Talking Location With author Kathryn Hughes – Central Spain
Tourism is wrecking the planet; but it also brings much needed economic pluses. Discuss!
19th July 2019
HEADLINE: Poldark fever buoys Cornwall’s tourist trade.
In the Sunday Times 14.7.19 there was an interesting article about the effect that TV serialisation – in this case of the “Winston Graham” Poldark series – has on tourism. It opens with a gaggle of American women, huddled on a tiny beach (Porthgwarra Beach in fact) where their hero, Cap’n Ross stripped off and swam naked in the first series of Poldark. And with that single scene the series helped to bring this part of Cornwall to global attention!
This area of Cornwall has always been popular with British and Europeans but now there is a whole new market appreciating the rugged beauty. Since the remake first hit screens in 2015, interest, states the article, has soared. Tourism in this small area has increased by as much as 50% according to Visit Cornwall and 13% of those visitors cite the TV series as their driving force for visiting.
This surge has spawned further small enterprises and you can, for example, hook up with Karen Colam who founded Poldark’s Cornwall and who offers tours around the locations. Early on her clientele was mainly British, now, however, up to 98% of her clients are American (and of course it is a given that most interest in the Poldark phenomenon is shown by women of a certain age!).
The series has been sold to 102 countries and China is the next target market. That will bring a whole new clientele to Cornwall.
I think we have to mainly thank Aidan Turner and his abs for this interest in Cornwall, but don’t forget we also need to show appreciation for the original penmanship of Winston Graham without whom the Poldark phenomenon wouldn’t have happened; you can always engage with his beautiful writing from your own home without setting foot in Cornwall and still “visit”. You can, as the Americans say, have a “staycation” and yet travel!
Yes, the impact of greater rates of tourism on this part of Cornwall is something that will need careful managing, as did the impact of tourism to Phi Phi Ley in Thailand caused by tourists visiting the locations of The Beach by Alex Garland. There was, it has to be said, a sharp up-turn after the film came out with Leonardo di Caprio. The eponymous beach is now closed for the foreseeable future so it can recover from the mad influx of millions of people. You can read the article that looks at the sad state of affairs here. Sadly this is the downside of literary wanderlust (or should it be TV and film wanderlust?).
And further, there is a gathering storm in Venice about what tourism means to Venice. There was a cruise ship collision recently that caused damage to infrastructure, there have been further incidents and the number of boats towering over the Venetian skyline is, quite frankly, hideous. Day tourists arrive, spend little, leave a comparatively huge footprint (both in terms of rubbish, damage and carbon emissions) and then disappear into the night, bringing very little that is tangible to the Venetians #NoGrandiNavi. No hotel nights, no significant restaurant visits. Tourism in Venice particularly comes at a huge cost!
Oh, and think that cruising is better than flying for the environment? Think again. In this article in The Guardian – George Monbiot, environmental campaigner and writer says: “Travelling to New York and back on the QEII .. uses almost 7.6 times as much carbon as making the same journey by plane”. Yikes.
Author Gregory Dowling wrote a wonderfully incisive post for TripFiction about the plight of Venice (well before the cruise ship debacle), titled “Venice, not only Disneyland” – do take a look!
On this link travel correspondent Simon Calder talks about the issues affecting Venice and the world and that governments must act and ensure the economic, social and environmental impacts of tourism are minimised.
Touring an area through the eyes of an author, of course (and we would say this, wouldn’t we!) is a great way to explore locale. You don’t even have to leave home to be a tourist these days. Read a book and explore a location from home. It’s simple and transportive and it doesn’t cost a lot.
What are your thoughts on staying at home with a good book… as opposed to seeing a place first hand? Certainly novels can transport the reader in a wonderfully evocative way AND staying home can certainly help save the planet. Indeed: “Travel for the price of a paperback”.
Tina for the Tripfiction Team
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