Klaipeda: The Tourist View

Klaipeda: The Tourist View

Coming from outside a place, going in to a new and different environment, one must do their research and plan out their experience. This means buying a travel guide or, more popularly, surfing the internet. Yet when running a search on most places, the same sorts of things come up constantly. The travel websites will sell the main tourist attractions and hotels, talk briefly about the history, and ignore the rest. This is all well and good, if you’re a tourist.

Tourism in itself is no crime. It’s a booming industry to dozens of countries across the globe. While some do more business than others, the impact of tourism cannot be denied. Events like the Sea Festival, popularly lauded as one of the largest summer festivals in the area, prove that the draw of tradition and culture has an impact both economically and culturally and can have far reaching implications and impacts on the region.

Yet travel sites and books seem to have the impression that that is all Klaipeda has to offer. The information they provide is scarcely more than a blurb. 3rd largest city, oldest city, etc. Yet what does that actually say about it? It doesn’t explain why the number one country that comes to Klaipeda is Germany. It doesn’t explain why the number of American tourists comes in with only triple digit numbers. A basic tourism guide won’t help you understand Klaipeda. Yet unfortunately, that is all many bother to look at before traveling. People see and are content with the tourist view.

Like tourism, the tourist view is no crime in itself. There is nothing wrong with wanting to attend the Sea Festival before running back to the hotel and hiding. There is nothing wrong with visiting museums or going on tours before spending the night in the pub. There is a wealth of information to be had with all tourist pursuits. But the tourist view in inherently flawed.

The tourist view functions on generalizations. It is a simplified look at a place. Unfortunately, it often presents oversimplifications. Guidebooks and websites must show the absolute average a city has to offer, often without the benefit of a native person to give a more detailed report of the place in question.

For example, statistics show that the crime rate in Lithuania is on the rise. While this is always a shame, it neglects to mention the context. Lithuania is rated 46th on the world crime rate list. In 2011 some 92,000 crimes were reported. To say this is nearly a fifty percent increase since twenty years before is indeed frightening. Unless it is compared to the country in 1st place, the United States with a grand total of over 11,000,000 crimes committed, nearly 10 times as many.

This all points to the problem with the “tourist view.” The tourist view builds expectations. When you hear that Klaipeda has a high crime rate, the tourist is likely to assume that this means the city is best viewed at a distance. Yet another link later and the page for the U.S. State Department states very clearly that there is no more risk than the average U.S. metropolitan area. Why then should the tourist fear Klaipeda? Answer, they should not.

Expectations built on limited information create and perpetuate lack of understanding between different groups of people. Expectations do not show the truth of a place. They lead to misunderstandings and false histories both while there and when they return. A vicious cycle that serves only to enforce the previous expectations of a place without contributing anything new.

In the long run, it does not matter whether people take the time to learn every detail about a place or not. People travel and do what they wish to do while abroad. It’s a truth of the times and a truth of the world. Some will want the in depth look, some will want the tourist view. This is a shame, as Klaipeda does not rate highly with tourist books. One reviewer went so far as to say that it would only take a day to visit the important places and then it would be time to move on to other, more exciting places. Yet this can be said of nearly any place.

In the end the tourism trade is booming and is unlikely to stop. The number of visitors to Klaipeda has risen over the past decade and will no doubt continue to rise. With the city already playing host to thousands of tourists in town for the Sea Festival, it is unlikely that such a place will shut down in the foreseeable future, tourist view or not.

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