MASS TOURISM: WE’RE STILL JUST ANIMALS, FOLLOWING THE HERD
In many ways, we remain herd animals to this day, especially when it comes to travel. We often journey to the same places. Take the same photos. Do the same activities. And then leave quickly. Why, though?
With this kind of attitude, it’s pertinent to wonder about the repercussions of mass tourism — is it bound to make the world unlivable? This is a question that is dealt with in a VRT podcast. It is also something I cannot fully comment on right now. But I do know this: it certainly makes a holiday less fun.
Even the word does not sound nice. Mass tourism. It evokes an image of overcrowded buses and subways. Troops of Asians tourists with lenses as far as Tokyo. Litter everywhere.
My own experience with mass tourism
Over the years, I too have come across some extremely touristy places. I have childhood memories from the Trevi Fountain in Rome. I remember the insane buzz and bustle, I remember the unsmiling local shopkeepers who had crowds of people in front of their shop windows. Come on, you don’t eat sandwiches on the steps in front of a store!
More recently, I found no parking space when I went to visit the Ponta Da Piedade in Lagos, in the Algarve region. Had to just head into town (a must, by the way… forget that touristy beach!).
Even in my own region, Limburg, there is sporadic mass tourism. Or rather: miniature mass tourism, if that makes sense. If you step onto the streets during a sunny blossom weekend, you’ll know what I mean.
Sure, crowds are disturbing, but unfortunately little can be done about it. So I will not go on about regular crowds. I find the annoying behavior of (mass) tourists to be much worse.
Case in point: Instagram tourists. What do I mean? Well, imagine this: I’m in Machu Picchu, enjoying the welcome view after walking for four days in an oxygen-poor atmosphere. And suddenly, I am asked to step aside. Excuse me? Well, someone wants to take a picture. I’m at a loss for words, but they aren’t apparently: “You already took your picture.”
And suddenly, I am asked to step aside. Excuse me? Well, someone wants to take a picture. I’m at a loss for words, but they aren’t apparently: “You already took your picture.”
Needless to say, this is a phenomenon that I can’t handle very well. Mass tourists are herd animals and a photo is essential for the herd. This is their favorite strategy: just take a picture and leave.
How can you possibly take in the location in this manner?
So what now?
Can you do something about mass tourism on a grand scale? Probably not. Our society has gradually evolved in this direction and that’s a slow, intricate process that you cannot just reverse. But, individually, we can change tourist behaviour for the better… even if it means making small changes.
Here are a few examples:
- Look beyond your nose, which probably just reaches Lloret or Santorini. Trust me, even off the well-described paths, there’s a lot of beauty to explore.
- Plan more in your trip than just the desire to snap that classic photo. Truly take in the environment.
- Always respect others. I don’t want to be preachy, but the tourists you meet (even those with different holiday styles) have looked forward to their vacation just as much as you.
- And always remember: it’s because of the locals who work in the tourism sector that you can even holiday in these wonderful places. Be sure to treat them with all the courtesy they deserve.
And that’s it for now.
Text & photos by Toon Voets
About TravelRebel Toon
Toon Voets is a travel enthusiast and content creator, just to use a cool term. He makes films professionally and, as a hobby, he pins down some travel writings and snaps pictures.
His real travel career started in 2014 with a solo trip from Ljubljana to Athens. This was followed by one large trip outside Europe and (too many) small trips within the continent each year. Recently, his traveling has reduced a bit because of construction and baby plans, but of course Belgium (and especially Limburg!) is also beautiful. 😉
An extremely early morning walk is a must. The world at its best and no people outside. In the afternoon, he craves naps, but that isn’t so bad, is it?