Can popular sights survive the endlessly increasing number of travellers...

Just returned from a wonderful visit to the 'Romantic' Rhine, the Berner Oberland, Ludwig's Bavaria and Salzburg. The weather, the people, the food, the events and of course the scenery were everything we expected and more...

but... We were not alone :-)

Even though we chose to travel during the 'shoulder' season to try to avoid crowds I was struck by the sheer number of tourists at every location - I can't imagine what it is like in July. And even more striking was the make-up of the tourists. It is clear that the financial success that many of the so-called third world nations have enjoyed over the last decades has produced a large group of new travellers. For example, twenty years ago when I visited Neuschwanstein there were an interesting number of Japanese tourists, but no Chinese. Two weeks ago at Neuschwanstein the Chinese outnumbered all other groups except perhaps the Americans.

So I was wondering - clearly the great sights of Europe appeal to everyone - as the various economies around the globe grow and produce bumper crops of new travellers will these locations simply become swamped to the point where they can no longer be enjoyed?

I have this image of a jostling mass of humanity milling around the base of the cable cars at Stechelberg ala' the Mona Lisa room at the Louvre ....

-bruce

Posted by Angela
Vancouver, Wa, USA
587 posts

One just needs to change their definition of "shoulder season". Once upon a time it meant May/early June and September. Now it means April, May, September, and October. Now we need to add March and November, only avoiding late fall and early winter. Or even travel year round to avoid the crowds who have changed their idea of shoulder season.

My next trip is to Italy from October 21-November 7. I won't be traveling to Cinque Terre or Lake Como since those places might not be enjoyable if the weather is bad, but places like Sorrento, Florence, and Venice should still be very fun and interesting.

Posted by Cyn
Wheat Ridge, CO, USA
1175 posts

@Angela-Sorrento at New Year's 2 years ago was fun, but there were still a lot of people. The ferry to Capri was packed, and waiting with me at the dock was a very large group of Japanese visitors, taking pictures of each other while waiting for the boat. I don't know whether the Christmas-to-Epiphany time causes a small bump in tourist traffic, but maybe even the off-off season isn't so "off" anymore.

A little farther north, two weeks earlier, we arrived early at the entrance to the Vatican Museum, armed with our reservation. We were surprised to find a sizeable rope maze set up outside the entrance doors, with no one in line! Within an hour and a half, however, the museum was jammed full. The Sistine Chapel was packed. At least it wasn't sweltering in Rome in December.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8672 posts

I have photo of !e as a 12 or 13 yr old in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles . It would have been taken between June and sept as that is always when I visited France.
There are no more then ten other people in the entire room with me.

Fast forward a few decades,now if you try to get a sh of someone on the same place they would likely be just the top of their heads in a mass of bodies,peeking over " here I am".

The only solution is to limit admissions,,but how can you leave thousands out, people who may have saved all their lives for a once in a lifetime trip?
.
I go and just put up with the crowds.

Posted by Holly
Durham, NC, USA
294 posts

Yes, the popular sites (I call them the "biggies") in any country or city can be crowded. It's nice to see them once just to say you've done it (I didn't go to the Louvre until my 5th visit to Paris), but then I prefer to search out more behind-the-scenes things to experience. They'll give you more of a feeling for the people and the culture you're visiting. See if there are any inexpensive walking tours offered based on your interests (history, gardens, etc.), take a cooking class of the local cuisine, ride the local transport system, walk around a neighborhood, etc. And I've even found a way to see the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles without the crowds!

Posted by Martin
Germany
384 posts

When I first visited the Jewish cemetery in Prague in the early 90s there wasn't a single tourist beside me, only a bored watchman who wondered what I want there. In the early 90s you could visit the cathedral for free (like it should be), and there were maybe 20 other people. These days the cathedral feels like a busy train station, the cemetery lost its magic and should be closed for tourists (it's a place of remembrance after all!), and you can't see the Charles bridge anymore because of all the tourists. Frankly, it's horrible. I only visit Prague between January and March these days, the only time of the year without these ignorant masses.
But the real victims are the smaller places. Cesky Krumlov, Rothenburg or Cinque Terre. They are way too small to accommodate the sheer number of tourists. To me it's absolutely irresponsible how Rick Steves, a travel writer with a huge number of followers, can recommend a place like Cinque Terre. Tiny villages with just one small road. Doesn't he know that he kills them?! Liguria is full of wonderful places, and he directs his followers to the smallest and most isolated?!

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
3120 posts

It does seem to me that the numbers have increased in the past 30 years, almost for sure due to travelers from China and India as well as increased numbers from the Americas. I've more recently noticed that many places are so swamped that you must now buy timed entry tickets. So many people show up, can't get a ticket for that day, and are turned away. This will become the norm in most places I suspect. And it will lead to a lot of disappointment.

Tourism has always been a bit of a Catch-22. It can be the lifeblood of places long forgotten by the developed world and reduced to poverty and decline, but once successful, it can take a serious toll physically and on the culture of the community.

The others are right, shoulder season is early spring and late fall in most of Europe. Spain and Greece are pretty quiet in November. But traveling then means possibly sacrificing good weather and means limited daylight and open hours and those with families cannot do it.

Calling RS, or any guidebook author, irresponsible for putting a place in a guidebook is silly. A town or hotel or restaurant only has so much capacity. Once full, people will have to move on. One might not like that guidebooks can fill up that capacity, thus ruining the peace and quiet or limiting the ability to stay there yourself, but that is just the way things are. I personally hate tour groups for the same reasons, but honestly the answer is the same for them too.

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10394 posts

Places I'm glad Rick Steves doesn't promote (or hasn't yet noticed): Leuven, Ypres, Hasselt, Tournai, Durbuys, Dinant, Spa, Maastricht, Kinderdijk, Aachen, Limburg an der Lahn, Bad Neuenahr-Arhweiler, Dillenburg, Marburg, Trondheim, Wetzlar, Büdingen, Miltenberg, Heppenheim, Weinheim, Bad Dürkheim, Michelstadt, Hirschhorn, Bad Wimpfen, Dilsburg, Speyer, Heidelberg, Wiesbaden, Alsfeld, Landshut, Bad Kissingen, Schwäbisch Hall, Binz, De Haan, Domburg, Königstein im Taunus, Idstein, Eberbach, Oberstdorf, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Flumserberg, Burghausen, Bamberg, Seligenstadt, Quedlinburg, Wernigerode, Meißen, Kitzbühl, Pottenstein, Kap Arkona and Stralsund. All the kind of towns that his fans salivate over, all the kind of towns that would be overwhelmed (or at least, their old centers) by them if they hit these places in the density that they do Rothenburg, Gimmelwald, the Cinque Terre, or Mürren. No, Rick Steves isn't the only guilty party... most guidebooks sold outside of Europe promote predominately the same locales.

Posted by jturie
Valley Forge, PA
42 posts

Sometimes it just doesn't matter. The hot spots are packed nearly all year around. I was at Versailles in mid-November a couple of years ago. Cool and cloudy and absolutely packed wall-to-wall. Very high percentage of Asian tourists, crowd noise so loud I could barely hear my guide (we 6 had booked a private tour). The Louvre was a zoo too, but we happened upon it on free Sunday. London, OTOH, wasn't bad at all crowds-wise, but the weather....oof.

