Complaints that tourists are becoming nuisance are getting rife each day. In many places, locals often complain that visitors are overcrowding and littering their space. Others complain that tourists act drunk and lewd, causing environmental damage, failing to respect local culture, inappropriately touching or taking things and driving up rents. At the very extreme, these complaints have led authorities to shut down popular tourists’ destinations – as was done at The Louvre when employees walked out because of overwhelming crowds (the Louvre was subsequently reopened) and at Thailand’s Maya Bay, which has now been closed to tourists indefinitely. While there is an ongoing campaign for responsible tourism, tourists haven’t wholly taken to the full tenants of this campaign. In this piece, we suggest a few tips on how to be a better tourist.
Ask yourself why you want to travel
In this Instagram age, the desire to show off drives many to holiday in places that barely connect to their interest. Of course, tourism has always thrived on people’s ‘vanity’ – the idea of securing proof of your trip, making it (and you) look fantastic and then beaming it out to everyone you know. But it’s time to pause and ask if your goal for travelling to a place is because you really want to see the palace or to show people you’ve been there? If the latter is your overall goal, your holiday will end up superficial, and you would have added to the nuisance that local people complain about.
There is no doubt that local people usually love real tourists. But real tourists aren’t people who, Bryan Lufkin says, “read a paragraph in a guide book or copy friends on Facebook, then parachute into a city and get the same selfie they did”. “If you don’t like museums, for example, don’t clog up the Louvre and whiz through without a clue what you’re seeing.” Here is a piece of advice, don’t go to places for the wrong reasons. Before you choose a holiday destination, do your research, confirm there is something you can connect with in the destination, the go and have more than just a superficial holiday.
Don’t just go to the popular spots
It is understandable if you are in Cape Town, and you’d want to visit Table Mountain. However, bear in mind that if all the tourists in Cape Town do that, they will all not enjoy the holiday and you would have added to the over-tourism that locals complain about. Instead of being fixated on the popular attractions, consider exploring further afield, you’ll probably find a genuine ‘hidden gem’, and definitely pumped money into the economy in a way that helps locals more.
Always remember that the place you’re visiting as a tourist is someone’s home and community. You must respect those people by learning their DOs and DON’Ts and follow them. While some community provide these rules in multilingual leaflets, tourists can easily access them online or at tourist centres.
Plan and Prepare to be better
Some tourists often forget that there is no right to travel. Some assume that having spent so much to get to a destination; they have the right to go anywhere and do anything; that is wrong. As a traveller, you are only borrowing the place from the local. With this in mind, plan and prepare to be a better guest. Treat the destination as you would your own home. Remember to do good research about the destination before you travel there. Plan and prepare to be respectful and genuinely curious about the destination. That way, the locals will be glad to receive you and show you things about their community that you’ll never find online.
Are you a responsible tourist?
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This article was inspired by Bryan Lufkin’s How To Be a Better Tourist
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