Global Tourism

British photographer Martin Parr explores the impact of the tourism industry around the world

Martin Parr

Martin Parr Yalta, Ukraine. 1995. © Martin Parr | Magnum Photos

“Tourism is the biggest industry in the world; only oil comes anywhere close, and a lot of that is used in the tourist industry anyway. This folio of images shows the tourist (i.e., you and me) doing what we do when we arrive at the beach or another global honeypot. We queue up, we sun ourselves and spend cash on often quite useless souvenirs.”

Martin Parr The Leaning Tower of Pisa. From 'Small World'. Pisa, Italy. 1990. © Martin Parr | Magnum Photos

“We then take photos of ourselves in front of the visited sight. This proves we have been there and are part of the world as we know it. Visiting sites is a modern form of pilgrimage and the resulting photos the ultimate prize.”

Martin Parr Weymouth. From 'Think of England.' England, UK. 2000. © Martin Parr | Magnum Photos
Martin Parr The Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA. 1994. © Martin Parr | Magnum Photos
Martin Parr The Acropolis. From 'Small World'. Athens, Greece. 1991. © Martin Parr | Magnum Photos
Martin Parr Benidorm, Spain. 1997. © Martin Parr | Magnum Photos

“We all have an image of what a place looks like, especially if it is an iconic site like the Pyramids or the Eiffel Tower. But when we get there the reality can often be quite different. Many others are trying to see the same place at the same time. The site will be full of shops all trying to sell us stuff. One of the central agendas in this folio concerns the mythology vs reality of actually being at a tourist site. This contradiction lends itself very well to photography.”

Martin Parr Bethlehem, Palestine. 1986. © Martin Parr | Magnum Photos
Martin Parr Santiago de Compostela, Spain. 1993. © Martin Parr | Magnum Photos

“Many countries rely on tourism as their main income generator, but like all things there is a down side, as tourism can often destroy the very thing that people came to visit in the first place. Think of somewhere like Machu Picchu, where crowds swarm over the ancient walls.”

An Inca site situated 2,400 meters (7,875 ft) above sea level. Often referred to as "The Lost City of the Incas", Machu Picchu probably is the most familiar symbol of the Inca Empire. It is also on (...)

“I am not saying that tourism is bad – far from it as it brings a livelihood for many people. Organisations like Tourism Concern in the UK make a very important contribution to a better understanding of the yin and yang of tourism. This charity highlights the problems caused by tourism – from water shortages in newly developed sites to the pure rape of our ever decreasing natural habitats – and tries to ensure that local people benefit from the fruits of tourism. We need to adopt a better understanding of the issues surrounding this huge business. These photographs, I hope, will offer a good starting point. For remember we, in the wealthy West, are the ones that seek out the pleasures of tourism, so we’re all in this together.” – Martin Parr

Martin Parr The Sphinx. Giza, Egypt. 1992. © Martin Parr | Magnum Photos
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