Guidebooks or no...the world is just traveling more and the emergence of China as an economic power has added millions more tourists to the population. It is what it is, so everyone just has to deal with it patiently.....or go visit Andorra :)

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2193 posts

Actually, the Chinese may feel as though they are the ones being overrun by tourists. The UN maintains all kinds of statistics on tourism, and China is number three in the world behind France and the U.S. in terms of tourist arrivals. In terms of where the Chinese folks with money go, Japan is by far the top destination (unless they want plastic surgery, then they go to Seoul) . The U.S. is second, while Italy is way down at number eight. Greece comes in at number ten for the Chinese. Some of these other places, such as Germany and Austria, are in no danger of feeling the crush of Chinese tourism anytime soon. The big sites may be busier with Chinese tourists, but they're busier with American tourists and every other kind of tourist out there (including me). Sometimes, I try to schedule trips to avoid crowds, but sometimes I end up traveling with the crowds and just deal with it. Honestly, it’s vacation, so even a big crowd at Versailles is much better than being stuck working in a cube in downtown Des Moines. I love my hometown, but I love traveling alot more (even when things are packed).

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
4229 posts

Once again, we must agree with that great sage, Yogi Berra. "Nobody goes there anymore, its too crowded!"

Posted by Barry
San Diego, CA
612 posts

Tom, prior to reading your post and just thinking about this thread and some of the comments I was wondering if in a couple of years RS might visit some of those locations to write about and promote them. I've never been a travel writer but from what I've garnered from his books, TV shows and this website, he can only write about the now popular places for so long, I think it would only be natural for him to start writing about places that he hasn't touched on in the past. IMHO, a writer can only write and have published books about the same place for so long, so to continue writing and selling books I think he may have to find new "back doors" or "hidden gems", even if technically those places aren't that at all.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

One of the facets of the study of geography is examining the change in land use (for any reason).

. Honfleur was a French resort starting back in the mid-1800s - - now the more-locals have moved back to Dunkerque or on to the east closer to the Cotentin. Or have summer houses on the once-deserted Quiberon.
. Biarritz was a big deal, then came the Riviera, so the southern west coast has emptied out of international travelers.
. San Sebastian was a Honfleur for the Spanish, now they've moved over to Asturias and Galicia.
. When I spent time in Paris as a kid, there was neither an rer, an airport at Roissy, a peripherique, nor buildings at La Defense. D'Orsay was a derelict building. You could take a shortcut through the Sorbonne courtyard.
. When China first opened up, Shanghai wasn't much more than the bunds of the gun-boat days.
. Dubai didn't have electricity in the late '50s and was still a grubby little port in the '70s.
. The Kruger got so it had more people than critters - - there's been a shift to the Chobe, now it's having the same problem.
. The first time I ran the Green I didn't see another soul all the way from the headwaters to the Confluence. I did it a couple of weeks ago and it was bumper boats the whole way from Vernal. You had to stop early just to claim a chunk of a sandbar.
. After a couple weeks of hard grubbing, we were let off the leash at Hue one morning. By lunch it was rubble. Now it's back where it should be.
. Phuket used to be a place for hippies, dropouts, and people just generally ticked at the rest of the world.
. Marseille was the scene of an all-time bar fight - - and nobody gave a rat's rear bumper.
. Edinburg used to have some neat, grubby dives down around the waterfront, now somebody parked a fancy boat over there and it's all gotten spiffed up.
. Nyhavn was once kind of only a place for ruffians - - and the location for a magnificent, wee-hours, underwater, international, nekkid swimming contest.
. The South Carolina sea islands used to be just a place where South Carolinians had summer homes. Not many do anymore.

Places you can still almost get lost from the mobs:
. Extremadura
. Galicia
. Alta Alenjo except for Evora
. northwestern tip of Brittany
. Ghana
. southern Libya
. stone circles in the Highlands
. Patagonia, away from the ski areas and coastal eco-lodges
. most of Tasmania
. Mongolia outside of Ulan Bator
. Qinghai and Xinjiang provinces
. Tajikistan
. Unitah Mountains

Posted by Rosalyn
Berkeley
1383 posts

I'm happy that all those people are going to the Cinque Terre and Rothenburg and those other places that are promoted by Rick Steves, because it means they aren't clogging up the places I want to see. (lol) However, some good places are really falling victim to their own success. My brother, a retired art historian who lives 6 months/year in Florence, says that city is being loved to death. Judging from the crowds we saw when we visited a month ago, he may be correct.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
1912 posts

Has anyone on here heard of (or know of) a workable solution to this problem? If so, I'd love to hear it. It's a real problem but I myself have no idea how to solve it.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
3120 posts

Yes Nancy, I mentioned timed entry tickets. This is a solution on a micro scale of course, only for a museum or site. But it limits how many people can enter at once. It's not a new solution but one I'm seeing a lot more of and suspect will become the norm for many sites and museums over the next few years. And while it leaves out a lot of people from seeing a site or museum, it does make it more pleasant for those that get in. Take the Borghese in Rome for example. It's not so crammed that it is uncomfortable but a lot of people don't get to see it due to the limits. Or Parc Guell in Barcelona. From what I've seen, the ticketed areas are lightly populated compared to what they would be otherwise. But many now can't see those areas up close and it's had the unfortunate result in pushing more people into the rest of the park that was once more peaceful.

I'm not sure if much can be done on a town or city-wide scale. Some places have limited tour bus access which greatly cuts down on the masses of tourists that flood a place all at once. But that only works for small towns and remote sites.

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10394 posts

There can be an unwanted side-effect of making a site limited-entry. It creates an artificial perception of scarcity that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Classic example from Philadelphia, were I grew up. As recently as the early 1990s you could simply open the door of Independence Hall and just walk in. Never had to wait in any kind of line, and you could quickly leave thereafter. Same thing with the old building where they use to keep the Liberty Bell (the Paris Hilton of historical objects, if you ask me, famous for being famous). No waits, just walk right in, see the stupid cracked bell and move on. As soon as they started limiting access to both... well, that's when the lines started to form.

Now, look on this forum at all the postings where people ask about trying to reserve anything and everything possible. I've even seen queries where people ask about reservations for ski gondola rides!

Posted by Cyn
Wheat Ridge, CO, USA
1175 posts

This isn't really a practical solution, but imagine if, similar to the Lascaux II caves created in in France to conserve the original, a Cinque Terre II, Firenze II, Versailles II, etc. was created. It would be tough, though, to come up with adequate water to create a Green River II, and then the shifting sandbars would mean the duplicate would never be an exact copy of the original.

Posted by christa
alameda, ca, usa
271 posts

I'm glad I visited the beautiful country of Estonia before it totally catches on as a major tourist destination; while it gets a bit crowded in Old Town Tallinn when the cruise ships disgorge their day-trippers, spending a week there and exploring outside Tallinn gave me plenty of peaceful time to enjoy the parks and museums without feeling like part of a herd.

When I visit more popular (and populated) places, I steel myself for dealing with crowds and just power through to see what I want to see. I don't bother with anything unless it's of particular interest to me--why wear myself out jostling for position to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace when a visit to Liberty of London or Persephone Books would be much more enjoyable? Next visit to London will include a day of seeking various Blue Plaque locations.

Posted by Kimberly
Snohomish, WA, United States
38 posts

By the year 2025 there will be another one billion people in this world. That is only ten years away. I do hope there is a solution by then for the overcrowding of many of the more popular tourist sites in Europe. If Scandinavia was not so expensive to travel to more people would venture there thus taking some of the pressure off central and southern Europe. Maybe having more of the cultural activities beginning earlier in the year and ending later in the season? Perhaps southeast Asia will be built up enough to be a popular tourist destination with modern conveniences acceptable to the middle class. It is sad that so many people travel to Europe just to get the bragging rites and tee shirt that says, been there done that. There is so much wonderful history in Europe but few really take the time to understand and absorb it.

Posted by Elaine
Columbia, SC
794 posts

@Kimberly: So what are you saying? There should be an application process? Everyone would have to apply for a permit? Only a limited number and/or travel-worthy people would get approved?? Maybe write an essay on "Why I should be allowed to visit XXXXX, because...... "

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
1912 posts

"I only visit Prague between January and March these days, the only time of the year without these ignorant masses."

