Travelers behaving badly: Is the conduct of tourists getting worse?


While tourists were once seen as a highly coveted source of income by destinations — and still are in some cases — we appear to be living in an age where traveling has become a byword for trouble.

But has the behavior of tourists actually gotten worse over time, or is this simply an inevitable consequence of more and more us packing our bags and heading out into the big wide world?

China issued a 64-page etiquette guide for its residents in 2013 after several incidents of Chinese travelers being called out for bad behavior.
Photo: Andrew Wong/Getty Images

There’s no doubt that tourism has increased dramatically in the last century. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO,) there were a record 1.4 billion international tourist arrivals last year, a 6% increase on 2017.

Rewind to 1970 before the travel boom brought about by low-cost airlines, that number was just 166 million. Go back even further to 1950, it was a mere 25 million.

Netherlands tourist officials have opted to stop advertising Amsterdam as a tourist destination after a surge in visitors.

The role of tourism in the global economy has also gained significance. In 2018, it was worth about $1.7 trillion (£1.3 trillion,) or around 2% of the total global gross domestic product.

According to the UNWTO, France is the most popular country in the world to visit, followed by Spain, the US, China and Italy.

However, several destinations have been victims of their own popularity.

Excessive tourism has driven many locals away from Venice, and the Italian city, along with destinations such as Ibiza and Barcelona, has introduced a tourism tax to counteract some of the detrimental impacts, such as water shortages and waste pollution.

Destination overload: France is the most popular country in the world to visit — capital Paris welcomes over 30 million foreign visitors per year.

“As long as humans have traveled, cultures have clashed and the environment has paid a price,” says Pezzullo, a tourism specialist

In August, YouTube vloggers Sabina Dolezalova and Zdenek Slouka, both from the Czech Republic, issued a public apology after receiving online backlash when Slouka was filmed lifting his girlfriend’s skirt and splashing water on her body inside the Beji Temple in the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali.

The scandal came just weeks after a clip of five Australian men running naked through the streets of the Indonesian island and urinating in public went viral.

Local protests: In 2017, 150,000 people marched against the growing number of tourists flocking to Barcelona.

Rome is one of several major destinations to introduce guidelines for tourists in a bid to curb bad behavior.

In 2018, the Italian capital passed a law banning street drinking, organizing pub crawls and taking a dip in the city’s fountains.

Tourists are also prohibited from eating snacks in public places and sitting on the staircases of historic monuments such as the Spanish Steps.

“In July and August, the city becomes a huge sewer and the people don’t care about any rules,” Verde tells CNN Travel. “It’s contributing towards destroying the city.”

Verde, who’s worked in the tourism industry for nearly two decades, has witnessed countless instances of abhorrent behavior from travelers.

Dying city: Venice has been plagued by over crowding, with an estimated 25 million tourists visiting the Italian destination each year.

Her horror stories involve a tourist who emptied their bladder shortly after getting off a bus to the Vatican and someone throwing up on one of the seats.

According to tourism expert Dr. Peter E. Tarlow, some travelers are likely to behave out of character while in a new destination due to the excitement and the anonymity of being somewhere seemingly unconnected to their everyday lives.

“Being away from home, travelers tend to lower their inhibitions, standards and behavior,” he wrote in his 2018 book “Tourism-Oriented Policing and Protective Services.”

“Because many travelers enjoy their feeling of anonymity, they are more willing to engage in rude, semi-legal or even illegal activities about which they would not engage at home.

“This lowering of inhibitions can range from minimal issues such as the use of foul language to issues of drunkenness or the use of illegal drugs.

“We all can offend people in our own cultures, let alone other cultures with which we are less familiar.

By Tamara Hardingham-Gill, CNN •