You may have seen quite a few pieces in the news recently about Cornwall coming to a standstill in certain areas because of surges in tourism due to images that have ‘gone viral’ on social media. It’s said that tourism this year in Cornwall is up 20% and can also be attribitued to the popularity of TV programmes such as Poldark creating such a surge in interest in the region. Who can blame people for recognising what at amazing place Cornwall is, hey?
Since starting Cornwall Creatives I’ve been very conscious of the ripple effect that can be created when promoting certain places and have always had the dilemma of whether I should ‘share or save’ at the back of my mind. The option of saving is not just for selfish reasons but because I can’t help feeling that when you go on holiday, exploring is the best part – discovering places you’ve never heard of and feeling as though you’ve uncovered a secret. With so many places so heavily publicised on social media now, we seem to form a preconceived idea of what a place will be like and this can often lead to disappointment. Of course I want to share all of these great places so that everybody in the world knows just how amazing Cornwall is but in doing so am I inadvertently spoiling the surprise and contributing to unsustainable tourism?
Cornwall Creatives does focus more on the business side of Cornwall and the amazing offerings across this beautiful place because I believe supporting small businesses is truly sustainable for our future and economy. However, occasionally we touch on places to see too and Pedn Vounder, one of the areas that came to a standstill this summer, was a place we recently discovered for ourselves. Because of this our discovery was that extra bit special, we stumbled upon the beach after a night of camping and it still seemed relatively quiet and that gave us a real sense of exploration and achievement. Although subsequently seeing it all over social media, I was really surprised that so many people would make the trip as the sheer cliff to reach the beach is not for the faint hearted and there really are no facilities available. This beach can be quite dangerous due to how much the tide comes in and the lack of beach left when it does and it poses the question – is it safe to attract so many people to a picture perfect place that really could be quite dangerous for them if they don’t know the area? With social media we don’t see the struggle on the climb down, the running out of water on a hot day or not taking enough food to eat and being hungry, all we see is truly beautiful, perfect photos.
I think sustainable tourism is something we really need to discuss more with the popularity of social media, it’s not at all that tourism isn’t a good thing like many people are quick to assume is meant, it’s about creating a balance where tourism can be enjoyed sustainably all year round rather than in influxes to specific areas at specific times. Many of these places just can’t cope, they really have never seen so many people! Sustainable tourism is a balance where locals and tourists can go about their days safely and happily – nobody wants to have to arrive at a beach car park at 6am on their holiday just to get a space and nobody wants to spend hours stuck in traffic. It’s something where there’s no obvious solution but something we all need to be more conscious of, especially in our use of social media. Even though some people think their audience is relatively small, micro influencers really do have an impact too as followers are often listening to a trusted individual’s voice.
So the question is, in a time when posts going viral seems to be a real measure of success – is social media spoiling tourism or is it an effective tool that is replacing the need to research and plan a holiday the traditional way?