Stop Complaining About Tourists

Tourist

If there’s one thing I’m tired of hearing people complain about, it’s tourists. If you tweet something obnoxious about how a “Stupid tourist tried asking me to take a picture for her– doesn’t she know I’m busy?”, I will immediately unfollow you. If you think you deserve better treatment than a tourist simply because of where you live, you should check yourself at the door.

I know what you’re thinking — “But Rachelllllll, I live in an apartment in Manhattan that my daddy pays for and the tourists are just like soooo annoying and make me get to the nail salon one whole minute late.” I work in New York City, one of the largest tourist destinations in the world, so I understand the impact that tourists can have on my daily commute or weekend trips. But guess what? Plenty of people who aren’t tourists can ruin my walk to work or weekend shopping trip, so that point is moot.

I’m always surprised when people avoid certain restaurants or attractions because “it’s a tourist place”, as if the fact that tourists enjoy going there makes it immediately irrelevant or terrible. In reality, most of those places are a hot tourist destination because whatever they offer is so damn good, that people will travel from all over to consume it. People take for granted that they area they live or grew up in is so special that tourists flock there. Take it as a compliment!

The thing about tourists is that, at some point in each of our lives, we were all once a tourist. When we go on vacations to tropical islands where we can barely understand the bartenders, we are tourists. When we take a road trip on the opposite coast and stop to take photos at each state sign, we’re tourists. When we visit a historical city and stand in line for a museum, art exhibit or statue, we’re tourists. Why is it when these spoiled city girls study abroad in London that it’s acceptable, but when their peers from London come to visit their city, they are verbally burned at the stake? Every traveler starts out as a tourist.

Tourists are a vital part of any thriving area, whether it’s a tiny town or a large, cultural city like New York. In 2013, there were 110.1 million international tourist arrivals in North America alone. Now multiply that number by the amount of money each tourist spends on average during their stay. That’s a lot of doll-hairs. More specifically, 2.36 trillion doll-hairs in 2014. Tourists are what keep some areas of the country alive and thriving economically and gives otherwise unemployed people a career. In fact, the tourism industry provided over 235 million jobs in 2010, representing 8% of global employment.

If you know that an area you frequent will be flooded with tourists (and you really can’t just grow the balls and deal with it), then maybe you should consider going somewhere else. Skip going to that same bar that you know gets packed when the Yankees are in town. Drive an alternate route if you think the road might be backed up due to “leaf peepers” (this is only relevant to those of you who live in the New England area). Instead of shopping at the outlets on the Saturday before Christmas, go a few weeks earlier. It’s. Not. That. Hard.

Being a tourist gives you the opportunity to experience amazing things, like trying another culture’s food, stepping foot in a building where history was made or simply checking an item off of your bucket list. Everyone deserves to experience those moments, so let’s stop complaining about them and instead let them enjoy their life.

2 Comments

  1. Very good post. The largest city I have lived near was Columbia, South Carolina…not too tourist-y, but it is getting more popular. Seeing a tourist’s fascination with something that is everyday/boring to me could help me appreciate it all over again

  2. I don’t have any problem with conscientious tourists that follow the rules like everybody else. The problem is that 80% of the tourists I see seem to think that the rules don’t apply to them and they can behave however they want, because they won’t see any of these people ever again anyway.

    I live in San Francisco and work in Marin. I like to bike to the ferry to Marin and then bike to my office. Takes about the same amount of time to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge to work. Those are the only options of getting there. Usually it is pretty nice. Until tourist season. And then the tourists ruin my commute and therefore my life.

    The morning commute is pretty nice, only the odd tourist here and there is up that early. But then the evening commute. The tourists come out in droves. They all cut in line for the ferry, and they even form lines to cut in line. And lines to cut in line to cut in line. And they see the commuter boat pulling in (even though the tourist boat which was designed with them in mind that takes a cruise around the bay and drops them off at Pier 41 comes only 10 minutes later) and they don’t know anything about it except they haven’t wanted anything more in their lives than they want to get on that boat. So they all pile their bikes in front of the ramp in a frenzied mob, and press at the gate to get in before anybody has had a chance to disembark from the SF -> Marin direction (pretty much these are all commuters in that direction during the evening).

    I call out to them, “Hey, the commuters are going to need to disembark before we can get on, so you have to leave a space for them to walk through!” and maybe two of them will listen and pull back, but then the other tourists will see the gap and use that as an opportunity to cut in front of the good tourists, quickly refilling the gap. I shout this a few more time to no avail. Then other tourists that are waiting in line behind me will see the press up ahead and assume that I must not want to get on the boat because I am not blocking people trying to disembark, so they walk right up in front of me to join the press. So then I say, “Hey, I’m waiting in line for the boat, too.” And they dismiss me with a “yea yea” and continue joining the frenzied cutting-in-line press.

    The ferry operators get off the boat and shout at everybody to make a space for the commuters to disembark, and the tourists shuffle around and don’t actually clear a space. Then the commuters have to slowly muscle through the tourists who are trying to swim upstream to get on the boat despite the ferry operators telling them that they need to wait for everbody to disembark first.

    And then they get on and say “Does this go to Pier 41?”
    “No, this is the commuter ferry and it goes to the Ferry Building”
    “I wanted to go to Pier 41! That’s where we need to return the bikes!”
    “Well, that ferry comes 10 minutes later, you’re going to the Ferry Building now.”

    It has also happened several times that the commuter ferry has gotten so filled with tourists that they couldn’t let me on, so in those cases I wait the 10 minutes and take the tourist ferry. It is always totally empty, because all the tourists just wanted to hop onto the first boat they saw. The problem with the tourist ferry is that it takes much longer to cross the bay and it drops me off a couple of miles further from where I’m trying to go, so it usually doubles my total commute time to take the tourist ferry. It is fine to take 2 hours leisurely getting home every once in a while, but not every day. That’s time I could spend grocery shopping or going to the gym or washing clothes or anything else, all wasted drinking beers on a ferry.

    This happens to me every single day without fail during tourist season. I try to be polite and respectful in explaining the rules to them, but it has become increasingly obvious to me that they just don’t give a shit about the rules, and would prefer to do whatever they want, so long as they get on that boat before I do. And believe me when I say that driving on the Golden Gate Bridge during tourist season is no better, and often worse. Therefore, tourists are ruining my life.

    Even the locals taking the ferry to the ballgames aren’t as bad as the tourists, because despite their loud drunkenness they let people disembark first and they don’t cut in line.

    And whenever I’m a tourist, I observe all the local rules and am polite and try to be as unobtrusive as possible. But I always see all the other tourists breaking all the rules and being rude and doing whatever they want because it is more convenient for them at the expense of the locals. This was especially true in Bermuda, when I was a tourist there I saw The worst tourists in the world. They were breaking all the
    rules of the bus system, cutting, being foul, and basically ruining the lives
    of all the locals just trying to commute to work. I could feel a lot of animosity
    from the locals towards the tourists for this reason, and I couldn’t say I
    blame them! They were having a hugely negative impact on their already mundane
    daily grind. And the tourists didn’t care! It made me embarrassed to be a tourist there, and associated with those people.

    The commuters have to see and interact with the same people/bus drivers/ferry operators every single day, so if they break the rules or act selfishly then there will be negative repercussions for them. But the tourists will never see us again, so what incentive do they have to follow the rules and to be kind to us? And it is the worst in areas where most of the income comes from tourism, because then nobody enforces any of the laws or rules for tourists, because the government is terrified of losing that income. That creates two classes of people overlapping in the same space: one that has to live there and abide by all the rules, and one that is there temporarily and can do whatever they want to whomever they want.

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