The Financial Times Weekend (Europe edition, House &Home, 24 and 25 October 2020,
pp 1-3) published an article entitled, “The day the tourists stopped coming“. The article confirms that the coronavirus has transformed the major cities in the world. Without throngs of tourists scrambling to see everything that is listed in their guidebook, cities have become more enjoyable to live in and to visit.
During the height of the pandemic in March 2020, the streets of New York City were almost empty. The famous totally overcrowded subway continued to run, but most people were too terrified to use it. Walking became the major means of transportation. Because there were few cars, crossing the street was no longer a major operation. Everyone discovered streets that were lovely with the famous brownstone row homes. Many homes had window signs, drawn by the local six year old artist, which said that better times were coming. Many restaurants, bars, and put tables and chairs on the semi-empty sidewalks and streets. New York City began to resemble a European city. In the past, locals resented the tourists because there were so many. Now, businesses of all kinds welcome tourists with open arms. No more nasty waiters or shop ladies, who refuse to take that Chanel purse down from the top shelf so you can look at it. Now, she scrambles to get a stepladder and keeps saying, “I will be right back”. Times have definitely changed for both tourists and locals.
Hear Ye. Hear Ye. Piazza Navona in Rome is no longer filled with tourists, who are happy to eat an over-priced meal at restaurants, bars, and cafes surrounding the Piazza. You do not have to stand for 30 minutes to buy an ice cream cone. You can now hear the water in the fountains and enjoy the magnificent statues by Bernini. Restaurants have adapted to the new customers, the local Romans. Prices have dropped dramatically and food is now honest-to-goodness Roman. The local Romans are now visiting Piazza Navona, which is a new experience for many locals.
According to the article, skateboards rule the streets of London. With few cars on the streets and few pedestrians on the sidewalks, London has become skateboard heaven. Restaurants and pubs in London have put tables and chairs on the sidewalks and streets. Regulations, which change almost daily, say that you can not serve customers inside, so restaurants have started to serve meals and drinks outside. The National Gallery requires that you reserve your entrance time and wear a mask. Actually, reserving ahead is a great idea, so you do not have to stand in line for a long time. Many museums in Europe adopted the rule, “reserve ahead” to reduce waiting times. However, the author states that without the crowds, the National Gallery has a strange atmosphere because it is so quiet.
Berlin is also almost tourist-free. Native Berliners are discovering that Berlin is a green city with many parkas and a world-famous zoo. Doormen at the notorious Berghain nightclub had the reputation of refusing entry to anyone they did not like If you liked to spend an evening with drunks, that was the place to go. Now, everyone is welcome, including grannies. The Berghein and the Boros Foundation are now collaborating on a has a contemporary exhibit called, “Studio Berlin” in the Berghain. .
Singapore and Sydney have similar experiences. Streets are empty and the locals are enjoying their city. But, the world moves. Responsible tourism will be welcome in the future. No one wants to see overcrowding tourism return.