Budget airlines religiously carry thirsty excursionists to the coast of the Mediterranean. The high season supposedly starts in May, as dictated by the hiking prices of Ryanair tickets. Nevertheless, for the busiest tourist hubs, the season never ends at all. Concrete walls of the seaside resorts radiate summer heat. Dozens of torrid days pass by without a single drop of rain, nor a single gust of wind. Paradise smells of diluted chlorine from the hotel swimming pools mixed with sweat, chemical scent of sunscreen and the sweetness of cheap Sangria.
‘Space is never empty: it always embodies a meaning’. The meaning of tourist spaces is dubious. They are the sites of pleasure, the embodiments of escapism and carelessness. Their cyclical temporariness is striking: bursting with life, lust, and laughter, accompanied by upbeat party music for half of the year, they often remain hollow for the rest of time. These places represent an eclectic mix of material objects and investments aimed to increase their attractiveness, such as promenades, marinas, parks. Here, host communities mingle with visitors and the places witness interlink of various tourism and non-tourism practices. They are never static, they evolve or diminish over time, reshaped and reconstructed by social interactions, by the constant movements of people. They do not exist as such but are constantly constructed and reconstructed by socioeconomic processes.
Here, in the heat of the Portuguese sun, tourist spaces provide the settings for the tale of contemporary European patterns of mobility: northern tourism and southern migration. What type is more desirable is a subjective matter - tourists support local economies, yet overcrowd seaside towns and often irreversibly transform many quaint, previously unexplored places, adapting them to their leisurely needs. The isolation from the local context leads to the loss of authenticity and separation of tourist spaces from their genuine environment. Mass tourism can produce inauthentic, mass experiences, detached from the inhabitants of the place and from the ‘real’ world. The place becomes a mass product to be consumed, filled with ‘pseudo-events’ and naive ‘pseudo-attractions’ constructed for the needs of the industry. Here, pseudo-people in pseudo-places escape their mundane reality into blissful idleness of identical resorts and English-style fish and chips consumed in one of the identical seaside restaurants.
Natalia Domagała, London 2018
Lefebvre, H. (1991). The Production of Space. London:Wiley-Blackwell.
Shaw, G., Williams, A. (2004). Tourism and Tourist Spaces. London:Sage.
Urry, J. (1994). Consuming places. London:Sage.