Tourism versus Terrorism

(courtesy photoree.com user jrbrubaker)
(courtesy tumblr.com user noahi)

¿Is tourism a form of terrorism?

Some Barcelonins seem to think so. All over the city — especially near tourists sites — slogans such as “tourism = terrorism” or “tourist, you are the terrorist” can be spotted stenciled or spray-painted on urban surfaces. Interestingly, as any image search will confirm, these graffitis are themselves a favorite subject of photography and commentary by tourists.

Among the very few industries that has actually grown during the now seven-year long economic crisis in Spain, tourism is increasingly dividing Barcelona’s citizens. Those whose livelihood depends upon tourism (including myself, since I earn my living teaching courses to foreign students participating in study-abroad programs together with writing articles about architecture, which is ultimately a tourism commodity) are willing to put up with the inconvenience of busloads of gawkers blocking sidewalks and causing traffic congestion. Besides, I also like to travel abroad whenever I have the time and of course some spare pocket money to spend.

But tourism is viscerally despised by others who critique it as a non-productive industry offering only temporary, part-time seasonal work under usually humiliatingly exploitative conditions; a sector which is controlled by a powerful lobby that is increasingly setting the political agenda of our governments. These detractors see every local family business that is being driven out by a Starbucks or a MacDonald’s, every residential dwelling that is converted into a tourist apartment and driving up rents; and every Asian or African immigrant working for peanuts in a restaurant, as being squarely the fault of tourists.

Tourism is big business, and big business is unscrupulous and utterly devoid of ethics — we know that much already. But is it really equivalent to the act of assassinating innocent people in order to instill a climate of fear in the population?

A group of ‘terrorists’ admiring the architecture of Casa Vicens by Antoni Gaudí

About Rafael Gomez-Moriana

Architect, educator and writer. Partner at ArqEstructura. Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Calgary. Blogger at criticalista.com.

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