Thursday, January 1, 2009

An explanation

Shortly after sending out a quick e-mail to fellow my tour guides, I received the following from a very knowledgeable and well-known NYC historian, and occasional guide.

Moses -- I don't know why we must perpetually characterize tourists as stupid; constantly complain about them; generally disparage.

When I am in another city I do not want to be snarked at or be received badly. It's bad for business. I saw an article recently that the tourism business is still booming. Could be the only thing that keeps NYC going over the next few years of the recession.

I also consider myself a tourist in my own city and I have lived here for 51.5 years. As you know I'm sure, anyone who is 'incurious' (to use a preferred euphemism about GWB) is seriously missing out.

For this venture I urge you to turn the heat down on tourists and be more welcoming. --k.

Now, this is someone who has probably done as much or more to further the knowledge and appreciation of this city over the last few years as anyone. And generally, I follow pretty much the same philosophy. We're tourists everywhere in the world but one small place (where if want to, we can be tourists also), and curiosity and willingness to travel is something that should be embraced and celebrated, not disparaged and ridiculed.

So, like I point out in my first post, the hate isn't for the good kind of tourists. And really, all it takes is a little bit of curiosity, respect, and open-mindedness to be one of the good kind of tourists.

But I do disagree with the idea that I need to be more welcoming because it's "good for business." First of all, there is a huge, huge infrastructure built to unconditionally welcome and cater to tourists - a little corner of the web that doesn't subscribe to that philosophy can be spared. And second, spending money in this city shouldn't automatically make you a welcome addition.

This is a city that already has bent over backwards for tourists. A city where, often times, locals have suffered, not benefited from, our reliance on the tourism industry. When you turn huge swaths of your central business district into military zones to accommodate a political convention, or double the price of every conceivable entertainment option in the City over the last 5 years, or start offering shopping discounts to tourists instead of your own citizens, that's going too far. Tourists are great, but New Yorkers come first. And we've all seen what happens when this city becomes too reliant on one sector of the economy - when that sector goes, the city collapses.

There's a lot more to what's good for a city than getting as many people to spend as much money as possible. In fact, this city's recent value of catering to money, and those who have it, instead of the public good - indeed, of equating money, and those who have it, with the public good - has got to stop.


  1. If you're going to be a tourguide... it would be best if you would stop thinking about tourist as stupid... that attitude equates you with the management of Gray Line... tourist are not the enemy... if they sometimes act surly or "stupid" they are only reacting to their tourguide (always begging for tips... who wouldn't act "stupid"?) in other words: get a life! Lead the tour and accept reality. If you think the visitors are "stupid", they will reciprocate.

  2. Thanks for the reminder that "rich" and "good" are not synonyms!