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Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism Hardcover – April 16, 2013
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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
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
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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. She doesn't skip advise to the individual traveler and provides useful information on both enjoyment and on avoiding exploitive behavior. The prose is clear and well documented and as such, is well worth the time to read.