Saturday, September 7, 2019

There's a New Sort of Ugly Tourist Afoot in the World


There’s been a revolution of sorts in the tourist industry. For generations tourism operators have had their “least favorites” list of guests, most often categorized by countries of origin. Virtually all new-to-travel nations have experienced time it that ignominious barrel, fermenting away in their own anxieties and cultural self-defenses, until demonstrating the desired mellowed good graces of being appreciative and courteous toward their hosts; whereupon they’re replaced by the next batch.

Today, there’s a new breed in the barrel. One that’s comes without a tinge of political incorrectness, for it cuts across all national origins, cultures, ages, races, religions, and sexual preferences.  But most importantly, across all brands of smartphones, a/k/a cell phones or mobiles.

Huh? you ask.

Permit me to backtrack.  Mykonos is a terrific place for tourism research. It’s currently one of the hottest tourist destinations on earth, drawing every conceivable category of traveler, be that by wealth, origins, or predilections.

Over the years (how many I shall not say) I’ve found myself in conversations with folk involved in tourism worldwide and listened to assorted takes on their then “least favorite” tourist. Generally, the evaluators agreed.

So, this year when friends in tourism began complaining about this year’s crop of visitors, I asked the natural question. “Where are they from?”

The answer blew me away. “Everywhere.”

“How could that be?” I’d ask, and the answer was as often mimed as spoken—by fingers imitating pounding on a cell phone.

It’s finally happened. That little screen has achieved what religion, globalism, and the Tower of Babel never did.  Universal assimilation of very different backgrounds around one shared ideal:  “I am the center of the universe, and what I hold in my hand shares my importance with the world.” 

A Tower of Babel made up of cell phones

Every tourist provider I spoke to said the same thing:  Social skills are gone. “Hello” has been replaced by “Do you have WiFi here?” and “Thank you” is now, “What’s the password?”  Far too many lack rudimentary civility, miss social cues, and believe they alone are all important in any situation.

If they arrive four hours before check-in, they want a room immediately.   If they stay four hours beyond check out, so what? How their desires impact upon other clients is of no concern to them, and disagreement is met with, “I shall give you a bad review on TripAdvisor.”

Etiquette has become a thing of the past for this type.  Loud phone conversations in the most public of spaces, peppered with curses and revelations of the most intimate nature, are commonplace. A gentle reminder that conversations of that sort are better held in the privacy of one’s room elicits the ever-at-the-ready, “I’m going to give you a bad review on TripAdvisor,” threat.

Desperate to emulate the celebrities they follow on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or whatever floats their boat, they use their phones to groom themselves for selfies, and much as did Snow White’s Evil Queen, anxiously await confirmation from their magic mirror of just how admired they are.

Thankfully, it’s not everyone from everywhere. But even a single burr under your saddle can wreck your day.

In the past, countries have attempted to counter their respective nation's bad tourism reputation by distributing to prospective travelers information on how to behave in the countries they chose to visit. [e.g., The Communist Party’s Central Guidance Commission for Building Spiritual Civilisation and the China National Tourism Administration issued a 128-character-long rhyme to remind tourists of behaving in a “civilized manner” on the road.]

Perhaps what’s needed today is a similar effort on the part of cellphone providers, passing along instructions on the elemental behavioral norms of face-to-face human interactions. Maybe a podcast would work, set to music, and narrated by a reality TV star.




  1. Replies
    1. Wow, coming from you that's tremendous praise indeed! Thank you, J&J.

  2. 100% true,
    People have become increasingly rude and feel it's justified.
    Threats of a bad rating are all too common.
    Globalisation amd technology has made us all more isolated. At my work collegues were discussing how they now don't like Twitter because it doesn't have a like function anymore.
    What can we say?
    Great article Jeffrey

    1. Thanks, Vassili, and isn't it amazing how societal norms have changed so rapidly to accommodate the technology!

  3. The problem I see is that it's not only when they are tourists. They behave like that at home too...

    1. But at least at home their parents can send them to bed without supper, Michael. Oh...I forgot, these days when children misbehave their parents hand them a cellphone or e-notebook to keep them occupied.

  4. Hold not thy breath, lest thine lips turn blue and ruin thy selfie.

    1. You're such a poet, EvKa, and your feet show it, they're long fellow.

  5. There will be even less and less civility as children grow to be adults. No one is raising children;most spend next to no time with caring adults. The ones who care won't take the time to teach and correct them, and the schools will not interfere, lest the other adults complain.The world is in a sad state of affairs.

  6. There's a lot to what you say, Tonette, even more in how the use of cellular devices and E-notebooks as babysitting devices, further and further insulate growing children from face-to-face interaction with their peers.

  7. I gave a graduation present to the daughter (a delightful young wman) of a friend of mine. Not a close friend, but close enough to be invited to the party. Did I ever receive a thank you? No. I now have a policy that anyone who doesn't thank me for a gift gets no more gifts.

    1. I like that approach. By the way, thank you for that beer you bought me a half-dozen or so years ago...