When pandemic travel restrictions were lifted, many people booked their flights for a long-delayed vacation, often after spending months (or years) doing their travel research on Instagram. The Italian town of Positano, located off the Amalfi Coast, has become a hotspot for influencers looking to land the perfect “effortless” vacation snaps.
But is going to such a well-known hotspot really worth it?
Rebecca Jennings, Senior Correspondent at Vox, recounted her own experience traveling to Positano in an article titled “Instagram’s capital of the world is a terrible place.”
“Marketplace” host Kimberly Adams sat down with Jennings to find out why. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Kimberly Adams: Describe Positano and why you chose to focus on it for your piece, or perhaps take it over for your piece.
Rebecca Jennings: So, Positano is this tiny town on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Many travel guides call it “the jewel of the Amalfi Coast”. So basically what it looks like, all these little houses that are in pastel colors are stacked up against the cliff, and there’s a little bay, and it’s like crystal clear waters every day. There are about 12,000 people there. But it is only built for about 4,000 people.
Adam: Wow. So you decided to go. I’m curious what your experience there told you about how people travel in general these days.
Jennings: Of course, so it’s a very small resort, the Amalfi Coast has been kind of a vacation land for the wealthy, but travel being, you know, so much more accessible than it’s ever been to any time in history, really, for a middle-class person, you can go to all of these places, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to have, you know, a luxurious experience. And I think that’s something that really jumped out at me. I still enjoyed the experience very much. But the whole time, I was like, “Man, this really reflects what travel is on Instagram.”
Adam: What does it mean for local residents when so much of the local economy depends on tourism in this city and many other tourist cities around the world?
Jennings: Yeah, I think it created a lot of tension. You have a lot of local politics where it’s like, OK, are we overserving tourists versus, you know, locals. And I know this is on the Amalfi Coast, where there’s a road you can drive on that goes to all the towns on the Amalfi Coast, and you’ll be sitting there for, potentially, hours, because of the heavy traffic, because people were renting cars and, you know, wanting to see every stop. So they made a law that only cars that end with a certain license plate number can drive every other day of the week. And obviously there are people who find that really good and stimulating for the economy. And some people find that as completely obliterating the local culture. And it’s just going to be a point of tension. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world.
Adam: You wrote that traveling right now is like walking into a Chanel store, but never being able to put the clothes on. But people generally avoid going to a store where they know they can’t buy anything. And yet, even budget travelers still go to these destinations, where those beautiful photos really only come from places the wealthy can afford to go. Why is that?
Jennings: Yes, because I think all these photos we see are marketing. You know, these are beautiful images, but that does not mean that they are accessible to everyone unfortunately. I think travelers who are not willing to pay [for], you know, $5,000 a night at the hotel, you’ll have so much more fun going somewhere else that suits you better. Like, I have no desire to go to a place like Monaco because it’s like, what am I going to do in Monaco? Walking around and feeling really poor. Like, I have no desire to do this. Yeah.
Adam: After being in Monaco, that’s exactly what you do.
Jennings: Good to know.
Adam: How has your experience in Positano changed the way you travel in the future?
Jennings: I think I’m going to spend a lot less time taking reviews from other super super seriously and I think lingering more in one place rather than trying to see everything I think is a big thing.
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