@Elaine - apparently according to Martin, we should add an IQ test too so to eliminate the ignorant masses. lol

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
3098 posts

@Nancy & Elaine... maybe we could form an RS study group so we could pass the test and not be part of the 'ignorant masses'.:))

Posted by Kent
Pacific Northwest
8885 posts

This is a thoughtful original post and many thoughtful comments.

Posted by Bets
Bloomington
2716 posts

With permission I took a photo of two Chinese women in the restaurant on top of the Schilthorn about to dig into an ice cream sundae bigger than their heads. One had the spoon, the other a fork. Their eyes sparkled. So here they were after living through the Cultural Revolution, raising their child each, taking care of their grandchildren. They finally had the time and money to love that sundae at 10,000 feet. I say welcome to the middle class and enjoy. I'm glad they are able to see some of the world even if it makes my world more crowded.

Posted by Martin
Germany
384 posts

@Elaine - apparently according to Martin, we should add an IQ test too
so to eliminate the ignorant masses. lol

There is no other way to call them. The average tourist in Prague follows the kings road from the Old Town Square to the cathedral, doesn't look left and right, and has no idea about history and architecture. Even sites directly beside the kings road, like the Salvator church, are often completely empty, while the cathedral square is so packed that you can't walk anymore. In a way that's good, because away from the kings road and the Jewish quarter you can still find many quiet places, but big cities like Prague can handle the tourist hordes better than small places.
The only way to save places like the Jewish cemetery are limitations. Right now this place has no dignity anymore. And it's also the responsibility of travel writers like Rick Steves to save such places. If he prominently features Cinque Terre he simply kills these villages. I'm sorry, but bus tours from overseas don't belong there. Instead he could focus on Liguria and mention Cinque Terre among other sites, like Portofino, Porto Venere or Camogli. And if he's serious about his philosophy he needs to rewrite his guides every 15-20 years, because after a while many of the places he mentions turn into Potemkin villages. There is no local culture to embrace anymore, just a polished, and sometimes altered (Hello Cesky Krumlov), facade to please the expactations and prejudices of the uninformed tourist.
So, in short: limitation (and/or much higher entrance fees) and more adventurous travel writers please. There will never be a second Rome, but there are second Rothenburgs and Cesky Krumlovs.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5330 posts

Thank you Bets. Your post puts everything into proper perspective.

I met a guy on the train last week on his 1st trip out of India. He was so excited to finally see all of these places he had read about in his childhood, and dreamed of visiting - Greece and Germany. He said he was hoping to bring his parents to Europe after he had spent a bit of time visiting. For many people in 3rd world countries it is extremely tough to get even a visitors visa to Europe. I say cut them some slack. They are in the same place that many N.Americans were 40 years ago with the "if this is Tuesday, it must be Belgium" kind of tours because many people didn't know any better.

Frankfurt is filled with tour buses full of Chinese tourists and they are truly excited to go inside the gothic churches, to have a bratwurst and a beer, to ride a cruise boat on the main, or even just taking photos of the trams passing by. Though they can be a pain in the neck sometimes, it is nice to see them enjoy the freedom of movement that they never had before. Tourism from Asian countries and India is growing and certainly won't slack off. Eventually, their tour guides will develop better methods, and who knows, perhaps their groups will observe how other tour groups behave and may imitate it.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
3120 posts

And it's also the responsibility of travel writers like Rick Steves to save such places. If he prominently features Cinque Terre he simply kills these villages. I'm sorry, but bus tours from overseas don't belong there.

If tourism stopped for these types of places, they would in fact die off. These towns survive off of tourism and I'd guess the vast majority of locals make their living either directly or indirectly off of tourism. So are you suggesting that we stop visiting and let those people lose their jobs? Perhaps you might ask them if they would prefer that.

Yes massive tourism alters a places character and culture. As I noted earlier, it is a Catch-22 with good things (jobs, restoration) and bad (crowds, few local oriented services).

And are you suggesting that only tour busses filled with Europeans should be allowed to visit? That's not a very open-minded attitude...

Finally, for the most part, readers of the Rick Steves guides are NOT the ones getting off tour busses. If you have a problem with tour bus groups, it isn't RS that you have a major complaint with.

Posted by Kathy
United States
804 posts

This is a great conversation about a really difficult question.

Our most popular National Parks have some huge challenges managing the damage to vulnerable natural environments which aren't up to the millions of bodies they have to deal with. Closing off sections to try and allow them to recover somewhat, employing 'green' shuttle systems, and not trying to over-expand to make too many sections very easily accessible have been a couple of answers but it isn't enough. Still, a lot of us would rather see our visitors from abroad go to, say, a Grand Canyon than a Disneyworld? You can go to Disney in Paris or Tokyo but you can't see a Grand Canyon, an Arches, a Yosemite or Sequoia anywhere else in the world. Visitors who do come love them - I've chatted with many who've told me that the parks were the highlights of their trips - but they're being loved to death.

I don't feel I have a right to complain about crowds at some of the places I travel to as let's face it, I'm adding my own bulk to the total mass, and I don't blame guidebooks for creating them either. My biggest gripe - which you touched on, Ms Jo - are tour operators. The groups are often much too large to be herding around, and too many of them are doing a lousy job with the social education piece: not jumping lines, not elbowing others aside, keeping the noise level down, not monopolizing prime scenic spots to take 1000 pictures of every combination of all 60 people on the bus…

At the same time these groups can be annoying, I feel sorry for them as, on the crazy itineraries many of them are on, the only quiet time they probably ever have is in their hotel rooms at night. They don't have the luxury of an aimless wander off the most-beaten paths for a little peace and a different perspective. But maybe I also shouldn't assume that everyone wants to do that?

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
4368 posts

George, Mr. Mayle has some nerve complaining, considering the several books he wrote about his life in France, the towns people, their foibles, etc. No doubt he made a lot of money out of this and I have to wonder if he ever considered it exploitation. I enjoyed his books, though.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
831 posts

Good question. @George - agree. @kathy - agree that many of our amazing national parks are being loved to death.

Posted by Kathy
United States
804 posts

@George, I know what you mean. We've turned tail and run for our lives on more than one occasion! Thank goodness we can still lace up a pair of boots at the parks, though: with some exceptions, it hasn't been too hard to lose the worst of the hordes at the overlooks and on easier paths. We also tend to do them in the fall when U.S. family vacations are mostly over.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2193 posts

Bets provided some of the best input on this thread so far. Nicely done! There often seems to be just a hint of prejudice (or maybe worse) going on any time this forum starts discussing Asian tourists. It’s refreshing to read such a thoughtful post.

As for another 1B people on Earth by 2025 (or 11B total by the end of this century according to the UN), I’m pretty sure this trend will cause slightly bigger problems for humans than not being able to enjoy Neuschwanstein because of overcrowding. I also guess I didn’t get the part about “building up” SE Asia for middle-class tourists. Is the suggestion that we could send them all there so Europe would be less crowded for the rest of us? I’m pretty sure much of SE Asia is “built up” already anyway. Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam all rank higher in tourism (foreign tourist arrivals) than Australia. Singapore is at least as developed (probably more so, actually) than the U.S. or anyplace in Europe. Sign me up.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

' When did his books get translated to Mandarin?'

Kind of an esoteric question.

Most of the Chinese you hear in Europe is either Cantonese or Wu.

Mandarin speakers seem to like Australia.

Posted by Cyn
Wheat Ridge, CO, USA
1175 posts

So maybe right now there are a dozen threads on a dozen travel Websites for specific regions around the globe, discussing how those places are getting fairly overrun with visitors. Economic advances and population growth has meant that Grand Tours aren't just for English aristocracy anymore. Thoughtful guidebooks and generous advice from helpful Travel Forums can aid those travelers in making the most of their visits, even if they have lots of company on their travels.

