Would it be bad if we couldn’t cheaply and freely fly all over the world? Well, it would dampen tourism for one thing. Would that be good or bad?
When a tourist goes to a foreign place, they consume exoticness produced by the native people. Is exoticness an infinite resource that the underdeveloped world exploits, or is there a marginal cost to producing more of it?
One possibility is that tourism is a force for globalization: tourists bring homogeneous, dominant culture with them. Starchitect Arthur Erickson thought so:
Worldwide tourism looms on the horizon as the gravest threat to human cultures – a threat because its ultimate result will be to destroy the very reason for its existence – the variety and interest of the world at large.
The tourist, far from being a sensitive explorer, transports his own values and demands to his destinations and implants them like an infectious disease decimating whatever values existed before.
…at some future time [tourism] may even be considered crimes against mankind.
But this assumes that tourists seriously engage with natives. I think that even backpackers mostly consume exoticness without bringing much of their own culture to the table.
Tourists don’t just consume any exoticness offered to them; they have specific preferences. They arrive with expectations and comfort zones (yes, even backpackers). What they consume is filtered through their existing beliefs. I know this because tourists tell standard narratives from it-was-so-convenient-having-prepaid-drinks to shopping-in-that-market-made-me-realize-how-much-we-take-for-granted.
In order to get maximum tourist dollars, native people perform exoticness (within comfort zones). Their cultures become inauthentic, hyperreal. As George Monbiot says:
[Tourism] extracts the differences between our land and culture and those of the nations we visit, until they scarcely exist. Remote and romantic beaches become mundane resorts. Remote and remarkable people tailor their culture to suit those who pay for it, until, in the words of a Maasai man, ‘We have ceased to be what we are; we are becoming what we seem.’
The inauthenticity opens these cultures up for globalization. Tourists, in consuming exoticness, deplete that resource. If you think diversity is morally good, then tourism is bad.