Book Review: Overbooked by Elizabeth Becker

If the tourism industry were a country, it would be the fifth biggest carbon emitter in the world.

Richard F. Smith quoted in “Overbooked

According to this well written study (Becker is a journalist who has written extensively about Vietnam and Cambodia since the seventies)- the tourism industry is much more destructive in every way than I had thought. In my travel musings I had naively focussed on things like the carbon footprint of flying, or cruise ship waste dumped directly into the ocean. Becker’s book goes through a much denser and diverse litany of problems with the industry, starting with the complicity of freelance travel writers and the culture of travel writing in general that thrives on freebies  and advertising and almost never publishes a negative review. That’s partly why I’ve never heard of the problems with global tourism in Venice, Dubai, Cambodia and the other regions the author examines for case studies.

3 nights in Oregon- why not!

It is dispiriting reading for right before a long planned vacation abroad. Becker manages to keep her taste for travel through many years of research, disturbing tourism conferences, a week on a cruise ship in the Caribbean, in badly polluted China. She seems to be arguing not for or against tourism but instead that we must acknowledge that it is one of the huge forces and products of global capitalism. We must get over dated opinions and isolationist approaches (in the USA) to the industry and see what is happening before we can choose intelligently.

I am about to embark on my 9th (!) trip to the UK. My first took place in fabulous 1990, and set the course for the rest. But that’s a blog post for another day. Check out this book and join my sustainability book discussion group, once I get settled on my return.


Author: Emily

Writer/ Librarian

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