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
4368 posts

The hardiest tourists I have ever seen was in about 1991` or 1992 in the Place de la Concorde in Paris. A shabby tour bus pulled up and parked. It was from Hungary or Poland, can't remember exactly but it was an Eastern European country fairly soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Tired and disheveled people got off the bus, looking quite disoriented, staring around at the beautiful place where they had landed. The shabby bus had what looked like laundry showing at some of the windows and it became obvious that this bus was where they slept, ate and hung up their washed undies. But the need to travel, now that they could, was more important than comfort. I expect they have all been able to travel in a more luxurious way since then.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
3851 posts

The tour groups and individual travelers I saw this time in Vienna, (area of Cafe Sacher, Albertina, Kärntnerstrasse, and the State Opera), on the train to Budapest from Vienna, at Budapest Keleti, and in the Savignyplatz area of Berlin, esp at this one popular restaurant on Kantstrasse were Mandarin Chinese in speech and appearance.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
3851 posts

Other nationalities go to cities not usually high on North American tourist lists. The last time I was in Dresden, summer 2012, I heard much more Russian and Italian in the Frauenkirche area, and in the Altstadt.

Posted by Elaine
Columbia, SC
794 posts

Fred - I agree: I noticed the same thing last month. There were not a lot of Americans in Vienna. The majority of the tourists i noticed seemed to be from Russia and other former Eastern bloc countries. When I visited the Military Museum, I think there were only TWO Americans there that afternoon!!!

On our Russian cruise, only 4 of the 120 passengers were American. Similarly in Tallin and Helsinki, I heard little American or Canadian-English spoken; Tallin was mobbed with tourists, mostly Russian, Finnish and Scandinavian. I think a lot them come to Tallin mostly to party and to shop.

IMO, Americans seem to stick mostly to the Western countries of Europe, UK, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and Germany..... LOL...maybe that is why I have been subconsciously avoiding Italy and France?

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

You can't appear to be Mandarin, it's solely a language and not a race or ethnic group of any kind.

Posted by Denise
Draper, Utah, USA
4 posts

If you'd like to learn more about the exploding business of travel and tourism I'd highly recommend reading OVERBOOKED by Elizabeth Becker. Fascinating read. Addresses many of the issues discussed in this thread. Definitely gave me a desire to become a more conscientious traveler.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
3851 posts

By appearance I meant that if one can distinguish/recognise the northern Chinese from the southerners, then you have spotted out the native Mandarin speakers. But since it's the national language the southern Chinese will have learned it in school apart from the dialect they speak at home and among themselves.

Posted by Dee
Laguna, CA
101 posts

I have to check to see if Rick Steves have been translated into Chinese. There is only one written language - read by all Chinese regardless of where they are from in China - North, South, East, West and all those living all around the world. It doesn't matter what Chinese dialect/dialects they speak - the written language is the same.

Posted by Jean
Mill Creek, WA, USA
514 posts

What can we do? Embrace the fact that more people do have the means now to be able to travel. We do have some control - when you're creating your itinerary, purposely add 1-2 locations that will give you the enjoyment of non-touristy Europe and the opportunity to be the only Americans you may see for a few days. "What, all of the restaurants don't open until later in the evening?" : )

For instance, Italy: We went to Padova when it was not promoted by RS and had a great time. Moena, in the Dolomites, brings back fond memories of gorgeous views, hiking, talking in charades with older folks, fantastic food, etc. This year we're looking forward to a similar experience at Grosseto where Hotel Bastiani even has bikes we can use.

Posted by MC
Glasgow, Scotland
500 posts

Tourism is a double edged sword as anyone who lives or has lived in a tourist area or worked in the industry can attest. Tourism means the museums are able to remain open etc, and also why you can't find a parking space in the town in summer. It means there are jobs, but they are not that spectacular (been there, done that, told I've got a lovely accent, got the tee-shirt). Sites can survive, they will adapt as down the road the fashion, the site du jour will change as they always have done so. Near here is a hotel a tour group company uses, I am always quite pleased when I see them, they have chosen my country to spend the money and stay in my town. I think they are Chinese, well the coach has a map of China and has Chinese writing on it.

One thing is different people have different views of holidays. One time going to Italy we were stuck in McDonald's in Siena in a thunder storm, discussing how to get the loot, err booty, back home. It involved stuffing it in the passenger footwell in the car and hoping the passenger could keep the lotus position from Italy through France to the UK. They did. There was an American tour group in the McDonald's, sheltering from the storm. We received looks varying from meh, through jealousy, to how can those people afford to come to Italy? From the UK it is probably easier than a New Yorker going to Florida. Different views, but the sites will survive, and a good tourist authority will try and make the balance work.

Posted by Elaine
Columbia, SC
794 posts

I might regret asking this, but, what is a more conscientious traveler?

(I don't have time to read Overbooked....not even the Cliff's Notes version, anytime in the near future)

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
3851 posts

My interpretation of a conscientious traveler is one who has researched what s/he wants to see as top priority given a certain span of vacation over there, be it 2 weeks or 2 months, has set priorities for lesser places on the list while being flexible to go off elsewhere, such as on this last trip as a day trip I could have gone to Bad Ischl instead of spending those hours in Melk. That could include having a back up plan in case the immediate plan turns out to be less than satisfactory. Yes, there have been times I could have been a more conscientious traveler.

I'd have to say my very first trip to London was based on only one plan, (I was not a conscientious traveler), had planned on four full days in the city (it should have been 5-6 days). Very quickly upon arriving at 0500 or so at Gatwick, I realised the plan was falling apart. Since I had planned for 4 days, I thought I'm sticking to it, thus, spending the 4 days there, solo. It taught me don't rely on others.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
3851 posts

@ Elaine...I've made two trips considered to be "off season" both in May in 2010 and 2014. Primarily in London and Paris I saw North Americans; the other places like Vienna, Berlin presumably would see a greater number of American in the summer months. True, one hears Russian and esp Italian everywhere, either as individual (non tour) tourists or as part of these bus tours in addition to Mandarin and Japanese. If North Americans don't stay in the Westbahnhof area of Vienna, you certainly see these other nationalities.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
831 posts

Years ago, the first big trip for young adults was to Europe. Perhaps that is changing both as to ages (younger) and destinations (also Asia, Africa, South America). Congestion in Europe may enhance this trend. Is my impression shared by others?

Posted by Andrea
Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
594 posts

Bruce, in my experience the young people still want to hit Europe first. A big part of my job is supervising students with part time jobs here (20 teenagers). The school sponsored trips are still Europe; and those that are lucky enough, get to Europe with their parents.

One of my students arranged a six month exchange to Madrid in Grade 11.

Another student went to Ghana for an extended period, but that was a University student who was getting course credit.

I can't recall a single student either going to Asia or South America, either while they worked for me or after (among those that keep in touch).

Posted by James E.
USA
3055 posts

I think everyone should see the standard sites; Paris, Rome, London, Vienna, Florence, etc. The question on those has been moot for 100 years. They are what they have become as a result of tourism. Then if you want to see some amazing places and see them in a fairly natural pre-modern tourism state head for Central and Eastern Europe. This is the last generation that will be able to see most of Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, etc in a "natural" pre-Starbucks, pre-McDonalds state (almost at least). A little of conventional Western Europe and a little out of the box Black Sea coast town of Bulgaria in one trip makes for an interesting and revealing trip.

Posted by Maggie
Moose Jaw, SK, Canada
102 posts

No, the popular sights cannot survive an endlessly increasing number of tourists. Neither can the earth sustain the endlessly increasing population, especially with the standard of living we insist on enjoying. I say this with the full realization that I am part of the problem.

The carbon footprint of air travel is huge, the wear and tear of human traffic on historical sights and natural areas is irreversible and don't let me get started on the damage caused by gigantic cruise ships.

