Mask Tourism

Over the weekend I descended into the heart of “tourist Copenhagen” — the area that radiates out from Tivoli. The main shopping street, Strøget, was stuffed full of tourists doddering along with their maps out and daypacks bulging, and the Metro station’s ticket machines had line-ups 10 deep of confused looking visitors unable to parse the local transit system.

Tourists are annoying, and my trip into their enclave was the least pleasant part of my time in the city. The irony of writing this as a tourist myself is not lost on me. But man did I ever breath easier once I got back out of the melee.

Which got me thinking: the least interesting parts of any city are those that are frequented by tourists. Think of the Halifax Historic Properties, or Peakes Quay in Charlottetown, or Quincy Market in Boston: worldwide these tourist ghettos are increasingly morphing into one giant mass of Beanie Baby and homemade soap shops, “authentic” pubs, faux heritage pageants, and souvenir stalls.

Every city has its official “tourist zone” — in Copenhagen, for example, it’s essentially the the city bike zone (the area where you’re allowed to take free city bicycles), and here’s the tourist map of Charlottetown.

So here’s my idea: in the same way you can now buy a DVD player that strips out profanity, why not publish “masks” that can be applied over city maps that filter out the naughty tourist bits — cartographic “here be boredom” devices. Take it to the next level and you could integrate the masks with mobile devices so that they would vibrate and flash when in danger of veering out of the interesting parts of a city.


Nathan's picture
Nathan on July 2, 2008 - 01:31 Permalink

I understand what you’re saying about tourist places, but I wouldn’t lump Quincy Market in the same category as Peakes Quay. Quincy Market has a wide variety of food stalls that attracts local and tourists alike and is located in a building that has been a market for hundreds of years. It’s a favorite place to stop for lunch when returning from the States.

Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on July 2, 2008 - 03:09 Permalink

Don’t you live in that tourist map of Charlottetown?

Jevon MacDonald's picture
Jevon MacDonald on July 2, 2008 - 14:27 Permalink

I think we should start a campaign to get new new Ruk logo printed on the map with an arrow to his house on prince street.

From Tourist hater to tourist attraction.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on July 2, 2008 - 14:44 Permalink

I said tourists are annoying, not that I hate them.

I think we’d all be healthier if we recognized that tourists clog up our neighbourhoods (and that, when we are tourists, we are the cloggers).

Recognizing tourism as a necessary, or at least valuable evil is preferable, I think, to deluding ourselves into thinking that it’s actually pleasant.

Dan James's picture
Dan James on July 2, 2008 - 17:21 Permalink

I think that within the realm of being a tourist there are differing degrees of being annoying and a clogger. A street-smart three-time visitor to Denmark is not the same as a first (and only) time visitor. You go to be in a country and enjoy its lifestyle, flow, and pace. They go to a country to gawk, impart their schedule on the country so they can see all of the sites, and take too many long boring poorly narrated videos.

I think there may be too many of the latter here in Charlottetown.