Heidi Trautmann

Heidi Trautmann Column 28 - Let’s talk about Culture and… the Sensitivity of Tourism



Tourism belongs under the roof of culture, as it opens the doors and hearts to the culture of other countries; history, traditions, language and cuisine, all add to values like tolerance and understanding.

 Statistics say that in 2011 there were 983 million international tourist arrivals worldwide and in 2012 more than 1 billion. That is a lot. 

This is divided between all countries around the world. The top ten earners from tourism are, in the order of ranking: United States, Spain, France, China, Italy, Germany, United Kingdom, Australia, Macao and Hong Kong.

The most visited country by international tourists is France with 79.5 million in 2011.  Ranking sixth is Turkey with 34 million visitors in 2011.

 So, in relation to this,  perhaps the 1 million that come to North Cyprus and the 2,5 million that visited the South in 2011,it may seems that tourist figures have been constantly growing over recent years.

 As from the middle ages on until after WW II leisure seeking and adventure minded people undertaking journeys were called travelers; they consisted mostly of wealthy people, artists, writers, later photographers & researchers. The term tourism emerged after economy growth in the 1970s-80s, reaching the middle classes thus initiating the start of mass tourism with cheap air fares enabling low earners to spend some weeks in the sun on beaches.


What happens when people in a country recognize the potential in tourism? They often give up old traditional family businesses and invest in tourists attracting enterprises such as hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops, leisure textiles e.g. printed T-Shirts, anything to remind visitors of their holiday.

I’m told that locals often give up their jobs in villages inland, perhaps as teachers, and move to the tourist resorts to become waiters or hotel workers. Tourism connected enterprises have become an industry, providing economic growth but often missing the quality of local traditions.

 That is all fine as long as the flow of tourism is constant and growing. Something happens then, no matter what, and the welcome noise of wing beating migrating birds becomes less and less; they have turned their beaks to other shores where they can settle down for a while and enjoy life undisturbed. 

 When the new tourist industry fails, this has an unbelievable impact on the people and the economy generally. The entire infrastructure of accommodation breaks down, employees don’t get paid, buildings become neglected, bank loans cannot be paid back; property cannot be sold, there are no buyers, the cheap souvenirs collect dust on the shelves, airlines go bankrupt. Thus a vicious circle has begun to undermine the economy because one tooth in the gear wheel went missing.

The reasons for such disasters are manifold, be it natural or economical disasters such as the current crisis we have here, be it the short sighted interests of greedy investors resulting in the destruction of nature and beauty or blown-up prizes for bad services, perhaps a neglected  environment like rubbish in streets as in the north of Nicosia.  Then there’s the deterioration in the local cuisine with the thought that tourists gorge down anything or pay any price, e.g. Euro 5 for a simple cup of coffee. These are bad mistakes and the bill for these mistakes has to be paid eventually.


The old saying ‘The Customer is King’ is no longer valid. Countries that exist entirely on the basis of tourism must do some rethinking.  Start with the basic: What do tourists seek for the short holiday they have each year? It is beauty, sun, clean nature, a taste of good local cuisine, lovely memories to take home, memories that will bring them back and encourage others to do the same. It’s not the ashtray, the carved wood or clay souvenir, or the T-Shirt with Cyprus printed on it. This is the case, especially when they realise that these Cyprus souvenirs come from China!


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