The Unbearable Whiteness Of Tourism

Tourism is colonialism with tips


By accident of birth, I have both of these passports. They lead to two different worlds

They call tourism the hospitality industry, but it’s hardly hospitable. Hospitality is a welcome that goes both ways. You are welcome to my home, and I am welcome to yours. Tourism is hardly that. White people are welcome to the world. Brown people have to show receipts.

Try being a brown person and getting a visa. Are you from Iran or Pakistan or Somalia? Fuck off. Are you from a slightly more respectable country? You had better not be a stinking poor, bring bank statements. We have to sit in embassies and outsourced processing stations like humble mendicants, proving that we will not despoil your land with our terrible darkness or poverty. Our passports are an embarrassment, each escape an exception the the rule. We wear stamps on our foreheads. They read: ‘Return To Sender. Soon’.

Eric Fischl, A Visit To / A Visit From / The Island, 1983

Meanwhile, at home, the beaches are white. Each cove is wrapped from corner to corner with sunburnt bodies, colonial descendants returning to enjoy their former lands. They don’t own us anymore, they have to pay us a small toll, indulge us as we unroll bundles of cloth and shells, offer to massage their feet.

If they want a hotel or nice meal, of course, it’s best to go someplace white-owned. The best properties are managed by foreigners or, as they’re referred to, ‘expats’. Not immigrants or migrants, those words are for the browns. And if an ‘expat’ decides to stay and work they’re not an illegal immigrant, they’re just ‘overstaying their visa’. That term is for the poors.

While colonialism has ostensibly ended, our borders and — by extension — our minds remain colonized. Through language, through lines, through injustices that we ourselves enforce. We reject our own people at our own borders, they don’t even need to get to white man land. Our rich get their visas and shrug at the rejection of our middle class and poor. Our leaders get diplomatic passports and have us pay for their jaunts overseas.

Brown countries welcome tourism — for the money — and never question why we are not welcome in return. To visit Europe we need to…



Indrajit (Indi) Samarajiva is a Sri Lankan writer. Follow me at, or just email me at