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Tuesday, June 17, 2003
Steven Den Beste II
Steven Den Beste writes approvingly of the recent decrease in tourism in France. He attributes this to two reasons: (1) the supposed rudeness of the French, and (2) Americans voting with their checkbooks and getting back at France for its position on the second Gulf War. He writes that: "When it comes to tourism, it's a buyer's market. No one can stay in business indefinitely by sneering at their customers, and there's a lot of competition out there. But it's going to take a lot more than just forced smiles to change the situation. It's going to take a deep attitude change. The French need to accept that the tourists are doing the French a favor by visiting, rather than the French doing the tourists a favor by deigning to take their money."

I do not doubt that these two rationales are playing some role in the tourism drought. (Well, actually, the first one, the supposed rudeness of the French, doesn't hold much water -- these supposed attitudes didn't keep Americans from visiting Paris before). However, he incredibly omits other contributing reasons for this decline, like, say, the current weakness of the United States dollar and the current weakness of the American economy. It's expensive to go to France, and much more expensive than in years past.

But, I'm writing this post not because of Den Beste's shortsightedness. I'm writing it because of the last line I quoted. Tourists are not doing the French a favor by visiting. Tourists are taking part in an economic transaction. Tourists pay their money, and they get to do and see things when they are in France, like go to the Louvre. When I buy grapes or toliet paper at the local grocery store, I'm not doing the grocers a favor. I'm getting something out of the transaction as are the grocers.

Perhaps tourists like Den Beste have been treated rudely because they believe, just because they are spending money, that the French should be prostrate before them.

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