Do Guide Books Strip The Authenticity Out Of Destinations They Cover?

The last 10 years I’ve spent traveling in Central America.  I’ve been using several guidebooks to help me choose the best spots to visit, find good quality accommodations and uncover the ’best’ experiences.

They all directed me along a similar path.  Now well worn.  From beachfront town to colonial city to volcano to island to nature reserve.  I can see why these places are on the list of must see destinations.  They all have an inherent natural appeal.  A waterfall perhaps, or a pretty beach, some nice architecture or a rare animal.  Well worth seeing.

BBC iplayer overseas

But most of the destinations share another thing in common.  They’re now filled with roving backpackers in search of authenticity.  Precisely the kind of original cultural nuance that the crowds of backpackers are fast rubbing out.

So far from experiencing something authentic, all the backpackers are doing is roving around in packs of people just like themselves.  They meet up in hostels, share tips of places to go, form groups to explore the location and so the circle continues.

The same pattern seems to be playing out time and time again.  A new location is found.  Perhaps by a pioneering surfer.  An adventurous backpacker or an insistent travel writer.  These first visitors brave the bumpy roads, the lack of accommodations and poor service.  But they share the news of what they have found.   Soon a momentum starts.  The first guidebooks start to cover the place.  Local entrepreneurs respond to the tourist influx by starting travel companies, restaurants, surf rentals – whatever seems to be in demand.  A developer comes into town and builds a smart hotel, hoping that the backpacker demographic will slowly morph into a higher paying visitor.

Then the real estate dollars start to flow.  And the marketing campaigns start.  Now travel writers are wined and dined when they arrive.  Package tours start up, house prices rise and things start to get noisy.  Every step of the way something is lost.


Roger Williams  – Elite Proxy Switcher

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