Ecoclub Member Blogs
The era of the so-called
When we describe something as 'so-called' we do not really take a neutral position but imply that it should not be called this: note the expression "your so-called friends". Personally, I always use the words 'so-called' in front of 'Overtourism', as, although I recognise that the term is in popular use, I dispute that it is a new phenomenon, which merits the invention of fancy new tools. It is simply, a result of 'Undermanagement', a result of the lack or inappropriate use of tried and tested tools backed by tens of thousands of academic research papers and best case studies. Even in our famously disorganised (famous) city, we do not get any Overtourism in the extremely confined and slippery place that is the Acropolis despite millions visiting every year. The term 'Overtourism' also has population alarmist (cf. 'Overpopulation') and racist, xenophobic undertones and does not go well with green, pro-tourism, open borders, open-society, Hoi Polloi, types which I hope are the large majority in the ecotourism universe.
Related to this so-called 'Overtourism' phenomenon, and blamed for it, is the "new" phenomenon of the "Sharing Economy". Again we have the detractors, tourism academics, practitioners and journalists, who disparage the term pointing out that profits and sharing are opposites and cannot mix. Of course they do - the whole human civilisation is based on that very mix: ask any child to share their toys and room with a total stranger, without any incentives, and see what happens. Then add incentives to your liking, problem solved.
Sharing does not necessarily exclude profit, otherwise it is charity, and even charity has strings attached or needs to be funded by for-profit entities and individuals. Sharing simply means a mutually beneficial arrangement regarding the use of anything - a resource, a service, a product, space, time. We already have the old example of time-sharing in tourism, since the 1970s. We also had the everyday example of two friends sharing a cab. If you share a cab with someone you both profit from the lower fare.
Similarly with the sharing economy in hospitality: travellers and owners profit, ordinary tenants lose (from higher prices), hotels are forced to improve their services, offer day services to local residents and offer more realistic rates. A balance will be struck at the end, with the assistance of the local and central government, who have to decide on the number of licenses for hotels and Airbnb, and limits to ownership and operation times.
There is of course the purer sharing form of couch-surfing, but then, especially if you are a female traveller, who knows if your gracious free host is not, to put it short, a creep.
If you are a purist, you would have an existential problem in the first place with a "hospitality" which is not for free, in the original sense of the word (Hospitals operated by the Knights) and ancient forms of the practice such as the ancient Greek Philoxenia, where the free guest, was considered sacred and protected by the gods. Xenios was a special adjective for Zeus indicating that he, the most powerful of the gods, is the protector of the xenoi , the guests travellers, outsiders, foreigners. The ancient guest was even showered with parting gifts but was expected to reciprocate if and when the host would return the visit. Win-win, mutual benefit, even in this case.
Uber and two friends sharing a cab, is the equivalent of Airbnb and two friends sharing a hotel room. Nothing new or revolutionary really. But they are all valid forms of sharing, and they are here to stay, to be regulated and taxed (there is nothing progressive about tax evasion and lawlessness) like any other human activity - we should have no problem with this.