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

I am an architect, writer and educator. rafagomo.com chronicles my architectural making, writing, teaching and curating activity, while criticalista.com is an archive of my writings as well as a platform for venting personal rants and observations. I studied architecture at the University of Waterloo (Canada) and at the Berlage Institute (the Netherlands). I direct the University of Calgary’s architecture term-abroad program in Barcelona and teach at CIEE, and have previously taught in the Metropolis Masters Program in Architecture and Urban Culture as well as at Carleton University and the University of Manitoba.

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