Summary and book reviews of Overbooked by Elizabeth Becker

Overbooked

The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism

By Elizabeth Becker

Overbooked
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2013,
    464 pages.

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Book Summary

The largest global business in the world today is tourism. Employing one out of twelve people in the world and producing $6.5 trillion of the world's economy, it is the main source of income for many countries.

Elizabeth Becker describes the dimensions of this industry and its huge effect on the world economy, the environment, and our culture.

Becker travels the world to offer lively portraits of far-off places: France invented the tour and is still the leader of the travel business; Venice is dying of over-tourism.

In Cambodia, Becker watches tourists crawl over the decaying temples of Angkor, jeopardizing precious cultural sites.

Costa Rica has abandoned raising cattle for American restaurants in order to protect their jungles for the lucrative field of eco-tourism.

Dubai, in the Arabian Gulf, has transformed a patch of desert into one of the world's largest shopping malls.

Africa's safaris are thriving, even if its environment and wildlife are not; ocean cruise ships are spoiling the oceans and ruining city ports.

China, the giant, is at last inviting tourists and at the same time sending its own out in droves.

Becker's investigation of global travel industry practices and their long-term ramifications is an eye-opening examination of this tremendous phenomenon. It is a staggering and unexamined element of the global economy.

Tourism Becomes an Industry

For aficionados of travel magazines filled with breathtaking photographs of boutique hotels on sugar-white beaches or yachts cruising turquoise colored seas, the United Nations World Tourism Organization is a letdown.

This agency dedicated to one of life's great pleasures is housed in a nondescript ten-story building on Madrid's Calle Capitán Haya, hidden in a leafy neighborhood with far more impressive government ministries and foreign embassies. It looks like what it is: one of the more obscure organizations in the enormous United Nations, a backwater near the bottom of the international pecking order. Moreover, it is dedicated to the business of travel and tourism, not its romance.

Most of the writers of those glamorous travel articles have never heard of the UNWTO, and of those that have, few have visited the office. "I get their emails, but I rarely read them," said Stuart Emmrich, then editor of the influential Travel section...

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Despite some drawbacks, Overbooked emerges as a vital and compelling book that shines light on an important global issue. Even if it might not offer many solutions, it at least asks the questions worth asking. “Amplify these remarks into a broad public debate, and soon communities, businesses and governments can sort out what they want – and don’t want – from tourism and travel,” Becker writes in the afterword. “Without a debate, nothing changes.” Fair enough.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

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Media Reviews
Author Blurb Kevin Nguyen
An Amazon Best Book of the Month, April 2013. As much economic development as tourism brings, Becker consistently sees a dark side to the industry's rapid growth. She writes, "Tourism is one of those double-edged swords that may look like an easy way to earn desperately needed money but can ravage wilderness areas and undermine native cultures to fit into package tours.

Author Blurb Sylvia Nasar, author of Grand Pursuit and A Beautiful Mind
Follow Elizabeth Becker on this trip around the world and become a more mindful traveler. She is not only an intrepid globetrotter, but a terrific reporter who asks all the right questions!

Publishers Weekly

Intriguing and eye-opening, this book will leave few in doubt that tourism deserves more consideration than it has hitherto received in larger discussions of globalization and public policy.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. An in-depth and compelling disclosure of the changes needed to protect the world's travel sites while maintaining a good profit margin.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek

The definitive account of the rise of the modern tourism industry, from its beginnings as a small, fanciful pastime among elites, to its explosive growth after World War II, to its present as an economic engine valued at $7 trillion.

Seattle Times

Will tourism in America go the way of Venice and Cambodia, or France and Costa Rica? Elizabeth Becker’s thoughtful, informed book should move that discussion along.

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Food Tourism

When we visited Merida in Mexico a few years ago, my husband had already decided where he wanted to eat and when. We had to taste the chaya drink made from chaya leaves, had to eat the cochinita pibil and eat at La Casa de Frida, a restaurant that was also home to many Frida Kahlo collectibles. Granted the Apte family is a little obsessed with food, but we're not alone. Food tourism, where the food and wine of a region are big draws, is getting to be big business.

According to the World Food & Travel Association, whose mission is to preserve and promote the world's food and drink cultures through travel, food tourism may be defined as "the pursuit and enjoyment of unique and memorable food and drink experiences, both far and ...

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