Letter to the editor: Tourism boosts state — so far

Well, this is funny and coincidental. Funny because I’ve never corresponded to anyone via the editor of a newspaper, like I am responding to the July 5 letter from Mike Sommers of Oakland, Calif. (hi, Mike!). Coincidental because I lived in Silicon Valley and then in a tourist town in California before repatriating to Vermont.
I have also seen great wealth disparity and lots of tourists. I’m not sure that one is the result of the other. What tourists spend money on is often taxed (meals, rooms, rental cars, gift items, etc.). Taxation, especially progressive tax, has been one of many social mechanisms by which the wealthy pay more than the poor (at least in absolute dollars) for government functions that help everyone. Tourism is also a job-creating industry since not much of it can be mechanized — restaurant meals come from farmers, cooks, servers, auxiliary staff. Hotel services, maple syrup vendors, bicycle renters, ski instructors, craft makers, festival operators and artists are also trades that rely on hands-on work. Tourism cannot be sent off-shore.
Finally, I think Vermont tourism is not the same as big city tourism where wealth disparity is more easily on display. People don’t come here for the same reasons as they go to Paris, for instance. So, to Mike’s question of whether tourism helps Vermonters, my answer would be: yes, so far. So far as Vermonters keep preserving what has been essentially Vermont — this wonderful environment and the calmness it creates, the small towns, the rural life, the real people, the communitarian ethic. But I would like to know if other people here have a different answer to Mike’s question of whether tourism helps all Vermonters. It’s a question worth exploring.
Margaret Eaton
New Haven

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