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Tourism with Traces

Tourism and tourists can be disruptive. And tourism infrastructure can have a major impact on communities and the environment. Today there is much talk of sustainable tourism and “tourism without traces”.  Sustainable tourism developed as a guiding principal in the 1990s to ensure that investments in tourism infrastructure, particularly in developing countries, brought prosperity to everyone, not simply the multinational purveyors of services like airlines and hotel chains.

Long before, local initiatives developed to encourage tourists to “buy local”. Handicrafts enthusiasts formed cooperatives to encourage artisans to sell their work and offered to help improve their handiwork to suit an increasingly discriminating clientele.

Black and white photograph of a man and a boy on the roadside. The man and the child are dressed in white shirt and black trousers held up by suspenders. Behind the boy wooden boats are placed on the top of a poster on which is written

American photographer Lida Moser took this photograph of children selling wooden boats along the Gaspé highway in L’Anse-Aux-Gascons in 1950.


Tourism infrastructure shapes and sometimes misshapes communities. Hotels change the built landscape. Tour buses require wider streets and generous parking lots. Shops peddling souvenirs to visitors often push other retailers off the main street. Tourist destinations are often packed in the high season and empty in the off-season. Sustaining a viable local economy at the same time as a tourism economy is a special challenge.

Cover page of The Black Whale cook book. The cover is printed on bright red sturdy paper and shows the drawing of a black whale. A thin black band that suggests waves divides the page in half. It reads, The Black Whale Cook Book: Fine Old Recipes from the Gaspé Coast Going Back to Pioneer Days. Compiled by Mrs. Ethel Renouf - 1948

The best-selling Black Whale Cook Book featured recipes passed down from mother to daughter.


Towns and villages in the Gaspé have been wrestling with the virtues and evils of the tourism economy for nearly a century. Sustainable tourism is one way forward – assuring that local businesses develop at the same time that the tourism economy thrives.

Post card. Hand-painted photography. A woman is sitting on the porch of a house. She paints a winter scene on a canvas whose base is resting on her lap. Near her, six handmade carpets are placed on a fence and a frame, a winter scene is hung on the outside wall of the house. In the opening of the door, a young boy watches his mother stitching a carpet.

Artisans sold their handicrafts and woven goods at stands along the entire length of the Gaspé highway.