Published on : Tuesday, April 9, 2019
Tourists are turning into nuisance more often than not and destinations are becoming wary of them. Japan’s famous Nanzoin Temple, with its huge statue of a reclining Buddha, attracts hordes of tourists. But now signs in 12 languages warn foreign visitors that they may not enter the temple in large groups.
It’s part of anti-tourist sentiment, driven by “the bad manners and abhorrent actions” of some visitors from abroad, reportedly growing all over Japan – and elsewhere in the world.
For example, in Amsterdam city authorities have put a halt on new hotels and souvenir shops, and are cracking down on private rental platforms.
Tourism brings many benefits to communities around the world. But tourism hotspots are feeling the strain as tourist numbers increase. Locals resent being crowded out of restaurants and parks. They resent paying inflated prices. Most of all they resent tourists behaving badly.
The increasing prevalance of the badly behaved tourist, either in reality or simply as cultural meme, presents a serious issue for the tourism industry. In cities at tourism’s bleeding edge, such as Venice, resentment has boiled over into anti-tourism protests. In Barcelona the cause against foreign visitors has been embraced by left-wing nationalist activists. Their view is expressed in graffiti around Barcelona: “Refugees welcome; tourists go home.”
Unless the tourism industry does something to address underlying aggravations, such sentiments are likely to spread. There’s a danger that tourism, instead of building bridges for cross-cultural understanding and friendship, will add to the stereotypical walls that separate people.
Sometimes bad behaviour is a matter of perception, and comes down to cultural differences. There are places in China, for example, where it’s perfectly acceptable to leave your restaurant table, and the floor around it, an absolute mess. Two Chinese women visiting Japan, however, became the focus of international criticism due to a video that appeared to show them being asked to leave an Osaka restaurant because of their “disgusting eating habits”.
The question arises as to why tourists don’t make more effort to understand and follow local customs.
Then there’s the question of why tourists behave in ways they wouldn’t dream of at home. Maybe it’s wearing a lime-green mankini while wandering through Krakow. Or nothing at all at Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s most holy shrine.
The evidence suggests there’s something about being on holiday that simply seems to lower people’s inhibitions.
Otherwise ordinary people commit stupid acts like attempting to steal a propaganda poster in the world’s most totalitarian state. Or spray-painting grafitti on a wall of a site where millions were murdered. Or brawling for a prime selfie spot at Rome’s Trevi Fountain.
Sustainable tourism rests on a number of pillars. One of those is the need for the tourist to respect local people, cultures and environments.
The problem now, as other tourism scholars have pointed out, is that tourism is promoted as an activity of pure hedonism. Rather than being encouraged to see themselves as global citizens with both rights and responsibilities, tourists are sold an illusion of unlimited indulgence. They are positioned as consumers, with special privileges.