The Interplay of Culture and Tourism

“Dublin now exists solely for tourists and the rich."

The Shaw is dead, the extension on its lease was refused and now it will be zoned and knocked to build another hotel, or block of bourgeoise student accommodation. What caused this and how can a space as vibrant, popular, and as integral to the Dublin art scene as the Shaw close? The short of it is Dublin doesn’t exist for you or me anymore. Dublin now exists solely for tourists and the rich, as anyone living here knows.

Dublin is getting more and more expensive all the time. We are in the middle of a housing crisis that the government is ideologically opposed to solving. Rent is unaffordable for almost everyone, any spot you do get you’re probably in a bunk bed or sharing a room for six hundred quid a month. Every other building is an Airbnb and every building after that is a hotel. Of course, this isn’t all the fault of tourism, it’s mostly the vulture funds, the speculators and the landlords in the Dáil. But a key part of the issues is landlords realising they can make more money short letting to tourists on Airbnb than renting to tenants in Dublin. Tourists contribute to the housing crisis by staying in Airbnb’s, by populating the hotels that spring up just as cultural spaces are knocked down, and by spending money in overpriced tourist bars dripping in paddywhackery. Knowing how tourists affect our city and how some act while they’re here, it’s important to make sure you don’t contribute to the denigration of cultural spaces, to an ongoing housing crisis, or be a nuisance when you go abroad to other cities.

There are many kinds of tourism. The family getaway to a beach resort cut off from the country it inhabits, the “finding yourself” gap year trips to South-East Asia, or what is probably the most popular and affordable form of tourism, the city break. We’ve all seen the alerts from Ryanair telling us that it is only 12.99 to fly to Amsterdam for three days and many of us have jumped at the opportunity. Since our time there is so fleeting and usually packed with activity it’s not often tourists will understand or experience what it is like to live in that city as a full time resident, and not a holidaymaker. Barcelona is a key example with anti-tourism sentiments boiling over into recent protests. As Almudena Lopez Diaz writes in the Independent “Low-cost flights, as well as the popularisation of home-sharing platforms such as AirBnB…have contributed to the growing number of sightseers. In turn, investors are speculating and buying entire buildings – some where families have lived for decades – to cater for this growing industry. Landlords are seeing an opportunity to gain up to four times as much as they would for renting to long-term local tenants, and 40 per cent of Barcelona’s tourist apartments are illegal. This is leading to a shortage of housing for those who live and work here and driving up rents, which increased by 16.5 per cent in 2016.” Areas that would have once belonged only to locals, spots that would have been a cheap place to eat or drink, or a quiet place to socialise are becoming busy with tourists, more expensive, and packed and noisy. Tourists come in; prices go up.

As a tourist you can work to limit your negative effect on a place. Try not to use Airbnb or any other short-term letting group. If you have to make sure to research the cities laws surrounding them and make sure that by staying there you are not contributing to a housing crisis, the gentrification of an area, or an illegal letting. Be respectful of the cultural places you visit, be they museums or nightclubs. Try learning some of the language and understand that you are a visitor in a living city. It is not a tourist attraction that is meant to cater to you. Most locals, whether they be Irish or Spanish, don’t hate tourists, just what their city has done to accommodate and cater to tourists at the expense of its citizens.