On flip side, of course, are the economic benefits (as has already been pointed out), the educational experience, cultural understanding and personal connections that come about as a result of our travels.

I try to be a conscientious tourist by minimizing the negatives and maximizing the positives. @ Elaine, in practical terms that means flying less often and staying longer. Using public transport. Walking or cycling shorter distances. Eating slow food on real plates rather than fast food on disposables. Packing light. Avoiding single night stays to reduce laundering of sheets and towels. Visiting popular sights when they are less crowded or skipping them in favour of other interesting places. Being respectful of my surroundings and the personal space of others. Behaving in a culturally-appropriate manner. Supporting locally-owned businesses. Taking only pictures and leaving the smallest footprints possible.

Posted by Laurel
Albany
110 posts

The question is, can we as travelers survive the brunt of uber-tourism. My visit to the Vatican Museums last week was unbearable due to the crowds. I had previously traveled there in March-- what a difference early June makes.

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10394 posts

"The question is, can we as travelers survive the brunt of uber-tourism." Yes. But you need to put aside the Blue Book and look beyond the most heavily promoted destinations. The Alps consist of far more than the Berner Oberland, Chamonix, and the Dolomites. You can have a great experience on the Rhine without staying in Bacharach. You can get a luxourious spa treatment in plenty of other resorts besides Baden-Baden. Rothenburg odT is not the do-all, be-all of preserved walled towns in Germany. Most of southern and central Germany consists of various ranges of forested mountains, and only one of these ranges is called the Black Forest. Versailles might be one of the largest, but it's hardly the only large Baroque palace, in France or Europe as a whole. Need I go on?

If you fall into the trap of linking "The most heavily promoted Europe" with the "The Best of Europe", don't blame anyone but yourself when you arrive and find the sites you dreamed about are flooded with fellow tourists.

No, I'm not blaming Mr. Steves. He has a business to run, and he's going to give his customers exactly what they want and expect.

Posted by James E.
USA
3055 posts

I bet you guys believe in Global Warming too?!

I doubt that the great sites as a global whole are deteriorating due to tourism. On the whole I suspect the ancient monuments and memorable architecture is in better shape today than it was 100 years ago, and better protected with a better chance of survival than it was 100 years ago. The assumption is that because the crowds and masses of tourist humanity that have prospered due to modern technology and cheap energy are somehow producing a negative impact on the famous sites of the world. I would suspect that the opposite is true; you are providing the funding to sustain, repair and bring to light more historical treasures. Don't confuse your discomfort as a tourist with an active attack on the integrity of the sites. Sure, there are exceptions, but on the whole I think more has been brought to light, preserved and protected for our children to learn from as a result of your discomfort. "That which is profitable is maintained for profit," no matter what you think of the concept.

Now if the discussion is, is the experience the same; no, and it never will be. Paris in the spring of 2014 will never again be the same experience as Paris in the Spring of 1976 (which doesn't begin to compare to Paris in the spring of 1932); but it is still a dang good experience and it beats the dickens out of Paris in February to save 20%.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
831 posts

Do first timers to Europe bitterly complain about crowds and question their wisdom about visiting popular sites whether deservedly so or not? The folks I talk with gush about seeing the Eiffel Tower, etc. One proudly displayed a painting of Rothenburg ob der Tauber in their living room. Are they wrong? Just think about those folks taking the plunge for their first and possibly only international trip trying to develop plans while working, raising a family, etc. Do they have the significant time required and can they properly assess the quality of information to establish an itinerary that truly is off the beaten path taken by so many most tourists from North America? There's a market for lesser known but wonderful sights in Europe. How to make that information available without resulting in a deluge of folks seeking the same?

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
3120 posts

James - there are INCREDIBLE amounts of wear and tear imposed upon most historical and natural sites due to large amounts of tourism. You cannot underestimate it and often the average person cannot see it.

The good news, as you allude to, is that large amounts of tourism promotes preservation and restoration efforts that don't usually occur otherwise. So like tourism in general, it is a Catch-22.

The sites often most threatened due to lack of resources are those not as popular with tourists. Partly because of a lack of visitor fee funding and partly because of inattention by the general public. There are finite restoration resources and they tend to go to the most publically visible places.

Posted by James E.
USA
3055 posts

@Douglas, then we agree. The prime sites are better due to tourism and the secondary sites will also benefit once they are also more fully exploited by tourism.

Posted by James E.
USA
3055 posts

And since I create such a large carbon footprint by traveling to Europe 2.5 times a year I offset it by setting my thermostat to 70F in the summer. It world be 68F but I offset the other two degrees F by having purchased the non-supercharged Range Rover.

Posted by Karen
Fairbanks, AK, USA
5 posts

There's a great solution to these problems - both the problem of overcrowding at tourist sites, and the billions more to come. It's called "Planned Parenthood." You know, contraception! Give tax breaks to those who choose not to have children. Charge taxes for each and every child, because each one will add to the demand on resources and social services. Encourage people to delay having children until they are older. That solution immediately reduces the total number of people inhabiting the planet; instead of having 4-5 generations who all have kids at 20, have them at 30, and only 3-4 generations inhabit the planet simultaneously. Pass out condoms at every opportunity - parks, public functions, schools, everywhere. Those would also reduce the number of abortions.

I say this as someone who did have children, but would gladly support eliminating tax deductions for them. Why do I get a break when my colleague without children does not? The world view that we need to be fruitful and multiply has long since ceased to be helpful and it's time for a change, before we in the U.S. get to the point of needing drastic change, as China did with the one-child policy years ago.

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10394 posts

Karen- most of the rich world, including China, have fertility rates below replacement levels, and fertility is going down just about everywhere else. So, it's happening anyway.

Now, next problem... how to pay retirement and care of the elderly when there's more elderly than young working people?

Posted by James E.
USA
3055 posts

No, I meant global warming. I do however recognize that the climate is changing. Always has, always will. As for sky fairies it is common knowledge that they returned to the mother ship with Elvis.

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
4229 posts

@ James. Watch it now! The last person to mention tourist IQ tests got banned from the Helpline and all of his posts deleted, including the very helpful ones on the "France" forum.

Posted by James E.
USA
3055 posts

@Sam, does it read more correct now?

My standards of being a conscientious traveler are to maintain my Judo Christian values while recognizing myself as a guest in the home of another and behaving accordingly.

Posted by asps2
328 posts

I am old enough to remember travel forums before 2000 - on usenet newsgroups and also on fidonet BBSs. Cinque Terre and Castelrotto were not widely discussed before Rick Steves discovered them. IMHO the Rick Steves philosophy of discovering little known gems is positive, but you should discover your own gems on your own. If everybody travels to Rick's gems they they get overrun and are no more gems.

Posted by Martin
Germany
384 posts

Cinque Terre and Castelrotto were not widely discussed before Rick
Steves discovered them.

Castelrotto now too? Oh sh*t! The funny thing about Castelrotto is that here in Europe it never was a little known gem. It's one of the most touristy and well known places of the Dolomites, especially in the German-speaking countries, because this part of the Dolomites is German-speaking (unlike the eastern part around Cortina).
PS: the little known gems of the Dolomites are somewhere else... :P

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
3120 posts

@Douglas, then we agree. The prime sites are better due to tourism and the secondary sites will also benefit once they are also more fully exploited by tourism.

We agree James in that I think in most cases there is a net positive to tourism. But that isn't always the case. Most often, the net negatives are at natural sites and parks. While one can restore something man-made, once a natural wonder is lost, it is gone forever. And it's been an ongoing battle in National Parks and Forests in the west especially. And in some cases, efforts to keep archeological sites unknown to the public are done to keep them from being destroyed.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2367 posts

For people whose availability of time and money for overseas vacations is tight, the appeal of "sticking-to-the-famous-sites" might just be irresistible.

