The bad behavior that’s emerged in everyday life post-Covid is now impacting cities and travel destinations. Among the evidence? Just take the video portal between Dublin and New York City, opened in May to “[form] an unprecedented visual bridge between these two iconic cities,” which had to temporarily close following inappropriate visitor behavior. This included people flashing at the camera, and others who appeared to broadcast themselves taking drugs.

Meanwhile, in Barcelona, tourists using the 116 bus route to visit the city’s famed Park Güell generated such overcrowding that in April the route was wiped from Google and Apple maps, a move that is said to have had to have come from the town’s council.

And across the globe in Japan’s Fujikawaguchiko, where tourists flock to see Mount Fuji, the council had spent around US $8,300 putting up fencing to stop tourists using a convenience store as a spot to take photos of the landmark, as the crowding was inconveniencing locals. Yet a mere day after it was put up, holes were found in the fence, pointing to tourists’ unwillingness to follow the destination’s etiquette.

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Brighton has recently introduced a fee to visit its famous pier. Courtesy, Brighton Palace Pier.

As noted in the Future 100 2024 story The New Etiquette, bad behavior is seemingly on the rise, with eighty percent of global respondents agreeing that people are behaving worse than ever. As Kirsty Sedgman, a cultural studies expert at the University of Bristol told VML Intelligence, there has been a “collapsing of the social contract that we've seen over particularly the past two decades [that] has accelerated dramatically post-Covid.”

Indeed, with travel booming again - the World Travel & Tourism Council forecasts that the sector’s global economic contribution in 2024 is “set to reach an all-time high of US $11.1 trillion” - this lack of respectful behavior is becoming more evident in tourists’ antics.

Touristsin Ibiza2 Aurelio Martinelli
Promoción Turistíca de Ibiza. Image by Aurelio Martinelli

So what steps are destinations enacting to push back on visitors’ undesirable behavior? As it turns out, they’re taking myriad approaches that span everything from visitor pledges to behavioral nudges to fees to offset the impact of tourism. The Dublin-New York Portal, for one, reopened in late May with new, set hours, additional security, and an automatic blurring of the camera if the portal is stepped on or the camera obstructed. Appealing to people’s sense of propriety, artist and founder Benediktas Gylys commented: “As humans we are creating the Portals experience together,” inviting those who use it to “care about their Portals and how other community members are approaching the sculptures.”

And in Spain’s Canary Islands, residents have demonstrated their rejection of mass tourism with protests attended by tens of thousands. Protestors told the BBC that they instead favored a “sustainable model that…puts less pressure on costs and housing.” Reflecting this mood, in Spain’s Balearic Islands, rules have been introduced in several resorts banning drinking alcohol on the streets and the selling of alcohol late at night. Tourists’ failure to comply could result in fines of up to €3,000, or US $3,235, with Sky News reporting that according to Palma mayor Jaime Martínez, one of the legislation’s objectives is to "correct uncivil attitudes.”

Bournemouth beach huts please credit BCP Tourism
Bournemouth beach huts, Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole Tourism.

More collaborative approaches, meanwhile, include appealing to tourists’ sense of responsibility with pledges or taxes to help preserve destinations and counteract tourism’s potentially destructive effects. In November 2023, Mallorca introduced its Responsible Tourism Pledge, following the examples of Palau and Iceland in outlining tourists’ duties for responsible travel. And, like Venice, UK seaside resorts including Bournemouth and Brighton are introducing tourist taxes, whether it’s the £2, or $2.55 fee if one is staying in a larger hotel in Bournemouth, or the £1 or $1.27 fee to visit Brighton’s famed pier.

Waimanalo Oahu Hawaii Tourism Authority HTA Tor Johnson tif
Waimanolo Oahu. Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA). Image Tor Johnson.

Hawaii recently proposed a US$25 “climate fee” for visitors, to offset the environmental impact of tourism - though lawmakers have thus far failed to pass it. Such a fee has though been successfully introduced in Bali, Indonesia, where an entry tax of US $9.60, to protect Bali’s “culture and natural environment,” came into force in February.

This pushing back against tourists’ bad behavior shows that balance of power in tourism is shifting from “the customer is always right,” to an expectation that tourists will conform to a country’s etiquette and fit in with the society around them. Locals, it seems, would rather forgo any income that tourism brings if ultimately it negatively impacts where they live. This movement is setting the stage for tourism that’s more mindful, sustainable, and that’s undertaken with an old-fashioned sense of respect.

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