I will say this only once

▪️ I will say this only once ▪️ TikToking with democracy ▪️ Quotable quote

Something terribly strange is happening in the world of tourism. For centuries, countries everywhere had been campaigning and competing for the ever-growing numbers of tourists they could attract. From Paris and Athens to Bangkok and Rio, the tourism industry, with its ancillaries – the travel market, the developers, the catering business, real estate etc – had grown into an economic pillar. Two horrific world wars had been followed by relative peace and people wanted to travel, to visit new places, to worship the sun, to enjoy different traditions and cultures, and to let their hair down on the beach, along with their bikini tops.

Now, while the tourism industry is still strongly recuperating from the impact of the Covid pandemic, people have been rethinking it all. Suddenly, and no doubt rightly, several popular holiday resorts and major tourist attractions have been wisely resorting to measures of sustainability, but only to appease local populations who have had enough of being suffocated by the marauding crowds of tourists, long queues to even buy an apple, disruptions, delays, and perpetual noise.

In the ever-popular Canary islands, for example, locals went out to protest  against a tourism model they say has “plundered the environment, priced them out of housing, and forced them into precarious work”.  Suffice to say the Canaries, home to 2.2 million people, last year welcomed almost 14 million international visitors. The protesters’ I-will-say-this-only-once message was loud and clear: “My misery, your paradise”.

In perhaps the most beautiful city in the world, Venice, locals also took to the streets – not once – in the past, leading to the recent introduction of a €5 tariff for all day trippers, making it the first city in the world to charge visitors. Over the past three decades, Venice became one of the most notable victims of overtourism, with an estimated 30 million visitors annually overwhelming the meagre 50,000 local population.

The measure has not been without its controversies, particularly from the business community, but sustainablity is still the buzzword, an issue also part of a hot debate in places like Barcelona and Lisbon.

It has now even gone to the trivial. Milan, another popular Italian city, is proposing a new law as from the middle of this month to ban ice-cream, yes, its famous gelato, and pizza after midnight in what has been described as “an effort to protect the tranquillity of residents”. They said it more than once. Too many noisy groups of tourists crowding on the streets of the city, and keeping local residents up.

Sustainability is the word, itself a reminder of our own predicament. Malta is smaller than my own Lilliput, so the need to sustain is of paramount importance. It is good to know our local Tourism authorities and stakeholders are fully aware of it. Thanks to their dedication and foresight, today we more or less have the numbers, and the issue of seasonality has been carefully addressed and is gradually happening.

The Maltese have no problem with tourists. They know how precious their input into the national economy is. But, like the Canarians, they are wary of the dangers to the environment, the impact on home-ownership, public transport, and other everyday realities. One of the most successful local measures of sustainability was introduced at the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum where only a limited number of visitors are accepted each day.

Perhaps the same can be done with regard to St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta and the Blue Lagoon in Comino. Both deserve more protection and less exploitation. But, I will say this only once.

TikToking with democracy

This US-China charade is so tempting to scribblers like yours truly. It is full of hype and hypocrisy, a reminder the world has not changed since Adam and Eve, who assumingly both had no bellybutton, got to raise a family in wonderland.

Many are feeling apprehensive over the insistence of American lawmakers in seeking  to close down TikTok on the idiotic basis the app is used by China to spy on the American people. It should be said the app is owned by a US-based LLC that is controlled by Tik Tok Ltd, which is registered in the Cayman Islands and based in Shanghai. Its chief executive officer is Singaporean.

But is this really about who owns TikTok? It smells more of censorship and control. No one should think for more than a minute they won’t take other apps and websites if they are allowed to do this to TikTok. Then wait for the European vassal states to toe the line.

Quotable quote

One great cynic on social media: “If the United States saw what the United States is doing to its own students in the United States, the United States would invade the United States to liberate the United States from the tyranny of the United States.” History lesson.

Main photo: medium.com

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