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It's that time of the year when TV adverts tempt us with summer sunspots and the papers are full of supplements for trips overseas. Andy Goff reckons it's time to put away the brochures and start a war on tourism.

Visit Britain, the old British Tourist Board, claims “2012 already has an important influence on Britain's £74 billion visitor economy”.

From where, I wonder, has this figure of £74 billion been gleaned?

When I checked the Government's statistics website the earnings from overseas residents coming in to the UK was, in 2005, £14 billion.

Spending abroad by UK residents is reportedly £32 billion - making a net outflow of some £18 billion!

Thus, contrary to popular belief, tourism is not the great benefit to our economy claimed by some.

Indeed, tourism is about the most damaging economic activity possible. It damages eco structures, distorts local economies and transfers disease, flora and fauna to places unprepared to deal with them.

A rat has been spotted on the Galapagos Islands and cruise ships are blamed for bringing it in. Foreign invaders introduced smallpox which decimated indigenous populations in North America. Beaches all round the Mediterranean have been badly damaged by over-development. The flightless Kakapo Parrot in New Zealand almost wiped out by foreign species. The list is long.

So not only are planes which travellers use pumping noxious exhausts into the atmosphere as they hurtle round the world - their arrival and temporary residence contributes to the irreversible alteration of the places they visit.

In a press release the UN World Tourism Organisation exhorts us to “INCREASE TOURISM TO FIGHT POVERTY” and add “2007 should be a critical year to consolidate tourism as a key agent in the fight against poverty and a primary tool for sustainable development.”

My experience from travelling the world - Yes! Hands up I'm guilty too - is that tourism merely transfers poverty and does nothing to alleviate it. A few benefit but many more lose out. The biggest losers are those least able to make their voices heard above the clamour for development.

If fewer of us travelled abroad and made the most of what we have at home it would help the economy, generate jobs and, at least with our strict planning regulations, limit the damage to the environment.

High speed travel just ain't natural. Let's have a war on tourism instead and anyway you'll only end up with skin cancer from lying in those sun drenched hot spots!


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