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Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism Hardcover – April 16, 2013

4.1 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, April 2013: Tourism is on track to become the world's biggest business. In Overbooked, Elizabeth Becker, senior foreign editor at NPR and a former New York Times correspondent, uses tourism as a lens through which to explore the current geopolitical landscape. As much as Overbooked travels across countries, it also travels through time: Becker looks at tourism's past (popularized by the French in the '50s!), where it is today (the prevalence of resort and cultural travel), and its future (China's rise as both a destination and a source of tourists). As much economic development as tourism brings, Becker consistently sees a dark side to the industry's rapid growth. She writes, "Tourism is one of those double-edged swords that may look like an easy way to earn desperately needed money but can ravage wilderness areas and undermine native cultures to fit into package tours." --Kevin Nguyen

From Booklist

Everyone needs a vacation, a time for carefree fun on a cruise, at a theme park, in a cultured city, or in nature. Even the Chinese government acknowledged this when it granted the right to annual paid “golden weeks” to its citizens in 2000 and let them travel in tour groups to approved countries. What many do not realize is that with over a billion people now visiting foreign countries, travel and tourism have become an international force that seriously affects cultures, economies, and the environment. Savvy countries can prosper by attracting ready-to-spend tourists, but inept or corrupt governments often squander opportunities. Having spent more than 30 years as a correspondent for the Washington Post, New York Times, and other publications, Becker has seen tremendous change in foreign travel. In this timely and entertainingly personal report for serious travelers and policymakers, she features how tourism fares in France, Italy, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Dubai, Africa, China, and the U.S. --Rick Roche

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (April 16, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439160996
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439160992
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #265,700 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 16, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
After years of backpacking and independent travel, we decided to try a few group tours The first thing we noticed was that everywhere we went, it was crowded - and we were the crowd. The experience was completely different than when we had traveled individually or as a couple. Our group travel was with two dozen or so travel companions. Journalist Elizabeth Becker writes about the effects of traveling with a crowd of thousands or more. It isn't pretty.

Many of the problems she writes about are not new - Americans have been traveling en masse since the 1950s, the days of If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium, when the focus was on buying souvenirs and cramming as many sights into two weeks as possible. The difference now is that instead of fifty tourists on a big bus, it's four thousand tourists of all nationalities on a massive cruise ship. While that is a lot of welcome tourist money spent on trinkets and ice cream cones, the ships create noise and air pollution, as well as the human waste that gets dumped. Suffice it to say - yecch.

It's fair to ask whether it's right to travel in such a way that significantly, and possibly irrevocably, changes the places you are visiting. Some governments limit the amount of tourism - visits to the Galapagos Islands are restricted, otherwise there would be no Galapagos for anyone to visit. But other destinations are unrestricted, such as the Caribbean islands and some of the South Sea Islands. Venice, already at risk from rising waters, has changed drastically since giant cruise ships have been stopping there.

As awful as the prospect of destroying pristine beaches and historic squares is, even worse is the human toll.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Becker, like many of us, remembers a family vacation during which the new sights and experiences made a deep impression.
One billion international tourist trips were taken last year. Tourism is the main source of income for more than a few cities and countries. Becker does an excellent job of elucidating travel as " one of the world's biggest businesses, an often cutthroat, high risk and high profit industry. However the profits of tourism go to large business, illegal organizations, and dictatorships. There are significant risks to the host country in ecological damage, property values inflated past the means of native citizens, exploited labor, and below board activities. For example, the sex tourism of Cambodia and Thailand is a true entity. In fact Cambodia is considering a "genocide trail" featuring the killing fields. Dubai has been built for tourists on the backs of "guest laborers".

Travel is exhilarating and educational. I believe that the pressure of the numbers of tourists have created the "last person on Martha's Vineyard origin. Each person buying into that culture wants no one else accepted for fear of overcrowding. This is a well written book that points out the dangers of unregulated tourism without condemning it as an industry. I did find the writing slow moving at times, but I think this is because multiple nations have made similar mistakes. One of the amusing facts, to me, is that US tourism has gone flat and that Americans are known as the surliest and least welcoming of people. That fact actually never occurred to me.

Overbooked is a comprehensive study of the state of tourism. She hails its successes and points out its failures. She also gives concrete solutions to some of the issues concerning recreational travel.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As an avid traveler, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I thought that it was very well researched and the information I received gave me the sense that I learned the inside scoop from a friend who knew the right people. Not only did I receive a history lesson about the major tourist destinations on the planet, I learned how our travels affect the local environment, its culture, and political systems. This is a must read for anyone in the tourism industry. I am just a world traveler and I found it extremely interesting. WELL DONE!
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Format: Hardcover
Every now and then there comes a book that wakes you up to a terribly important issue that you've never much thought about. This is one of those books. While no one was looking, tourism has mushroomed into an enormous global business that is altering politics, the environment and the distribution of wealth, often in very unseemly ways. Becker takes you to places where this is happening day by day--Venice getting overrun with visitors, Dubai creating a premier tourist destination out of nothing, and quite a few more. You may not agree with all of her prescriptions, but there's no denying that she's identified a serious concern. "Overbooked" is deeply researched and written in a style that breezes along just like that vacation you're promised in a cruise ship ad. The book is more than worth the few hours you'll spend reading it.
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Format: Hardcover
As a professor of tourism, I often find that textbooks are already out of date when published and view the industry with a wide lens. This book gives readers an up-close and on-the-ground look at some of today's most visited destinations, while also providing an underpinning of pertinent history that few readers would be able to obtain otherwise. I have assigned this as required reading for all of my graduate students this quarter...and will probably continue to do so.

Kudos to Elizabeth for building on years as a keen observer in the field to produce a fantastic tourism resource. Anybody traveling to Angkor Wat or Venice (or anywhere else she covers) should read this book BEFORE they go.
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