- June 19, 2017
I went to Venice recently, and postulate that it constitutes a cautionary tale for the future of Brighton. Venice is undeniably a beautiful, unorthodox city with a captivating history, and unique houses that look like they are sinking into the water in endearingly ramshackle fashion. The Biennale was stunning too, with hundreds of diverse art works of an often impressive scale, and a startling variety of exhibitions in beautiful environments.
Another aspect that stood out however, is that almost all of the people we saw were tourists, and the vast majority of shops and restaurants were geared towards tourists rather than locals. I discovered that Venetians have protested about being overrun by tourists in fact (bit.ly/2cKMGgD). I was obviously part of the problem having booked an Airbnb: a lot of property is now being utilised in such a way to profit from tourists, which is what made me consider Brighton’s situation.
If housing prices continue to rise, and the properties we do have available are purchased by buy-to-let investors (or rented by Airbnb users) then what will happen to the culture of Brighton? Will we run out of great local venues and pubs in exchange for overpriced pastiches of culture, rather than the real thing? If students, graduates, families, or workers on low or average incomes can’t afford to settle in or even anywhere near Brighton, how will the essence and atmosphere of the place change?
Tourism is obviously hugely beneficial to Brighton and I don’t have space here to do justice to issues such as property prices, the balance of tourists to locals, and so on. But I think that we could look to the problems Venice is facing as a warning for what could happen if we’re not careful. Imagine the tourist theme park we might end up with, replacing the vibrant cultural hub we know today.