There’s more than a touch of Stockholm syndrome in conversations about the Tourism Development Authority. Again and again you hear, “I’m not against tourism, but …”
Let’s be clear. The post-Vanderbilt emphasis on tourism has left us poorer than we could have been, and every extra tourist who visits makes things worse, not better.
If we use the Census Bureau’s American Community 5-year Survey 2017-vintage data, we see (series DP03_0043, DP04_0142) that city neighborhoods with a larger proportion of jobs in tourism-related sectors are those with a larger proportion of households facing excessive housing costs (using HUD’s definition of excessive).
But that’s water under the bridge; we need current and future tourism-related jobs to make things better, not worse.
Unfortunately, half the tourism-related jobs pay less than 3/4 of the living wage (series S2413_HC01_VC23) — with the extreme case being female workers in the “accommodation and food service” sector who live in South French Broad, where half are paid less than $4,000 a year. In order to house, clothe and feed your family with an income that insulting, you need support from subsidized housing, subsidized transport, food banks and other charities.
In other words, tourism-related jobs impose a tax on the rest of us — either formally through the city and county or informally through charitable donations. Why does this tax exist? So that the owners of these businesses can pretend that the costs of operating their businesses are lower than they really are and stay solvent/declare bigger profits.
— Geoff Kemmish