tourism and the emperor’s new clothes

Merhaba from Trabzon,

Farms are not natural places. They represent modified nature at best, but they are not natural. And urban settlements are decidedly less natural. So, why do travel agents promote either as retreats to nature?

Uzungöl is a green valley in the steep hills above the Black Sea on Türkiye’s north coast. It’s a short drive from Trabzon and one of two big tourism drawcards – as presented by those with a vested interest. Come and see nature at its best. Here in Uzungöl, the farming community is losing the battle against the encroaching tourism trade. Before long, the tourists won’t quite know what it is they are here for. (Perhaps that point has already passed.)

An interpretation sign at the balcony lookout says the valley “is a source for spectacular natural as well as . . . breathtaking landscapes sculpted through ages of geological formation”. It might have been formed naturally, but there’s not a real lot left today that could be accurately described as natural.

Uzungöl is obviously not the only example of the emperor’s new clothes on display but it’s difficult to see what draws people here. Perhaps we are so urbanised now that anything resembling nature will draw us in. In Uzungöl, this trade-off has spawned a burgeoning shopping centre with the usual souvenir shops (admittedly not too kitschy), cafés and restaurants and hotels (conceded: in stylish timber) but also shops offering clothing (!), shoes (!!) and cosmetics (!!!).

The developers have been working on the principle: build it and they will come. No doubt, there’ll be the addition of paint ball park, art galleries and other contrived amusements in due course.

The travel agents have an interest of course in having satisfied customers. Faced with an urban landscape where a retreat to nature was promised, some in the group were underwhelmed. The question posed by the guide was a dangerous one: “Güzel?” (Was that beautiful?) There was nodding endorsement but it was half-hearted, even uncomfortable. If the audience to that question was slightly more discerning – or demanding – the asker of that question might receive an awkward response. Surely, the rule in that situation is: Don’t ask unless you are certain of a positive answer.

But, will the punters see the empty folly before the developers lose their investments? An increasingly mobile, increasingly affluent middle class will probably behave like middle classes everywhere. They’ll keep coming to attractions that are no longer attractive. You can probably bet the farm on that.

Güle güle


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