Tuesday, September 05, 2006

There's No Such Thing As Eco-Tourism By Anneli Rufus

Tourism in the post-9/11, post-colonial era remains a minefield of moral issues -- and living as a sin-free travel writer is damn near impossible.

Colonialism isn't dead.

Colonialism is alive and well every time you travel from the First World to the Third and come home bearing photographs of sharks and storms and slums, of scorpions fried for snacks, sunflowers bigger than your head, stalled buses whose aisles are slick with spit, and then you tell your friends and co-workers, "Oh man, it was so great, you gotta go."

We call it ecotourism and adventure travel. That sounds sensitive. We think Ugly Americans are the fat ones on cruises and on package tours -- anyone but us. We think we're different because we don't have a stars-and-stripes patch on our backpacks as -- buckle your seatbelt -- this summer's travel boom defies the presence of not one but several wars around the world right now which may or may not become a world war. This is the busiest summer on record for air travel, according to USA Today, with 207 million Americans expected to board U.S. planes for domestic and international flights, up from last summer's 205 million.

El Salvador has enjoyed a 20 percent jump in its number of visitors for each of the past two years. Colombia is up 18 percent. Record numbers are arriving in Cuba. When the Philippines' Mount Mayon started spewing lava and car-sized boulders in mid-July, the government evacuated locals, but tourists arrived in droves. Hotels were packed. Real travelers mock the drones who flock to Rennes-le-Chateau in France because they adored "The Da Vinci Code," or to Botswana because a Scotsman writes bestselling mysteries set there, or to Namibia because of Brad and Angelina, or to Vietnam for sex. more...


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