The new archaeological dig at the Ness of Brodgar – one of the most important sites in the whole of the world – costs £2,000 a day to run. They need tourists to help keep the trowels turning. The RSPB has a number of conservation sites on Orkney. They need tourists to turn into members, supporters and donors. Orkney as whole needs to tourists. Tourism is a major source of income for the two thirds of the islands workforce who aren’t in public service
I do not need tourists.
I am not, you understand, a tourist myself. I am an observer. A traveller. A naturalist if you will. I go places to observe the natural and man made world and their interaction one on the other. I do not go places to chatter loudly to the rest of coach party about how cousin Emma-Lou will be sooo disappointed to have missed seeing this Stonehenge of Brodgar thing. Nor do I get in the way of the observer, the traveller, the naturalist when he or she is observing. OR TAKING PHOTOGRAPHS!!!
Of course the Ring of Brodgar is the built environment. It deserves to be teeming with life as much as Picadilly or Notre Dame. But somehow it begs for solitude and stillness. Indeed, there are those who believe that the Ring was a place of a more reflective nature. The absence of anything that suggested a permanent presence – associated houses, fireplaces, or storage buildings – makes one think that this was a place for the spirits rather than Emma-Lou.
And what is certainly true is that one can observe the stones, travel around them, place them firmly in their landscape more easily when they are not seen through tourists’ eyes, or, more importantly, through the bright blues and reds of the tourists’ cagoules.
But it’s the tourists’ footfall and the tourist dollar that keeps the conservationists in work. I may think I do not need tourists. But we all do, if we are going to keep the things people like me want to selfishly observe.