The average overseas traveler to Europe is NOT the average Helpliner - who has traveled or intends to travel several times to Europe, sometimes on an annual basis -.

We can read that often: people ask for tips on "off-the-beaten-path" attractions, towns and sites and sights. Many Helpline regulars give tips. Then, at the final edition of one's itinerary, the places that are there are just the famous ones, the person doesn't want to risk leaving a very famous and very crowded place for one that is not that well known.

I used to frown a bit upon this attitude, but I ended up realizing that, for many people, that will likely be the one and only trip they take to Europe during their lifetime, so even if I don't agree, I understand why the appeal of places/attractions whose 'brand' is already well known by the would-be traveler is very difficult to resist.

Posted by Kathy
United States
804 posts

"I want to visit England, but I don't want to go where all the tourists go - can you suggest a city where nobody goes but which is full of famous sights like Big Ben and Stonehenge and where I can see the Queen"

I just blew Coke all over my screen. Best laugh I've had in a week.

"And it's been an ongoing battle in National Parks and Forests in the west especially. And in some cases, efforts to keep archeological sites unknown to the public are done to keep them from being destroyed."

Amen, Douglas

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
3851 posts

In determining places to visit and avoiding the crowds in the summer, there is a difference between places where North Americans would most likely flock to, say Brugges, and Gdansk where they would be alot less likely to visit, given the distance and the historical/cultural difference. True, if you want to avoid being swamped with tourists, then don't go to Brugges, choose Gdansk instead, using this example. I agree with Frommer with these two choices. Not being caught up with hordes of tourists doesn't mean other nationalities, the Russians, Chinese, Italians, etc would not be at the sites. Most likely you can expect them to be there.

I went to Gdansk in July 2003, spent ca 5 days there, took that 8hr or so train ride, which seemed to take forever. Very interesting landscape. Would I go back, maybe, depends. During the time I was there , the most numerous tourists I saw were German, just as I had expected, in the old town, on the train going there and on the departing train back to Berlin, etc., only a few Americans when I popped into the Holiday Inn. I went to Brugges once, as a day trip in 1984. I don't recall the crowds then. I am sure if I went to Brugges in the summer now, it would be overrun with the crowds, with alot of Americans among them.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2367 posts

Provided behaviors are compatible, does it really make a difference going to a place full of Americans or another place equally crowded - but with Chinese or Japanese tourists?

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

Question: Does anybody ever talk to the Horrible-Heathens-from-HellandGone to see what's it's like in where ever they're from and maybe get some ideas about where to go next - - or are they just chaff to be swept away by the ruffling of guidebook pages or drowned in the dredge from a water bottle?

Posted by James E.
USA
3055 posts

@Dick, sounds a little pretentious. I have a lot of distain for cataloguing people for the purpose of defining one groups superior nature or understanding as opposed to the other group. My form of enlightenment from home is more refined and involves a deeper understanding of life's true values vs. your form of entertainment when away from home. The Huffpost (of course) article begins with a false premise in the first paragraph and continues in kind from thence forward. Sorry, but it ruffles my feathers.

Posted by Elaine
Columbia, SC
794 posts

Yes, I can readily see the difference.................a traveler is just a pretentious tourist.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
3098 posts

@James...@ Elaine ... read the article too and totally agree with you... Bring on the snobs!

Can't I just be a traveling tourist or a touristy traveler??? Or simply a photographer who likes
to go places and take pictures?

Posted by Dee
Laguna, CA
101 posts

I am a "tourist snob". I do not appreciate fellow "tourists" who ignore "Do not touch" or "No Photography" signs in museums, synagogues, churches, or cathedrals. I do not appreciate the loud and boisterous tourist groups in hotel lobbies and breakfast areas and "enclosed" major attractions. While I realize that people do get caught up in the moment of excitement and I am glad that we are all so happy to be seeing wonderful sights, but some common courtesy and manners could go a long way. Can't we all enjoy it together and share the memories and photos (if we can keep our elbows out of each others' way)? Like someone bought up, maybe we should have everyone complete a questionnaire before one is granted a visa - of course we would all just lie: "Of course, I am polite..." :)

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
3851 posts

In certain places in Europe I am there as a traveler as opposed to being a tourist. In other places ( alot of them) I am the ordinary tourist, where I have tourist written all over me, plainly evident.

@ Dee...good points made, esp about those scenes in the hotel lobbies in Europe. That's one reason I most often stay in small establishments. Tour groups don't go there.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
3120 posts

I am a "tourist snob". I do not appreciate fellow "tourists" who ignore "Do not touch" or "No Photography" signs in museums, synagogues, churches, or cathedrals.

I don't appreciate rude behavior either, but I doubt the typical group tourist is that much ruder than a "traveler." It all comes down to whether a person is considerate by nature or not. Though many tour groups are rude as a whole in that the leader pushes on past and the rest must follow.

I don't find the article that far off base. There most certainly is a difference between those tourists that have a list of what they want to see, they mark off that list and they move right along. Others have that list, but build in time to explore what else is around. Take the Louvre for example: some check off the Mona Lisa and Venus and Winged Victory; others see those and wander through other galleries to learn about the other art. That seems to be the main difference in the article defining tourist from traveler.

But I don't think "tourist" as such defined is some kind of bad thing. Or that I'm a better person because I do the latter (I am a better person for it but that's another point). Most people have limited time and money to travel. I think it's a bit sad that some people don't stop to let something really soak in, but I'm glad they at least made the effort to go see it (the vast majority of people don't).

And I like the idea that a traveler is on a journey, not just a trip. Reminds me of the oft repeated advice that life is a journey and to enjoy wherever it takes you. It's certainly one of the reasons I don't like being on tour groups; I want to explore places for myself - not go where someone tells me and when.

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10394 posts

I've said it before and I'll say it again. A "traveler" is someone who thinks they're better than or is on some sort of higher mission than people they think of as "tourists". And I love it when self-described "travelers" mispell the word and add an extra "l'. Adds a whole new unintended meaning to the discussion.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
1912 posts

@Tom - actually both spellings are considered acceptable.

I also noted that in the dictionary both sightseer and tourist are listed as synonyms for traveler (or traveller). So maybe the only real difference is in the mind of the speaker or writer.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
3098 posts

@Tom... you said it... it really is what the 'traveller' thinks about the 'tourist'. I frankly think most 'tourists' could care less what the 'travellers' think of them.... all on the same road...some just have different goals that others see as not being worthy of pursuing. Again, enter the travel Snobs...
I kind of like how traveler looks with ll...
(I might have been a travel snob at one point, but then I read the adventures of many posters here and realized I am a tourist)

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5330 posts

I am a visitor, and thus can escape all the other connotations.

Travellers are those that can give you a good deal on your roof or asphalt drive-way.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
3120 posts

I've said it before and I'll say it again. A "traveler" is someone who thinks they're better than or is on some sort of higher mission than people they think of as "tourists".

Honest question for you and others expressing the same opinion here. Is there a difference in the way people are tourists/travelers and can't that difference be defined in ways not related to one being "better" than the other?

Posted by Kathy
United States
804 posts

Oxford Dictionaries defines "tourist" as, "A person who is traveling or visiting a place for pleasure"

That doesn't sound so evil, now, does it? I can cheerfully include myself under that description.

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10394 posts

OK, Jo's the only one who got my reference with the double "ll". In the generic sense, both spellings may be correct, but the spelling "traveller" also refers to something very specific. A somewhat offensive synonym is "Pikey".

Thankyou George. There's always a distinct air of smug ego-stroking in these "I'm not a tourist, I'm a traveler" things.

