Monday, 4 May 2009

The Guardian: Bulgaria cheap for tourism

Tourism story misses environmental damage point.
A Black Sea panorama would better fit Miles Brignall's article in the Saturday Guardian (May 2, 2009) about cheapest summer holiday destinations. Instead, the photo editor chose to show Portugal's coast near Algarve, although it is Bulgaria that appears on top of the "2009 holiday costs barometer" the story tells about. This most certainly graphical rather than editorial decision highlights a link that yet another tourism or real estate article did not make: that cheap tourism comes at a cost, often environmental.

Eye pleasing nature images from Bulgaria's coast do exist. But they are rare - and will become even more so. Untouched pieces of nature to photograph or just enjoy are getting fewer and fewer in the Balkan country. Unparalleled opportunities for quick income have put immense pressure on Bulgaria's coast in the form of unlimited mass construction of hotels, apartments and other holiday properties. Tourists and second home owners from abroad have been the principle target clients of the construction bonanza along the Black Sea during the past decade. The country's weak law enforcement institutions have been unable to prevent the uncontrolled urbanization of the coast, even in the nominally protected natural or architectural areas. Perhaps the only positive outcome of the entire process is the emerging of a massive protest movement since 2005 which has gained strength online and on the streets of capital Sofia.

The Guardian should fairly be credited as one of the UK dailies which have actually covered this, and other similar stories from eastern Europe. Most recently in Benji Lanyado's article that appeared ten days earlier. Indeed, no single article can tell everything about a complex issue. It is different bits and pieces that supposedly build together over time, like a mosaic, the reader's understanding. And shapes her mind on the issue. It is the editors' job to chose and arrange the different pieces so that the right picture appears in the end. What I would be interested to know more about is to what extent does environment ever appear in the stories of correspondents covering tourism, real estate, personal finance, and any other topic fields that are directly targeted to shape individual decisions on spending money.

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