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Opinion: Melissa Todd on the disadvantages of tourism and why it’s better to stay at home

As the weather warms up, Broadstairs columnist Melissa Todd dreads the arrival of hordes of visitors - and questions the appeal of holidays as a whole…

It’s an odd hobby, tourism, not least because you can already see everything free on Google Earth.

Crowds at Broadstairs beach enjoying the sun
Crowds at Broadstairs beach enjoying the sun

Why do people abandon their safety and comforts, the soothing delights they’ve spent their entire life acquiring, to go somewhere new, where they will try to recreate vague, inadequate approximations of them, at enormous expense, both to their finances and their planet? I don’t get it.

I travel a fair bit for work. I enjoy the flying bit because it makes my tummy flip and means a rest from my phone. Also, I enjoy posting my adventures on Instagram, hoping to make my enemies gnash their yellowing graveyard teeth at my thrill-a-minute escapades.

But the rest of it is simply a nuisance. I grumble constantly about the lack of Marmite, the paucity of the veggie options, the dreadful cups of tea, the lack of decent news coverage. I yearn for Question Time and Newsnight: for my cat, bed, beloved.

Tourists talk of “getting away from it all”, but the “it” of which they speak is generally the inside of their heads, which travels alongside them. Worse, the “it” is generally accompanied by their annoying children and partners, which makes it far worse than being at home, where usually you can escape, at least temporarily, to a workplace. Why would anyone choose to pay for that?

The warm weather often brings nose-to-tail traffic heading to the beach
The warm weather often brings nose-to-tail traffic heading to the beach

More baffling, tourists often destroy the very thing they seek out and purport to love. Churning through coral reefs and icefields, trying to get that perfect selfie, in a fashion akin to the observer effect in science, which states that the act of observing will influence the phenomenon being observed.

Consider the lemons who try to benefit from the peace and beauty of the Sistine Chapel, or the Mona Lisa, alongside a million other lemons, all bitterly complaining and stressing about each other.

I grant you, Broadstairs is far from the Sistine Chapel, but people visit for similar reasons, for a sense of wonder, awe, to experience something outside their usual grind; and in so doing, they endanger the very place and beauty they seek.

Tourists litter and start drunken fights, and even when they don’t, the sheer quantity of them, each seeking out an authentic peaceful seaside experience, renders their quest hopeless. The next May bank holiday, should the weather improve, will see Broadstairs become nose-to-tail traffic, with red-faced strangers, hellbent on pleasure, desperately seeking out parking and cocktails and relaxation, all vastly easier to find back wherever they’ve come from. Go back wherever you’ve come from, say I, like a rabid right-winger. Not all of you, but at least some of you. Please.

Melissa Todd, who travels a lot for work, pictured in New York
Melissa Todd, who travels a lot for work, pictured in New York

Or worse, in a bid to beat the traffic and parking woe they stay here, in a wretched Airbnb, depleting our housing stock, and - well, I’ve laid into Airbnbs furiously enough already, in a piece that generated more response and feeling than anything I’ve ever written. (Incidentally, and hardly their worst failing, why must they all have white trellis ornamental hearts hanging off the walls? Is that an actual legal requirement?)

I know, I know, this is a tourist area, and it was my stupid idea to live in it. I know too, the local economy depends on tourists, hotels, restaurants, shops and all the rest.

Nonetheless, I maintain we don’t want any quantity of any quality of tourists, for then the costs to the area will quickly outweigh the financial gain. And if Broadstairs becomes a noisy, crammed, unusable, bad-tempered sewer of a town, the first tourists we’ll lose will be the wealthy ones.

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