I wonder, the people that a so-named "traveler" would describe as a "tourist". How can you presume to know what their intentions and travel desires are? Did you ask them? Did you start a conversation with them and discuss their itinerary? Did you assume they meet your definition of "tourist" because you saw them snap a photo of some famous landmark or artwork, then move on? Do you know what they visited previously before you saw them? Do you know where they went afterwards? And if you're there to see the exact same landmark or artwork, what makes your appreciation of said-attraction more consciencious?

Posted by Cyn
Wheat Ridge, CO, USA
1175 posts

Hopefully the tourist vs. traveler thing doesn't result in airlines creating "Tourist Class" and "Traveler Class" seating sections and price structures! Whatever you call yourself, everybody still has to go thru security one shoe/belt/baggie of liquids at a time.

And in Ireland, there's a segment of society called Travellers that is looked down at by some. Everybody's got to do their thing as best as they can.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
3120 posts

I wonder, the people that a so-named "traveler" would describe as a "tourist". How can you presume to know what their intentions and travel desires are? Did you ask them? Did you start a conversation with them and discuss their itinerary? Did you assume they meet your definition of "tourist" because you saw them snap a photo of some famous landmark or artwork, then move on? Do you know what they visited previously before you saw them? Do you know where they went afterwards? And if you're there to see the exact same landmark or artwork, what makes your appreciation of said-attraction more consciencious?

If someone tries to identify a "tourist" by sight, they'd be guilty of judging based only on impression. But we all know there are many different ways people travel for pleasure. Some only take group tours where everything is planned for them, they are told what to see and when. Others might go on their own but have a specific list of what they want to see and don't stray much from that. And others might have a rough list of ideas and fill in a lot of time wandering and exploring. Some do the whirlwind "20 countries in 10 days" thing and others settle into a city for a couple weeks. We all prefer our own style - I'm certainly not one to judge. But there ARE distinct differences in how people travel for pleasure.

I don't disagree that many who call themselves "travelers" instead of tourists are expressing a certain level of distaste for their definition of "tourist." And many will likely consider me a tourist snob even though I don't mind or really care how people travel. But I confess a strong personal preference against that type of tourism, so I don't do it. It's not much different than being a wine snob (I don't drink "cheap" wine or chardonnay), a beer snob (I don't drink anything with the made-up word "lite" in it). Or a book snob (I don't read cheap romance novels). In other words, some people will wear their personal preferences on their shoulder to mark themselves as better than others, while most just define themselves in a certain way to identify their own preferences and that others feel the same way.

Posted by Kent
Pacific Northwest
8885 posts

My theory on the basic math on this topic:
1) number of tourist sights is basically fixed, staying the same;
2) number of people in the world who are becoming prosperous enough to travel is increasing.
3) Result is predictable and will only get worse as more folks are prosperous enough to travel.

Despite the world's economic problems in the last few years, we're already seeing that, with some of the billion + Chinese getting prosperous enough to travel, there are just inevitably going to be many more tourists wanting to see the same, fixed number of tourist sights.

I remember in the old days, if you go way back, when only the US and a couple of other advanced economic nations had populations with enough money to travel.
But there's still basically only the same number of sights now as then.

Posted by James E.
USA
3055 posts

Kent, by "fixed" are you counting only the Tourist sites or are you counting Travel(l)er's sites as well? Because I think the Travel(l)er's sites are increasing in number to offset Tourist invasion.

Posted by Cyn
Wheat Ridge, CO, USA
1175 posts

I suspect that as soon as the next Lascaux cave is discovered, or Machu Picchu unearthed, or previously dodgy place gets cleaned up and made "safe," the world will beat a path to its door. There are sights that are waiting to become destinations. Even if some new sights (like the bridge in Paris that's being inundated by padlocks, something that's apparently spreading elsewhere) are in established destinations, it will spread the visitors out a little.

Even Rick's guidebooks have expanded in sheer variety, as well as in content. The back cover used to proclaim, "Don't be worried if Rick's books are skinnier than other guides . . . his readers like them that way," but as Rick has added photos, maps, and additional sights not included earlier, he's giving more options for visitors to consider. The places were there before, but now have a bigger spotlight on them.

Regarding an earlier remark about travelers drinking only red wine, would they drink it regardless of whether the bottle has a cork or a cap, or if, heaven forbid, it's in a box?!?

Posted by Kent
Pacific Northwest
8885 posts

Answering above question to me: I was agreeing with the premise in the original post. Was thinking: world-wide, the number of people who can afford to travel should be substantially increasing over time; while the number of "sights" stays relatively fixed. Thus over time a person would expect to see a general increase in the number of visitors at sights that the person remembers from the old days.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
3120 posts

@ Kent - I think James was being sarcastic about travelers (like me) that are always hunting for new sites away from the common tourist hordes that quickly snap a photo before going off to drink chardonnay from a box... ;-)

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2367 posts

I didn't phrase my last question well. I didn't mean it regarding this "traveler vs. tourist" debate. Instead, I was thinking of the fact several people who come to RS forum have a particular view that consider a crowd of Americans somehow worse than a crowd of Chinese, Israelis or Brazilians, even if each crowd is clogging a place and behaving in similar ways.

It makes it look like escaping from fellow Americans is a higher priority than the attributes of the site, monument, restaurant, hotel, town, park the person is visiting, as if the experience of visiting a church or fine dining was detracted by the sole fact people around come from the same country as the visitor (a neutral word to avoid the traveler/tourist discussion).

Notice that I'm not referring to "be in a place where locals are the majority in a park/restaurant/shop", but to having a much higher tolerance for being surrounded by people - as long as they come from other third-countries and don't speak English.

Posted by Kathy
United States
804 posts

I guess I'm not sure at all that the amount of "sights" will stay relatively fixed. Maybe it's unrealistically optimistic but it's my hope that over time, some countries which are currently rather challenging to travel - especially for the novice - may expand/improve accessibility over time?

Speaking of that, anyone who either belongs to or watches other travel forums is aware of the difficulties travelers from abroad have trying to get around the U.S. on their own. A significant amount of the them either can't drive, don't wish to drive, or can't afford to (rental rates for under age 25 are high). There's a reason that so many crowd the same cities/regions with decent public transport or book escorted bus tours. Getting off the beaten path here is not an easy thing, and we have some language barriers as well where certain nationalities and life stages are concerned.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
831 posts

While transportation for some tourists from Europe to North America can be problematic, my friends are truly happy campers renting cars and driving vast distances in the West visiting national parks and oddities like Big Bud.

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
859 posts

Recently I heard a radio programme about "misery tourism". It's not something I had come across before, but perhaps it is well known amongst others here. In the programme they reported on relatively rich travellers (sorry, Tom, but that is how we spell it!), who spend most of their time in luxury hotels and use private guides to see the "top sights", but on one day they like to take a trip to the poor part of where they are staying. There were two examples. First were (mostly) Americans in Brazil who toured the local favela. The other were (mostly) Britons in the US who toured the local city slum. Apparently, this "misery tourism" happens in Europe too, with well-off tourists taking an air conditioned coach to visit Paris' more squalid banlieues.

What does all that mean in reference to the original question? Nothing really, to be honest. But perhaps ...

Posted by James E.
USA
3055 posts

That explains all the bus loads of tourists driving past my Frisco home! If they just drive through they are tourists, if they stop and purchase some street food they are travel(l)ers. So we could have Misery Travel(l)ers and Misery Tourists. And lets not recognize the possibility that there might be some real artistic or human beauty and inspiration in these locations; or a the least a profound lesson.

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
859 posts

James - possibly, but it was clear from the visitors interviewed that they weren't taking these tours for any reason like that, they were going purely to get a brief thrill from seeing the other side of the tracks and take photos of "the poor people".

