Positano is an overrated travel destination, this writer says

When pandemic travel restrictions lifted, many people booked their flights for long-delayed vacations, often having spent months (or years) doing their travel research on Instagram. The Italian town of Positano, located off the Amalfi Coast, has become an especially in-demand location for influencers looking to land the perfect “effortless” vacation photos.

But is traveling to such a well-known hot spot really worth it?

Rebecca Jennings, a senior correspondent at Vox, wrote about her own experience traveling to Positano in an article titled, “The Instagram capital of the world is a terrible place to be.”

“Marketplace” host Kimberly Adams spoke with Jennings to find out why. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation. 

Kimberly Adams: Describe Positano and why you chose to focus on it for your piece, or perhaps, picking on it for your piece.

Rebecca Jennings: So, Positano is this very tiny town on the Amalfi coast of Italy. A lot of travel guides call it “the jewel of the Amalfi coast.” So basically what it looks like is, all these little houses that are in, like, pastel colors are stacked against the cliffside, and there’s a little bay, and it’s very, like, crystal blue waters every day. There are about 12,000 people there. But it’s only built for about 4,000.

Adams: Wow. So you decided to go. I’m curious what your experience there revealed to you about how people are traveling in general these days. 

Jennings: Sure, so this is a really tiny resort town, the Amalfi Coast has been kind of a vacation land for the uber rich, but with traveled being, you know, so much more accessible than it ever has been in any point in history, really, for a middle-class person, you can go to all these places, but that doesn’t mean that you’re going to have, you know, a luxurious experience. And I think that was something that really jumped out to me. I still really enjoyed the experience. But the whole time I was like, “Man, this is really reflective of what Instagram travel is.”

Adams: What does it mean for the local residents when so much of the local economy hangs on tourism in this town and many other tourist towns all over the world?

Jennings: Yeah, I think it’s led to a lot of tension. You got a lot of local politics where it’s like, OK, are we catering too much to the tourists versus, you know, the locals. And I know that’s happening on the Amalfi coast, where there’s one road that you can drive on that goes to all the towns on the Amalfi Coast, and you will sit there for, like, potentially hours, because of how heavy the traffic is, because people rented cars and, you know, wanting to see every stop. So they actually made a law where only cars that ended in a certain license plate number can drive on every other day of the week. And obviously, there’s some people who find this really good and stimulating for the economy. And some people who find this just like completely erasing local culture. And that’s just going to be a point of tension. No matter where you are in the world.

Adams: You wrote that traveling right now feels like walking into a Chanel store, but never being able to put on the clothes. But people generally avoid going to a store where they know they can’t buy anything. And yet, even budget travelers are still going to these destinations, where those beautiful shots are really only from places that rich people can afford to go. Why is that?

Jennings: Yeah, because I think what all those pictures that we see are marketing. You know, they’re beautiful pictures, but that doesn’t mean they’re accessible to all unfortunately. I think travelers who aren’t willing to shell out [for], you know, $5,000 a night hotel stays, you’ll have so much more fun going somewhere else that is more catered to you. Like, I have no desire to go to someplace like Monaco because it’s like, what am I going to do in Monaco? Walk around and feel really poor. Like, I have no desire to do that. Yeah.

Adams: Having been to Monaco that is exactly what you do. 

Jennings: Good to know.

Adams: How has your experience in Positano changed the way that you’re going to travel moving forward?

Jennings: I think I’m going to spend a lot less time taking the reviews of other people super super seriously and I think lingering more in one place rather than trying to see everything I think is an important thing.

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