Melb magazine, March 2014 edition
The issue of inappropriate behavior by tourists has attracted a lot of media attention lately. The focus has mostly been on tourists from countries whose citizens have had little prior experience with international travel. It’s these tourists who are most likely to offend people – both residents and tourists alike – in the countries they visit. In Thailand for example, there have been many complaints concerning tourists from Russia (esp. in Pattaya) and China (esp. in Chiang Mai).
The sort of behaviour that upsets locals ranges from the mildly annoying through to acts that are dangerous and illegal. These include spitting in the street, shouting, public urination, ignoring road rules, and pushing in front of people in queues. Bad behaviour by tourists can cause considerable social friction and dissipate the welcoming nature of local people that is such a huge draw-card for any destination. It is of small consolation for local residents that behavior like this is usually only a product of ignorance of foreign culture and laws, rather than willful disregard or a deliberate intention to upset.
So, just whose responsibility is it to ensure that tourists understand what behavior is acceptable and what is not? Should it be the Thai government? The government of the tourists’ country of origin? The airlines and travel industry? The tourists themselves? It should be a shared responsibility, but all too often little is done by anyone. I suspect this is partly because of the fear of being branded unwelcoming or even racist. It was pleasing to see the Chinese government recently step in and issue guidelines for the behavior of its citizens travelling abroad (see http://www.news.com.au/travel/world-travel/china-issues-civilised-behaviour-guide-for-tourists/story-e6frfqai-1226653400934). Now if only other governments and major tourism organisations would follow suit, ideally by way of a coordinated campaign across the entire region.
This issue is discussed further in the following articles: