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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition