Friday, 26 September 2008

Sky Tourist.

Richard Branson’s plan to take ‘tourism into space’ has rendered all tourism as extraterrestrial ‘space travel’. I suppose tourists in space would only exchange gazing upon one gaudy ornament (Disney World) for another (The World). This reminded me of a quote from The 11th Hour which described us being like astronauts, floating around in space, inhabiting metallic capsules, viewing the world as a distant, alien and separate entity to ourselves.

The world is like Disneyland. Like a trite cartoon designed for the tourist who pushes the ‘undesirables’ out of view; the waste, the sewage, refugees and the poor, which is pushed underground, behind walls or bars, or just out of sight into the non-place of refugees camps, landfill sights, waste treatment plants, prisons etc.

Its worth noting that many of the recent hotel designs have given way to Metropolis-like sky living, in which the global elite, connected to international networks, inhabit a space well above the dirty city streets, starting on the 30th or 40th floors of global ‘tower of Babel-like’ financial buildings.

Travel is in a constant process of moving up to the skies with air travel, sky trains, sky bars, hotels on the top of banks and office blocks, revolving restaurants, sky walkways and now space craft, and running faster and faster with global internet networks, bullet trains, instant money transfers, fast check in and so on. Anything to avoid local public interaction, and street space. If tourist space is provided on ground level for the global elite, it is represented through private beaches, remote islands, theme parks and exclusive ‘eco’ hotels and resorts.

During a recent trip to Taipei, a typhoon swept through the city, and so I was stranded indoors. My hotel was connected to an underground shopping mall, and an elevator that transported tourists up to a sky mall. My two day stay consisted of wandering around my hotel, both malls above and below ground level, ‘international’ food courts, designer stores and coffee chains, without ever stepping food outside to seek out some genuine local culture.

Inevitably tourism has become a very private affair.

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