The two main cities which I have called home in the UK can both be described as “touristy”. Their economies reliant on both domestic and international visitors flocking to them to spend cash. I myself have worked in several tourism industry jobs. You would think that the people who live in popular tourist destinations would be thankful for the influx of people providing them with income. Sadly the growth of international tourism has proven to be anything but a positive thing for many residents of tourist destinations.
A booming tourist economy can put basic costs of living far out of reach for many employed by the traditionally low paying tourism industry. Why would developers build affordable housing when they can build holiday accommodation? Why would landlords rent monthly to local tenants when they can charge by the night as an Air BnB? I am not going to advocate cities setting strict limits on the number of hotel rooms or holiday apartments, that would just lead to a black market in unlicensed/illegal holiday properties. I feel the economic issues of living in a tourist city could largely be addressed by paying tourist industry workers a fairer wage. Much of the anger towards tourists stems simply from the fact that tourists in large numbers often make a place simply unpleasant to live.
As a frontline worker in a busy tourist city not a day goes by when I don’t see tourist behaviour that leaves me at best speechless and at worst outraged at the total disregard that tourists often show to the locations that they visit and to the people who live and work in them – even to the very staff that are working to make their visit a pleasant one. As such I have come up with a few guidelines that I feel people should attempt to follow when playing the role of a tourist at home or abroad. All of these are based on my personal experiences working in front line tourist industry roles but I would love to hear suggestions for further guidelines based on other peoples experiences
- Be aware of other people around you – Whilst it can often be bewildering finding yourself in an unfamiliar place, particularly one that is busy or where you may not speak the language or understand the customers, you should at least recognise that you are not the only visitor there. If you are unsure about what it is you wish to do when visiting a tourist attraction maybe step aside and take a minute to make your decision rather than getting in the way of everyone around you whilst your entire group attempts to come to a collective decision. If you are in a large group all shouting over each other to be heard in a conversation then you are probably drowning out everyone else in the room too.
- Don’t attempt to stage a full blown photoshoot – Similar to above, if you are taking two dozen shots just to get that one perfect instagram shot to impress a few total strangers online the chances are you are not considering that your fellow travellers may also want to grab a photo too and they shouldn’t have to wait for ages for that one overly vain individual who wants to try out a full range of poses and a couple of costume changes. Ditto for group shots, if your group wants to take a photo outside a famous landmark maybe don’t do it in front of the main entrance preventing your fellow travellers from getting in and out of the place whilst you all arrange yourself. Also not everyone in the group needs to take turns snapping their own photo, the joy of digital photography is that you can take a shot on one camera and easily share it with the rest of the group. Finally if you are using a selfie-stick in a crowded area then you ARE in everyones way and they all hate you for it.
- Respect customer service staff – Our job is to help you have a pleasant time, listen to what we have to say and speak to us respectfully and we will usually go out of our way to ensure you have a pleasant visit often providing you discounts or free upgrades/extras or even just some local knowledge to help make your trip an easier one. We understand that often you may be in a hurry or may not entirely understand us but show us the respect that you would expect from us and 9 times out of 10 you will be better off for it. Ignore us, talk over us, walk away from us mid sentence and I guarantee you are getting the bare minimum service for your entire visit.
- Tell staff what it is you want – This is not just a case of respect, we are not mind readers, if you walk up to a ticket desk and just thrust money at us without saying a word expecting a ticket you actually make our job harder. We cannot always tell how many tickets you want or if you are eligible for student/senior discounts. Tell us what you want and we will be able to serve you much quicker and sometimes may even be able to get you a better price too. Also trust that we will give you the best deal we can, if you are family with a few kids don’t stand there trying to work out all the various pricing permutations (all you are doing is holding up the queue and annoying everyone around you), just tell us how many adults and how many kids and their ages. If its cheaper to get a family group ticket we will do that for you. – I know this may not be the case at all destinations but at UK tourist attractions its a pretty safe assumption you don’t have to do all the maths yourself to get the best price, the cash register will do that for you.
- Remember that you are in a living working city – Cities like Barcelona, York, Prague, London, Venice, etc may look nice but they are not Disneyland (or Westworld). They were not built specifically for your amusement. Walking three abreast across a narrow pavement is guaranteed to piss off the locals who are trying to get to/from work. If something is fenced off chances are its private property you are not meant to climb over that fence to go and explore it. Even many visitor attractions, particularly historic monuments, were not designed with to allow tourists to do what they please. They are managed in a way to allow enjoyment for all not just for you. Deliberate damage or vandalism will never be tolerated but also try to show some awareness that maybe the reason a historic site has lasted so long is because it hasn’t continually had parts of it kicked of it to ensure they are still sturdy
- Read the signs – If a sign says “No entrance”, “One Way”, “Staff Only”, “Do Not Climb”, “Do Not Touch” then do as it damned well says. It was put there for a reason.
- Don’t litter – This should be an obvious one but sadly it still needs to be said
- Entertain your own kids – As customer service staff are not baby sitters, many of us do not even like children. If you cannot be bothered to supervise your own children then do not expect us to do it for you. That is not our job. Childcare is not included in the ticket price.
- Remember you don’t have to be here – It seems odd but barely a day goes by that people show up at my place of work and it seems they don’t actually want to be there, they are either totally disinterested or even resentful that they are even there in the first place. If you would rather be at home in front of Netflix that’s ok, I would rather you were there too. I know being cooped up at home with your family can sometimes seem like a hellish experience particularly on a long bank holiday weekend but if you really need to get out of the house maybe leave the attitude at home or at least go somewhere where you don’t inflict it upon everyone else.
- Remember front-line staff don’t set the prices – If you think something is too expensive don’t go getting arsey and shouting “ripoff” at the poor sod behind the counter. If he or she is wearing a name badge and a uniform and working on a Sunday you can almost guarantee that pricing strategy is way above their pay grade. Trade secret – whilst that poor sod in the ticket booth may not have the power to set the prices they may still be able to offer you a reduced ticket price (I.e giving you a concession ticket instead of a full adult) or even sometimes just turn a blind eye and wave you in for free (In the past I have done this just because somebody was wearing the jersey of my favourite sports team). I will admit it is rare that we will do this as we are not supposed to but you greatly increase your chances of this happening if you are just pleasant to us.
- Speak to staff as you would like to be spoken to – This is another respect issue but I feel it needs its own point. Basic polite conversation seems to be a dying fashion amongst tourists. If somebody says “hello” to you an acknowledging grunt back is guaranteed to make a terrible first impression. If you mishear or misunderstand somebody the correct response is “pardon” or politely asking them to repeat themselves. Grunting “Y’WOT?!” at them is a sure fire way to test their patience.
- Learn to queue – I know in some cultures queuing is not the done thing but most tourist attractions require some kind of queuing system to process visitor admissions. The entrances to visitor attractions generally serve as bottlenecks to manage the flow of visitors, if you are part of a group and decide to stand three+ abreast or huddle around in a circle whilst standing in line chances are you are blocking that bottle neck. If you simply try and cut the queue then congratulations everyone now hates you. In either case it is going to take you longer to get in if you cannot grasp the concept of an orderly line.
- Leave your personal politics at home – I accept that in a customer service job I will occasionally have to serve some racist/sexist/homophobic/generally bigoted wankers. However, if they elect to air their neanderthal views to me they can expect I will be doing everything I can possibly get away with to ensure their visit is an unpleasant one. I haven’t forced my liberal agenda on you so don’t force your narrow minded hatred on me.
I could go on adding more for days but if even half of these guidelines became more commonly followed I know my every day life both as a tourism industry worker and as a resident in a popular tourist city would be exponentially happier.