Saturday 25 January 2020

Tourism is democracy in action, with all the horrors that implies

When I was lucky enough to come to Eastern Europe for the first time in January 1990, I congratulated myself on my cleverness for buying a return ticket from London to Vienna for £199. Then, after staying one night in the charming and, I discovered, wicked Hotel Orient, walking through three feet of snow, and more falling, to the first restaurant I found, the Café Landtmann, which I also learnt much later is very famous, I took the train the next day to Budapest.

There were winter package holidays to Austria and so the cheap air tickets that made package holidays cheap were available for purchase separately. This was the only way you got cheap tickets at the end of the Margaret Thatcher era. Return tickets from London to Budapest cost around £350, because there were no package holidays to Hungary, which was behind the Iron Curtain. 

But though £199 for a ticket was cheap then, it is £500 in today's money or €550. 

Return tickets from London to Budapest cost around the equivalent of $1000.

The Daily Telegraph talks about how cheap travel now is here. I quote it.

'It’s easy to take for granted just how affordable travel has become. We can fly to Europe for as little as £10 (so long as you’re willing to pack light), or to New York for less than £150, while back in the Fifties a one-way ticket across the Atlantic with TWA could cost in excess of £5,000 in today’s money.

In another article today the Guardian, as you'd expect, looks at the bad side of all this.

And it is very bad indeed, for conservatives and romantics and for cities, though good for the people who enjoy cheap holidays or make money from them. Tourism provides 10% of the world's GDP. It is what coal and steel were to Victorians. 

There are still places not spoilt, Algeria, Albania, Armenia, even Romania, but not for long.



    1. Good rail connections and proximity to London mean that much of the economy has been based on tourism.

    2. I and Pangur Ban my cat,
      'Tis a like task we are at:
      Hunting mice is his delight,
      Hunting words I sit all night.

      Better far than praise of men
      'Tis to sit with book and pen;
      Pangur bears me no ill-will,
      He too plies his simple skill.

      'Tis a merry task to see
      At our tasks how glad are we,
      When at home we sit and find
      Entertainment to our mind.

      Oftentimes a mouse will stray
      In the hero Pangur's way;
      Oftentimes my keen thought set
      Takes a meaning in its net.

      'Gainst the wall he sets his eye
      Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
      'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
      All my little wisdom try.

      When a mouse darts from its den,
      O how glad is Pangur then!
      O what gladness do I prove
      When I solve the doubts I love!

      So in peace our task we ply,
      Pangur Ban, my cat, and I;
      In our arts we find our bliss,
      I have mine and he has his.

      Practice every day has made
      Pangur perfect in his trade;
      I get wisdom day and night
      Turning darkness into light.

      Irish poem, written about the 9th century at or around Reichenau Abbey.
      Translation by Robin Flower.