Growing Tourism Market Means An Increase In Tourist Misconduct

Tourism is beginning to become a bad word in many parts of the world. Headlines regarding tourists complete disregard and disrespect for local values have only increased within the past years and a big part of the blame is to be placed on social media. 

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), there was a record of 1.4 billion tourists visiting various places around the globe in 2018, making the tourism market a $1.7 trillion industry. While many places around the world are highly dependent on the high grossing tourism market, many popular destinations are trying to restrict the market. Venice, Italy, for example, is affected every year by the population spikes during the vacation season, causing the water levels to continue to rise at astronomical rates. Places such as Ibiza and Barcelona have even implemented tourism taxes to make up for the amount of water and food waste they go through yearly, according to CNN

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One of the biggest reasons behind an increase in tourism over the years is social media and influencer culture. Trendy tourist destinations see a major increase in their normal tourism rates when highly followed influencers visit them. In addition, the mending of cultures between traditional and sacred locations and social media stars just looking for a quick photo-op is causing a lot of the worlds “anti-tourism” attitude. 

“Currently, there are no statistics to suggest that misconduct by tourists is increasing. However, in this digital era, things can go viral easily, giving the impression that inappropriate conducts are increasing in number. This is actually an important reminder for the security forces and tourism industries to continue to educate tourists on respecting local culture and rituals. It’s possible that recent misconduct by tourists in Bali may relate to the individual’s lack of awareness and understanding of local wisdom and values of the Balinese people. The trend for sharing these types of videos on social media only serves to worsen the relationship between tourists and locals,” Michael O’Regan, a former assistant professor at the Institute for Tourism Studies Macao, said to CNN Travel

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Tourists in general are becoming less socially aware of foreign policies and using the fact that they’re a tourist as an excuse to behave recklessly. According to CNN, so much so that places like Italy have taken action with its tourism laws. Italy has banned street drinking, any public fountain swimming, and pub crawls. Different areas of Europe have also banned any sort of food products in areas of historic value. Drinking is one of the main reasons behind so many tourist horror stories. Individuals, especially in Europe, assume that the alcohol is always flowing, and therefore you can act as such 24/7.

The best way to combat the increasing levels of disconnect between a culture’s values and tourists rule breaking naive way of thinking is through education. Not the type of education that they receive on a tour bus, but preliminary research instead. It’s the tourists responsibility to be fully aware and educated on the are that they will be travelling too, especially if it’s a completely different culture. 

“Usually these incidents are related to abuse of alcohol and ensuing behavior related to drunk and disorderly conduct. At the national level we would say that the best way to deal with this is to work on public awareness and education about respecting the destination one is visiting, there’s no evidence to suggest codes of conduct actually work, pointing out that many tourists won’t even be aware of them in the first instance. Tourism is meant to educate. Travelers should go to a different destination, adapt to different cultures and come back somewhat changed. Educational outreach about expectations before tourists even arrive can help reduce tensions. We can’t expect ready made, perfect tourists as soon as they land at a destination. It’s a learning process,” says Ina Rodin, director of North America at the Croatian National Tourist Office to CNN.