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SNAKEMAN


Venice, as everyone knows has 'too many' tourists. The city governors actually display photos of a polluted city to stop people coming there. The City and Tourism are generally seen to be as some way in conflict. In essence they are, for if the city is supposed to embody a particular culture (the very thing that the tourist wants), then the tourist is obviously the
outsider and other than that culture.

Fine. The question is what happens in an age of mass tourism? What happens when a city of seven milllion people has eighteen million visitors per year passing through it? For that is the case in London.

We are not talking here about the actual problems that this causes; the party of Kiwis, each with a frame rucksack, who decide it's a good idea to take the tube at 5.35 in the afternoon. My worries are more abstract. What is the definition of the city if tourists largely, or sometimes exclusively occupy large tracts of it? Surely if three times the 'indigenous' population of London comes to visit that city it is no longer possible to think of tourism as incidental accessory to city life, nor even to see it as an accessory; rather it is absolutely and permanently a part of it.

Some cities have to be seen as (at very least), two tiered. There are the inhabitants and there are the tourists ('inhabitants' covers all gradations of permanency and commitment; it is the nationality-profile of a city; nothing
to do with 'born and bred' Londoners.)

Then there are the tourists; they are a fluctuating but major part of the demographics of the city. The city they see is a sort of 'London', a reduced, sanitised version of London conveniently packaged; of course there are different versions and different types. There are the retired 60ish democrat-voting American couples, in their brand new Burberrys from Regent Street (hoping for rain to justify the expense and to authenticate the London experience;) they stay in the Park Lane Hotel or another of the lower ranking posh hotels. They like the British Museum, Bloomsbury, the Wallace Collection. There is the Finnish lad with his group of school mates who plays virtual reality games in Trocadero, gets himself snapped standing alongside the effigy of Sid Vicious in the Rock Circus and is secretly worrying what his mum will say about his Camden Market nose stud when he gets back to Jakostad.

   
 

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