You have now entered the Tourist Zone

My latest Traveling Light column at Yahoo! News, You Have Now Entered the Tourist Zone, relates the story of how a curious experience in India led me to consider how the presence of travelers changes the way locals act:

On the surface, Pushkar didn’t seem much like a Tourist Zone: There were no glitzy hotels, no air-conditioned knickknack boutiques, no busloads of sunburned Germans and chubby Texans. Moreover, had you surveyed Pushkar’s visitors, you would have mainly found independent travelers — young wanderers from Europe and North America and Israel, who shunned guided tours and took a genuine interest in Hindu culture.

Still, despite the earnestness of its travelers, Pushkar was very much a Tourist Zone — place that had subtly shifted to cater to the needs of its visitors. Only instead of churning out the standard tourist products (postcards, audio tours, spa treatments), Pushkar had developed a makeshift economy in Hindu “authenticity” (exotically dressed sadhus, quick-fix puja rituals, high-turnover yoga ashrams). After several years of popularity on the backpacker circuit, the residents of Pushkar hadn’t gotten greedy; they’d merely become adept at packaging all of the Indian symbols and rituals that indie travelers found whimsically attractive (as well as a few choice Western amenities, like familiar-sounding food and Internet caf├ęs).

The full story of my Pushkar experience — including tips on how to best operate within tourist zones — can be found here.

Posted by | Comments (1)  | May 23, 2006
Category: Rolf's News and Updates, Travel News

One Response to “You have now entered the Tourist Zone”

  1. elizabeth Says:

    I live in the middle of a tourist zone – well, down a dirt road from one – and it is a truly surreal experience sometimes.