Thursday, February 15, 2007

"I'm on vacation"


“I don’t want to see poverty,” acknowledged Helen Murphy, 66, of St. Paul, who was shopping in the tourist market one morning. “I’m on vacation. I don’t want to think that these people don’t have enough to eat.”

The above quote is from a revealing article in the NYT this morning about tourism in Haiti - that's right, Haiti, the same country where UN troops are battling gangsters in fetid slums. Tourism in Haiti, for the moment, means heavily guarded resorts that cater to cruise ships.

Enjoying your stay in a desperately poor country like Haiti or Cambodia necessitates a sort of callous tunnel vision. It's obscene to sip wine in an expensive restaurant while children pick through garbage on the street outside. Still, tourism deserves a lot of credit for enabling Cambodians to build a better life. Poor countries need money. Tourists bring money. But man, it sure is ugly sometimes.

I've been giving a lot of thought to this issue lately - a soon-to-be-published article on will explore it in more depth. Can anyone suggest authors who confront the "holiday in hell" problem head on?



Blogger Jinja said...

Tourism: trickle-down or trickle-up?
Hmm... you could talk to Siem Reap's
Hidden Cambodia tours. Friends restaurant/NGO deals a fair bit with the tourist trade.

I suggest you talk to everybody you can, from high end hotel management to people working in the kitchen.

10:51 PM  
Blogger Scott Lothes said...


If you've never read it, you might take a look at "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" by David Foster Wallace. I don't think it's exactly what you're seeking here, but it's nevertheless an enlightening and entertaining look at the luxury cruise industry.

Enjoy that full moon tonight,


12:12 AM  

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