BOOK REVIEW / Cuckoos and flaccid puppets: Malaria in the bloodstream: Jan Morris on an unequivocal critique of heritage culture and the Welsh tourist industry. 'A Postcard Home' - Robert Minhinnick: Gomer Press, 3.95 pounds

Wales, a minority nation that votes overwhelmingly anti-Conservative, is in effect ruled by a plethora of quangos appointed by the Conservative Secretary of State for Wales, a charmless English youth who is MP for Wokingham. Near the apex of this squalid structure stands the Welsh Tourist Board, which is not only a pseudo Ministry of Tourism, but a pseudo Propaganda Ministry too.

There are many people in Wales who think it fulfils both functions deplorably, on the one hand representing Wales and the Welsh in a tired parade of cliches, on the other blindly hastening the country towards a national degradation of heritage centres, theme parks and horrible marinas. Among them is the poet Robert Minhinnick, and this small book is a gentle polemic which is of far more than local import, and might well be addressed to tourist authorities anywhere

It is a cogent and persuasive plea for a redirection of the tourist industry, away from mere monetary exhibitionism towards a truly instructive and creative role in society. Of course Minhinnick pitches his argument high - what polemicist doesn't? The summit of Yr Wyddfa, Snowdon, is not always so hideously unwelcoming as he describes it, and perhaps the proposed development of Cardiff Bay ('martinis-on-the-jetty hokum') will not be quite so plagued by algae, industrial effluent and midge-clouds as he fears. On the whole, though, he is relatively restrained in his attacks, especially when compared with his poetical colleague R S Thomas, who believes tourism in Wales to be nothing less than a social evil, and despises all who practice or encourage it.

Minhinnick is not ideologically opposed to tourism, though he rightly scoffs at official statistics that vastly overstate its importance to Welsh well-being. A large proportion of the people who earn their living by it are incomers from England, the Welsh themselves all too often being flaccid puppets in the business. He wants it, though, to be publicly dedicated not to the exploitation, but the conservation of Wales - its landscape, its language and its cu1ture.

This means, as it must everywhere in the world, abandoning the heedless encouragement of mass tourism. The greater the influx of tourists, the cruder their quality (and Wales stands next door to the crudest reservoir of tourists in Europe) and the more corroding their influence upon the host country. Everyone admits that the inexorable migrations of holidaymakers distort the identities of vulnerable small countries; yet still tourist authorities everywhere, and not least Mr Redwood's quango in Cardiff, boast of the increasing number of tourists they attract each year.

Moreover, in matters of cultural usurpation, says Minhinnick, tourism is like a Trojan Horse. Once through the walls, it opens the gates for a whole pack of other invaders, speculators, geriatric settlers, cuckoo-in-the-nest drop-outs - 'good-lifers', as Minhinnick describes them, 'get-away-from-it-all Utopians, doom-tellers and sated or sickened participants in the metropolitan feeding-frenzy'. It is also, he suggests, like malaria: it enters a country's bloodstream, 'it can be dormant for years and then suddenly emerges in fever'.

Certainly, it has an amoeba-like quality. It is perceptibly shifting now, far example, from whole-hog bucket-on-the-beach hedonism towards political correctness and self-improvement. Eco-tourism has made some impact even on the mass market, and theme parks and heritage centres do at least encourage some interest in the history and manners of the host country, absent indeed among the traditional attractions of Benidorm or Butlins.

And perhaps, as Minhinnick is urging, it can still be changed decisively by a change of heart among tourist authorities. He wants the Welsh Tourist Board, in particular, to produce a Charter for Tourism unequivocally committing itself to supporting the environment and the language of Wales. As he says, its activities vitally affect both, and need not be detrimental - on the contrary, by using its influence to restrain rather than encourage heedless exploitation, this unloved quango could make itself a powerful force for everyone's good.

Minhinnick is not altogether despondent anyway. He even allows himself to think that tourism, like coal-mining, may not be a permanent industry after all. I wish I could believe him.

When I walk along the sand: at Morfa Bychan on the Gwynedd coast, though, below the church where the beloved poet Dafydd y Garreg Wen lies, looking across to Harlech and the grey-blue Rhinog mountains - when I walk this lovely strand on a summer morning to see the chalets and caravans proliferating ever further along the sand dunes, and yesterday's crisp packets blowing along the foreshore, I remember wistfully an expert recommendation recently made to the Government of Tasmania that went much farther than Minhinnick's proposal; namely that Tasmania's best bet was to declare itself a tourist-free zone.

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?