“Going South”, this expression is as general as it is specific. For Quebecers, it means spending a week in an all-inclusive package in the Caribbean or on the Pacific coast of Mexico. A few days where everything is already organized, plane, bus, hotel, buffet, all-you-can-drink bar, beach and pool in the same package. All that’s left to do is to get on the plane and land on the beach a few hours later.
This moment of relaxation and hard-earned madness, we have been waiting for it all year long. Finally, to escape a few days in the heat, far from the worries, the cold wind of February and especially from a boss.
For our northern country, a climate where palm trees grow and where frost only exists in the freezer is often synonymous with paradise. However, these hotels are far away from the local realities. Sort of islets, even fortresses, they take little account of the economic and political conditions of the regions that host them. These hotels are the modern expression of mass tourism. Again, we leave the metropolises in search of the resources that are lacking, in this case sun, heat and sand.
Most of the time, the local populations are forbidden to access the beaches. Otherwise they serve as cheap labor to ensure affordable vacations for international tourists.
Julie Langenegger Lachance, of Swiss origin and born in England, is making her first all-inclusive vacation in 2014. Her need for a vacation and her small budget pushes her and her husband to go on a 6-day trip to Cuba.
A few years later, she returns alone to the Grand Memories Hotel in Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba to photograph the daily life of the vacationers.
The images she took there are tinged with kitsch. They show tourists who are not adapted to the climate, keeping on their skin the marks of a scorching sun contrasted by the demarcations of the bathing suits.
More than mocking, it is self-mockery that carries the report. Julie sees it as a reflection of the West, of the consumer society and of some absurd moments arising from it. The photographs bring a smile to our face and remind us of photographers like Martin Parr who inspired the project.
It is certainly better to laugh than cry about it, but as Julie says: This tourism sector is harmful to the sustainable economy and the environment. As soon as you get out of these hotels you discover a landscape that has been devastated by construction […] the only people who will benefit from this are the investors.
If humor allows us to tackle sometimes delicate subjects, memories make us laugh as much as reflect on the way to travel.