|Pictured Rocks Cruises Historical Marker|
But what about a city, or a region, that has relied on tourism for decades, or even centuries? Under those circumstances, what does the fronting of the history of tourism mean for those engaged in tourism today? As a sometimes self-critical tourist, it is easy to feel comforted by these overtures of acceptance. This tourism history becomes the "heritage" of the region, inviting you, the visitor, to become a link in a long chain of (to use another buzz-word) regional sustainability. You are not a scavenger, flooding to a place that has lost its industrial identity and replaced it with voyeurism, you are a fellow-traveler on a long road of appreciation for natural beauty and a spirit of hospitality.
|View of the Grand Hotel Porch on Mackinac Island|
On Mackinac Island, it is easy to feel like a re-enactor simply by crossing the straits. The citizens of Mackinac Island, supported by their burgeoning tourism industry, created their own alternative historical trajectory by banning the automobile on the island in 1896. As a result, horses abound every summer, and a carriage tour business thrives. A bastion of the Mackinac Island tourist scene is the Grand Hotel which has been in continuous operation since 1887. The hotel boasts the longest porch in American (and probably the world) and a self-consciously old fashioned sense of hospitality and resort culture that includes evening dress-codes that call upon vacationers to wear coats and ties or dresses after 6:00 pm every evening. Inside the hotel, the walls of the basement level are decked with hundreds of original historical documents, from lease-letters to newspaper articles, old photographs and old menus. These artifacts are posted in no particular order, and are rendered somehow even more inviting as a result. This is a kind of family album collage provided by a hotel with the kind of soul created by years of continued use.
|Arch Rock, Mackinac Island, Mich. (1900-1902); Detroit Public Library Publishing Company Postcard Collection, Courtesy of the New York Public Library|
|Arch Rock, Mackinac Island, Mich. (2012) photo by the author|