My travel alter-ego has returned after a three year hiatus. He wrote this post after visiting one too many packed tourist sights. Check out this interview I did with him to find out who he is, and you can also read his post about travelling with a guitar.
Tourists…they’re annoying aren’t they? They flock to popular attractions and completely ruin them. These days they seem to be straying further from their usual routes and are becoming more like us, the proper travellers. We used to only see them on the rare occasions we ventured to popular tourist sites, but now they’re everywhere, and something needs to be done.
I decided to create an iPhone app that detects tourist activity at any particular beach, historic building, restaurant, or town square. Since I don’t actually know how to make iPhone apps, I had to rethink my plans and come up with something easier. It requires a little bit of adding and subtracting, so I apologise for the inconvenience (but there is an app for that, so you should be fine).
Next time you’re travelling, stop for 5 minutes and observe your surroundings. It might be a hip cafe you just discovered (it’s not in Lonely Planet yet) a town square or maybe a local beach that most tourists don’t stray to. Take a random selection of 5 people (who aren’t locals). Each person gets 5 points, so the tally always starts at 25 points.
Take off 1 point for every CANNON DSLR camera that you see (most have the Cannon strap so they are easy to spot). Take off another point for every money belt, bum bag, fanny pack, or whatever you call those things that tourists wear around their waists. It can be hard to see these so you’ll probably have to leer a bit – you might look like a sex offender but it’s all in the name of research. Take off another point for any guidebooks those 5 people are carrying. Take 2 points off if you hear anyone speaking to a local entirely in English (assuming you aren’t in an English speaking country) and subtract 2 points for every selfie that you see (4 points if it’s taken on an IPad). Subtract 3 points if one of your chosen tourists is following a group leader holding a flag or a whistle.
Now it’s time to add some points. Add 2 points if any of your random 5 moans about tourists, says the phrase “It has changed so much since I was last here” or if it’s obvious they are travel writer; they know how to travel properly. Add 2 points if any of your 5 tourists has crossed the “local” threshold, meaning they are socialising with locals and trying to make sure no one thinks they are a tourist. Also add 2 points if one of them has a massive unruly beard, assuming it’s a man. Long beards usually mean long trips, which means they can’t really be classified as a tourist.
If the score is over 20 you can be safe in the knowledge that mass tourism hasn’t reached that off the beaten path place just yet. The travellers who have ventured there are authentic and are of great benefit to the area.
The 15 to 20 range is a bit of a danger zone, but it should still be tolerable for short periods of time.
The 10-15 is almost a no go for me, but you could brave it every now and again.
Anything under 10 and I’d leave immediately and never return. It’s now acting as a black hole, sucking in authentic travellers and turning them into tourists; you’ll never be the same again.
How do you feel about tourists? Should we all try be more authentic when we travel? Would you buy my app? Let me know in the comments below!
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