi Dasa? What resort ? Its like something spontaneously caused all these Balinese to start building hotels and restaurants without us having anything to do with it at all".
The town of Pai in Mae Hong Song, Thailand is another example of a place becoming popular for no particular reason. It used to get a one sentence mention in the guidebook describing it as 'mildly interesting'.
Very good thoughts, and there is a simple message that goes out to any travel writer, whether budding or experienced. This is a deeply connected world where no one can keep secrets for a long time, but can definitely include thoughts of care, responsibility and harmony in their works. Thanks for this.
My favourite article so far. I struggle to find responsible travel writing amongst the numerous ‘ top ten best beaches’ that come up on initial searches.
Nice article Stuart with some good perspective. An additional thought on this subject, how exposure of a destination to a certain market can affect the destination. Besides Americans in Paris and camera-wielding Japanese in Canada cliches, the Chinese movie ‘Lost In Thailand’ had an enormous and immediate affect on the tourist sites of Chiang Mai city and Chiang Rai, drastically upending tourism statistics. Chinese tourists thronged to the night markets and famous temples within a few months of the movie premiere in China.
I'm not convinced that "not writing about secret places isn't the answer" in fact it could very well be. But it would take a different kind of writer to do it.
Great thoughts Stuart and enlightening, I had not fully realized what Cummings reported about having little influence on popular places. Yet, having, like you, rode the tide of tourism in Asia since the early 90s I too reflected on secret places lost, and sensed in latter years that mass tourism was happening on a grand scale, a tourist tsunami rolling over popular places and with it every undiscovered gem. An inevitability regardless of any article or tour guide. And as Andrew Clark points out in his comment, articles are a smaller effect when relative to a popular Chinese movie set on location.