Posted by James E.
USA
3055 posts

Keith, I am not going to say I disbelieve that but if a new channel wants to create a good story it isn't hard to do things like interview 100 and reveal 3 that fit the story line. I am a little sensitive to it because I have spent a some time in places that that may fit the stereotype and myself and those that I have met while in such places were never there for a thrill. Then again I do understand because I go a little nutty when I hear someone getting excited about going to the Nazi death camps. Even harder for me to understand is why someone would like to see "as many as possible". I generally keep my mouth shut because I cant be in their heart and know the truth.

Posted by Elaine
Columbia, SC
794 posts

The only "travellers" I know of are the Irish Travellers of the North Augusta area.. They prefer to be called gypsies now, but if you have a driveway that needs to be asphalted, or need a new roof, they'll be travelling to your door. Don't answer it.

Y'all are tourists....own it.

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1719 posts

It's more like verb conjugation. I am traveler. You are tourist. They are too many tourists.

Posted by Kathy
United States
804 posts

The whole "tourist" versus "traveler" debate has been flogged to death on so many travel forums that I'm surprised that poor horse wasn't buried a long time ago.

I find it all a little sad. Sometimes I think persons about to pack that first bag are frightened away from online travel communities because they're afraid of being perceived as a hayseed. Heaven forbid that their planned itinerary or tour may earn them a sniff of the nose and unlovely "tourist" label? Best not to ask questions or show any naiveté lest they are rejected as one of "them."

Comfort and confidence levels, abilities and personal preferences are all different, and none of them are wrong unless those choices don't make for a great trip? A 10-star day for me is a dirty, 15-mile scramble deep in some gorgeous canyon but I understand that the view from the rim is perfectly wonderful for someone else. We both had a memorable experience and, in the end, isn't that what it's all about?

Tourist, traveler, explorer, adventurer, sightseer, globetrotter, visitor, vacationist…whatever you want to call it, we're all probably "them" to the locals!!!

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
3851 posts

Good list of words as a multiple choice listing, I'll take " traveler and visitor"

Posted by Cyn
Wheat Ridge, CO, USA
1175 posts

I'll add "itinerant" to the list of labels. I wonder if, 150 years ago, "tourist" actually had more cachet among English-speakers than "traveler?"

Here's an idea for shops in hot vacation spots: next to the postcard and souvenir racks, they can display badges with "Traveler," "Traveller," "Visitor," "Vagabond," etc. For people for whom that's an important distinction, they can buy and wear a badge, contribute to the local economy, and eliminate any doubt who they are for anyone who cares. Of course, the popular places that are getting more crowded all the time will need to order more badges ;-)

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
831 posts

With badge names/symbols in hand, harmonize with badges on the Travel Forum.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
3098 posts

@Cyn... that is probably true... if I think of a traveler 150 years ago I think of someone with little means to move themselves about... a vagabond of sorts...someone who moves about from town to town looking for work.... However the tourist of the past conjures up images of the wealthy.... So, who would have been on the Titanic? (not the help) Travelers or tourists?

Posted by Philip
London, United Kingdom
2343 posts

There's a book called Tales From the Fast Trains, which is a British journalist talking about a series of weekend tourist trips he made to places that could be reached by train through the Channel Tunnel and beyond. In the chapter on Frankfurt-on-Main he talks about a tour he made of Frankfurt's hooker-and-junkie district, with "sights" like "people queued up outside the needle exchange". So it does exist in Europe. (According to him, this was actually intended as some kind of thing to demonstrate to tourists that "yes, Germany has social problems too", but it seemed somewhat voyeuristic to him.)

You might also be interested in this article published earlier this week about Stonehenge. (It's by Will Self, if people are allergic to him.)

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
1032 posts

Great article, Philip; thanks for posting.

The impression of such places is lost without a degree of solitude. Unfortunately, without some safeguards, such as a fence, around Stonehenge, damage would be done to the stones by the crowds, and by those who would come at night, and chip off a piece of the stones. It is mentioned that before this fence was erected, graffiti was found on the stones, and that's no way to treat a landmark.

Posted by Margaret
TN, USA
610 posts

What a fascinating thread that has morphed in several directions!!

My husband often says 'everything cycles.' That may or may not apply to popular tourist sites flooded with tourists/visitors/travelers (whatever). But, I do think the baby boomer generation has had a lot to do with the glut we are now seeing.

How many of you are in the boomer generation, spurred on to travel by that 'ticking biological clock' of 'I've worked and sacrificed my entire life, and if I'm ever going to see all these places, I better do it now'? I'm guilty!!!!! I've been working that bucket list like crazy this last decade!!

Just today I was reading an WSJ article that mentioned in the 1950s Antarctica had maybe 500 visitors a year. In its upcoming 2014/15 summer season, that number is projected to be 37,000!! When we traveled there (2013), our expedition was for the most part fellow baby boomers. If all the other famous sites world-wide have had an equal increase in visitors (and I'm guessing many have), WE may be the cause.....every one of us (and all the others). Add to that the grandparents who now have the money to take the following two generations..........and bingo!!

.......but it may all cycle back around to more 'comfortable' crowds in a few decades once we boomers move to the assisted living phase.........but think of all those great memories we will all have!! We'll be telling our caregivers, 'back in my day we made something called photographs.'

To share one of my favorite quotes:
'Begin doing what you want to do now,
We are not living in eternity.
We have only this moment,
sparkling like a star in our hand......
and melting like a snowflake.'

Boomers have a built in urgency to travel. As someone once said, no one on their death bed ever said, 'I'm so sorry I traveled and saw so much of the world.' But how many times have we heard someone from our parents' generation say, 'Uncle so and so always dreamed that he'd someday make it to Italy, but then he had the (insert whatever problem) and he never got there.'

Future generations may figure out how to travel virtually, and that may (sadly) be all some may be interested in doing.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
1169 posts

Amen to what Margaret said. I'm not a boomer (apparently, I'm a Gen X'er) and have had the travel bug for about 20 yrs, but it wasn't until about 10 yrs ago that we could afford to travel anywhere other then to nearby provinces. 2008 was our first European trip. We have been lucky to go every 2 years, interspersing with trips to the US. And if hubby can do 'freedom 50 (or 55)' in a few years, then I hope we can go every year. No kids, mortgage is paid...life is too short. I still remember going to a dinner for my hubby's aunt after our 1st trip over. There was an elderly lady there who said...(and I'm sure everyone has heard this from someone)...'My husband and I were going to travel after he retired. He passed away within a year or two of retiring and we never got to travel'. Her advice - 'Go for it - do it while you are young(-ish) and healthy and able'. (My mother-in-law is a homebody and doesn't understand why we aren't just happy to look at photos in a book or watch a video on tv...lol).

And Bruce says he can't imagine what July is like. My big memory from our trip to Venice in 2008 (this was late Sept)...the hordes of people in the Rialto area...feeling like cattle being herded...and saying something to one of the merchants on the Bridge about the crowds- and his reply - 'this is nothing...you should see it in July and Aug'. I think at that point, I decided we would always try to travel in Sept (or May).

Posted by andi
franktown, colorado
226 posts

Well said, Margaret. I will never regret spending the time or money my husband and I spent on traveling to Europe even before he retired. Now I'm blessed to still be traveling with family or friends as he passed away 8 months after he retired. Don't put your dreams on hold; they might be there forever!

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2193 posts

Obviously, Baby Boomers travel. After all, they have money, time, and fewer responsibilities than they once had when they were working, raising kids, paying for a mortgage, paying tuition bills, etc. Still, I really don't know much about Baby Boomers, but Millennials are the next generation of focus for marketers everywhere. Their sheer numbers are much larger than Baby Boomers and other generations, and they’ll actually travel more. They’ll travel differently (like with friends and a lot of tech know-how), but they certainly won’t be traveling in a virtual world (that’s what the big corporations are forecasting and banking on anyway).