Not the great recession. Not terrorism, including attacks on tourist resorts. Not even war.
Tourists still show up in Afghanistan and North Korea. A tourist was released last week after six years held hostage in Mali by al-Qaida. This boom has translated into crowds of tourists in every corner of the globe and, in a new rite of summer, stories of tourists behaving badly. Hong Kong protests against loud, impolite tourists urinating in the street sound a lot like the complaints I heard in Thailand about Chinese tourists desecrating Buddhist temples. Many of us hear these stories and congratulate ourselves for being thoughtful travellers. We avoid the nasty crowds.
We seek the out-of-the-way destinations where we enjoy the best in local food and culture. Some plant trees to offset their carbon footprints.
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Only governments can handle runaway tourism. Few major industries fall so squarely into their hands — local, regional and national.
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Governments decide who is eligible for visas: how many cruise ships, airlines and trains can bring in visitors, how many hotels receive building permits, how many beaches are open to development, how many museums and concert halls are open, even how many farmers receive subsidies to raise food for the restaurants and cafes that tourists frequent. After years spent tracking the explosion of tourism, I came to the obvious conclusion that without serious and difficult government co-ordination, mayhem can follow. The current biggest disrupters are short-term rental companies, such as Airbnb, and cruise ships.
Most governments still measure tourism success simply by the number of visitors.
NCTQ: Blog: Time to STEM the tide
The more, the better. For the moment, officials have been reluctant to regulate tourism to the benefit, first of all, of their own citizens.
Instead, tourism is seen as an easy moneymaker and a short cut to economic development. The exceptions are standouts.
Stem the Tide – Updated LAT Statistics December 2018
Promoting tourism by the numbers works both ways. The Chinese were only allowed to travel abroad 20 years ago, after generations of forced isolation. The travel bug hit big. Now the Chinese as a nationality are ranked as the greatest number of travellers in the world and the biggest spenders.
stem the tide
President Xi Jinping negotiates favours with other countries in return for more tourist visas for his people. There is hope. Tourists and governments accept that too much tourism can have a deadly effect on the environment and nature. Slowly, governments are adapting, sometimes in the extreme. Last year, Thailand banned all tourists from Koh Tachai as the only way to save that exquisite island.
Last month, the health ministry added it to the procedures covered by national health insurance, which will help. Japan has turned the drug-discovery model on its head. Now the risk is being outsourced. By the time it is clear whether a treatment works or not, the companies will have already made revenue from it. The government argues that its system will encourage firms to bring to market regenerative-medicine treatments that might work. They will, at least, work well enough to make it past small initial trials.
This is a bad move. Regulatory agencies around the world should resist pressure to create such fast-track systems, at least until Japan has proved that its system works. That will take time.
Stem the Tide
The country will have to demonstrate that its health-care system can withstand the costs of the new regenerative-medicine treatments, and that patients do not feel cheated. What happens when, inevitably, one of the fast-track drugs turns out to be ineffective? It will not be easy to rein in a drug that has already been approved, whether that approval is conditional or not.
If lax evaluation means that ineffective drugs are not revealed, or are not taken out of circulation, Japan could find itself flooded with unsuccessful treatments. And that would not be good for patients, the government or the biotech companies that want to see their truly effective medicines noted as such. For the best commenting experience, please login or register as a user and agree to our Community Guidelines.