My ebook: Journeys with the caterpillar

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Journeys with the caterpillar: Travelling through the islands of Flores
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Monday, June 18, 2007

The battle for tourist dollars

Countries are at war, over tourist dollars. While in prehistoric times, neighbors used to build missile defense systems, submarines and nuclear bombs to better one another, today they are building giant ferris wheels, casinos, Disneyworlds and humongous shopping malls to outdo one another. One way to hit other tourist destinations below their belt is to build duplicates of the attractions of the competing locations. While Abu Dhabi has made serious attempts by arranging to have the Guggenheim and Louvre branches locally, places like Genting have put up crude models of Eiffel tower, Statue of Liberty and Big Ben within their premises. Perennial tourist favorites like Paris are taking on the Great Barrier Reef and Bali by building a scuba diving pool beneath the Eiffel tower with the bottom of the pool studded with fluorescent pictures of fish.

Countries with minimal contribution to the intellectual development of mankind (“Mind” in Hegel’s words) are showcasing themselves as the melting point of cultures and civilizations. Public funded agencies in low cost locations are spending millions on promoting their medical tourism while thousands of their own citizens still suffer from leprosy. But of course, when it comes to accepting dollars, we can greet every unhealthy burp and fart with a smile. No wonder, even North Korea is getting into the game.

Television screens and billboards are getting filled with shiny happy faces telling us how the natives of the advertising country constantly keep smiling whether they face the front or rear of us tourists. Having lived five years of my life in a rowdy place like Delhi, I always have an urge to call the tourism board of India to find out the addresses of these smiling good-natured people. To avoid such reality bites, Malaysia has, with a stroke of genius, stuck a bright “smiley face” badge in front of their immigration officials saying “friendly, trustworthy and firm and service with a smile”. Government published tourism books are being written and rewritten to showcase their culture and history as being the most peaceful ever recorded. I remember such a book on Thailand which tried to make a point that even their coups are oh so peaceful (the one in 1932).

So where’s the end to all this? In a few decades, all major cities will have their theme parks, ferris wheels, casinos, statues of liberty and scores empty Bulgari showrooms. What will these aggressive countries do then in their quest for tourist dollars? Well, there is yet a long way to go for a ceasefire. Remember, Thailand is yet to officially promote its sex workers, their smiles and other things, one of the biggest reason why they remain the “hottest” tourist destination in Asia.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One of the things India might consider is setting up a community for American Political refugees if Hilary becomes the next president.

This people could bring in money for India and therefore be good for the economy.