How to be a better tourist: 10 ways to stop upsetting the locals

August 19, 2020

Crowd-control measures in Venice, anti-tourism protests in Palma de Mallorca, mounting pressure to bring tourism under control in Barcelona: 2018 has witnessed a sharp rise in anti-tourist sentiment throughout Europe.

From Amsterdam to Dubrovnik, Hvar to San Sebastian, locals are becoming increasingly vociferous about the impact tourism is having on their environment.

Oversubscribed cities are implementing policies to mitigate the effects of mass tourism, but there are also calls for tourists to take responsibility for the issue as well.

Last year the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), for example, launched a campaign – dubbed Is It Too Much To Ask? – to promote sustainable practices amongst travellers.

“The campaign identifies a series of pledges that tourists should make in order for them to be more responsible in their travel behaviour,” said Rochelle Turner, research director at the WTTC. “There is a responsibility on the tourist.”

According to Richard Hammond, CEO of Green Traveller, tourists are generally responsive to the idea of reducing their impact on the destinations they visit.

“It’s about appealing to their better instincts,” he told Telegraph Travel. “It’s about asking how they can have a better holiday by being more sustainable.”

With that in mind, Telegraph Travel has identified some key things travellers can do to make destinations better for locals, the environment and, ultimately, themselves.

1. Consider going somewhere else

“If you’re considering travelling to a very busy place you might want to think about the alternatives,” said Turner. “Think about some of the secondary or tertiary cities that may be equally beautiful or equally interesting.” Utrecht instead of Amsterdam, Verona over Venice, for example.

This will likely improve your holiday experience: as well as having fewer visitors, lesser-known destinations also tend to be cheaper. “It’s more of an interesting thing to do as well,” said Hammond. “Often it’s more rewarding.”

2. Avoid the “honeypot” sites

“Whether it’s Barcelona or Botswana, there are always going to be a lot of people going to the ‘honeypot’ sites that everyone knows about,” said Hammond. “If you do a little research often you can go and visit a similar site elsewhere but have a much better experience because there are far fewer people visiting it.”

Beat the crowds | Great alternatives to five European cities
In The Netherlands: Rotterdam, Leeuwarden, Utrecht, The Hague, Eindhoven.
Beyond: Strasbourg (France), Gdansk (Poland)
In Spain: Girona, La Coruna, San Sebastian, Cadiz, Zaragoza,
Beyond: Tavira (Portugal), Rabat (Morocco)
In Italy: Verona, Treviso, Trieste, Ferrara
Beyond: Annecy (France)
In France: Lyon, Montpellier, Lille, Bordeaux, Strasbourg
Beyond: Riga (Latvia), Beirut (Lebanon)
In Croatia: Split, Pula, Zagreb, Rovinj, Zadar
Beyond: Valletta (Malta), Cordoba (Spain)

3. Go in the shoulder season

An obvious way to ease pressure on a destination – and to have a better experience of the place – is to avoid visiting when everyone else is. The weather is often just as good in the shoulder season and most of the shops and restaurants are open. The added bonus? It’s usually a bit cheaper.

4. Ditch the guidebook for a day

And leave your phone in the hotel, while you’re at it. Just go out there and get lost, follow your nose. “If people were to think: ‘On this trip I’m going to experience five things that I can’t find in a guidebook’, then perhaps everybody would have a better experience,” said Turner. “They would certainly have a less congested experience.”

5. Stay in locally owned accommodation

Profits made by hotels owned by locals are more likely to go back into the local economy than those from giant multinational ones. That’s not to say, however, that you should shun international chains, which tend to occupy larger premises and therefore employ more people (and have a higher turnovers). If you do opt for a big hotel brand, though…

6. Ask questions

How much of the food served in your hotel is sourced locally? Are your sheets cleaned locally? Were they made locally? What is your hotel doing to reduce its environmental impact? “It’s about asking these questions and making companies realise that these are issues that are important,” said Turner.

If the hotel appears to be doing little to support the local economy or protect the environment then it might be worth thinking about taking your money elsewhere.

7. Learn the local language

If you can converse with the locals in their language it might make them feel more accommodating. The old trick of pointing and talking loudly in English is just likely to get on their wick and reinforce the idea that tourists are a nuisance.

8. Buy local

One of the big issues in Venice is the amount of local shops that have closed to make way for tacky souvenir shops (it is deemed more profitable to sell tourist tat than regional produce). With that in mind tourists would do well to avoid buying cheap souvenirs (which have likely been imported from abroad) and instead spending their money on regional products in local shops.

9. Reduce your plastic waste

From the beaches of Goa to the streets of Rome, plastic waste is a blight on the planet. So try not to add to it when you’re on holiday. “Take your own bottle of water that you can refill, rather than buying a new plastic bottle every time,” advised Hammond, who also suggests shorter showers in areas where water is scarce.

10. Be respectful

As well as feeling outnumbered by tourists, people in destinations like Venice are becoming increasingly angry that some tourists are disrespecting their town (holidaymakers have, for example, been seen jumping in the canals). Wherever you go, abide by the local laws, respect the local customs and dress appropriately. Ultimately, give locals one less thing to complain about.

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