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Social Media helps us communicate and share information with people all around the world. As much as there are advantages, there are plenty of downsides to Social Media as well. Who would’ve thought that we’d now see tourists behaving badly as a common occurrence in certain places. The reason? Social Media. Yep.
Tourists Behaving Badly
This recent Skift report highlights some of the issues that are currently going on in Hawaii with regards to over tourism, crowding and conservation.
“The visitor of 20 years ago is very different than what we have today,” said Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau. “With the whole Instagram thing, people want the beauty shot in the remote location. They are often not aware of what they are doing and often will not listen to advice from local people. There have been some nasty exchanges when residents try to help, but just get told off.”
This has been a problem not just specific to Hawaii. At most popular tourists destinations around the world, you’ll probably have to wait in line because someone ahead of you is looking to get the picture so that they can post it on social media.
What boggles the mind is that people are visiting far off remote places on the island not to explore, but to find the perfect Instagram picture.
The island of Kauai is facing the brunt.
Along with environmental issues, Kanoho said worsening visitor behavior is leading to more safety problems. She cited a rise in the number of emergency rescues on hiking trails and incidents where tourists have been bitten when ignoring posted warnings about getting close to endangered monk seals on beaches.
“We have many drownings, most of them are tourists who want the ‘selfie’ and enter places that say ‘keep out’ or ‘high surf,’” Kimi said. “We are also facing a lot of reef damage.”
There are a few issues at play here. Let’s address them one by one.
Safety & Local Knowledge
As correctly highlighted in the article, safety signs are posted for a reason. The locals at any place are the residents of that land and know the ecosystem well. If someone native to the land is warning you about a landslide, there’s a really likelihood that they know what they’re saying. If tourists are simply ignoring warning signs or advice, then it’s depressing on so many levels.
On one hand, it shows a clear lack of respect or understanding. On the other hand, incidents like deaths only further damage the name of Hawaii as a tourist destination, even when it’s simply someone who is stupid enough to fall and drown while trying to take a perfect Instagram selfie.
You can call it Karma, the law of nature or whatever you want to. I write frequently about mutual respect and open mindedness being key towards having a great travel experience. When you go to another country or city around the world or even in the same country, go with an open mind. Instead of judging, try to understand. Instead of standing out, try to assimilate. A lot of the ill feeling between tourists and locals would subside the moment they see a higher level of respect and appreciation for the rules and regulations of the land.
If you leave the place you traveled to worse off than what it previously was, then you’re a part of the problem. If we don’t conserve some of our most beautiful forests, reserves, beaches and monuments, it will simply erode our cultures and make it a much worse travel experience for everyone.
The most enjoyable thing about travel is to venture around the world and experience how each culture is unique, how they have different customs and more importantly, how they have a totally different world view. If tourists throng all the popular places around the world to create a standardized experience for everyone and mess up the local ecosystem, then all these wonderful places around the world will start losing out on what’s truly unique and special about them.
The Pundit’s Mantra
There are good tourists and bad tourists, just the way there are good people and bad people. Tourists behaving badly isn’t a new phenomenon by any means. Irrespective of where you travel to, you’ll always run into a few bad apples who dampen the travel experience for everyone.
However, the constant urge to document and share all of our life’s moments on social media has surely messed up priorities for a lot of people. Add to that a lack of general travel etiquette, which is leading to more consternation between tourists and native dwellers. May be I was correct when I said that social media is completely messing up the way we travel!
Do you think your travel experience has only worsened after the explosion of social media platforms? What’s the worst kind of social media celebrity tourist that you’ve encountered while traveling? Let us know in the comments section.