We have a saying in Scotland: “You can’t eat scenery”. Simply put, if you rely on tourism as the cornerstone of your local economy, you are doomed to failure. Even the Swiss have a backup with chocolate and cuckoo-clocks. A second observation is not to upset the locals who provide your bread and butter for the weeks of the year when the tourists have gone home.
This reflection was prompted by a recent conversation I had with a tourist in Umhlanga. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with Umhlanga it is a town on the Indian Ocean coast some 20Km north of Durban, and is a popular holiday resort. Every year it is visited by around 75000 tourists over the Festive season).
He asked “Why do the locals hate the tourists “.
After some reflection, my answer was to turn the question back on him.
He was to imagine his quiet leafy suburb in Pretoria or Johannesburg. Normally he could drive about in the suburb and use the malls, restaurants, shops and other services with ease.
However, for four or six weeks the formerly quiet suburb is now overrun with strangers exhibiting the habits of invading barbarian hordes. They give the impression that they believe because they are about to spend yards of cash, that they own the place. They seem to have forgotten the laws of common courtesy, the laws of the land, and in extreme cases the laws of physics. They bellow observations and insults in a language that you can understand but don’t speak.
The streets are jammed with funereal or F1 paced out-of-town cars, there is no parking, you can’t walk on the pavement, the malls, restaurants, shops and bars are full to bursting. To the maitre’d who last week was your best buddy, and Winston who had “your usual, sir” on the bar by the time you reached it, you are now invisible. In any event you probably don’t want to go to the restaurant because the menu has shrunk, and prices gone up by a third. The noise in the pub rivals standing 10 meters behind Concorde as it takes off, and you wait 20 minutes for your refreshment of choice while Winston serves 6 brandy and cokes and 12 Jagerbombs to the loudmouth chubbies in shorts and sunburn lined up along the bar.
You are forced to shop at 8am because the supermarket shelves are emptied by 10am, after about 9am the queues at the tills would choke a horse and the 10 items or less queue is made up of illiterate innumerates who believe a full-to-bursting trolley is an item.
It’s not that we hate tourists, we just don’t like them being here.
His answer, “I didn’t look at it like that”.
To return to my primary point, the local service providers are potentially shooting themselves in the foot by treating locals like crap. I, and quite a few others won’t use some local shops and businesses at any time of the year because of the way they treat locals during the Season. I am aware that many businesses rely on a “Good Season” to shore up their cash-flow for the rest of the year. A short-sighted view in my humble opinion, reinforced by the number of businesses that start in November and fail in March. Except those that were designed to do exactly that.
If you are coming to Umhlanga for Christmas in 2016, please come as a mensch, not as a football hooligan.