Utopia: Dreams and Nightmares

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I agree with Mike Gonzalez that corporations are colonising bits of the world through tourism (September SR). However, it seems to me that he then goes on to place some of the blame with the actual holidaymaker for choosing certain types of holiday.

In asking, 'How many Ayia Napa visitors see the rest of Cyprus?' Mike is falling in line with the view of many independent travel guides that the independent traveller is an innately superior being to the ordinary package tourist, who will almost always be portrayed as a working class yob devoid of any cultural appreciation.

According to Unison, workers in Britain work longer hours and have shorter holidays than in any other country in Europe. Most people, particularly families, have to save for months to get abroad for one or two weeks. We do this in the hope that for that short period of time we will escape the drudgery of work and the routine of everyday life. So for that period of time, yes, we do want the beaches, the palm trees and the blue sea. We're trying to escape reality.

Of course you can't escape reality on a two-week package to Greece, but neither can you escape it on a gap year travelling around India or South America. Yes, it's brilliant to see more of a country, and it's a fantastic luxury to have the time and money to do that even on a budget, but whether you are on a package holiday to Benidorm or travelling independently up the Amazon, you are still a tourist.

You can have a look at how the working people in another country live, sometimes you can even live with them for a while, but at the end of the day you have chosen to be there and they have not. Independent travellers are also capable of behaving as loutishly as the most inebriated package holidaymaker.

People travel on holiday because they are alienated and exploited in their everyday lives, and have a glimmer of hope that life might be better somewhere else. The holiday companies have seized on this--there is a huge industry devoted to repackaging our dreams and selling them back to us in whatever form we will buy.

They have little regard for the people who live in the usually impoverished countries they develop for tourism. There are even travel companies currently offering tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. There are also companies that offer ethical or eco-friendly tours, but these are well beyond the price range of most people.

With holidays, as with the rest of life, we have very little real choice under capitalism, but as people feel more and more squeezed by the system we rely on that little bit of holiday escapism to keep sane. Hopefully under socialism holidays won't be some desperate scrabble for breathing space, and we'll be able to travel the world and meet many other people as equals instead of as tourists.

Sue Jones
London