Our own worst enemy: 5 types of travelers that are killing tourism

By | April 12th, 2009

Are tourists destroying tourism?

The ones Bob Menconi saw on the lido deck of the Celebrity Solstice were — one heaping plateful at a time.

At the megaship’s all-you-can-eat buffet lunch, they piled slices of pizza, grilled fish and coconut Flan on their trays like it was their last meal. “I was amazed,” says Menconi, who owns a framing business in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. “It was to the point where it was falling off the side. It was the dumbest thing.”

Dumb on more than one level, actually.

It’s not just that the passengers had as many shots at the buffet line as they wanted. It’s that the morsels going overboard collectively represented a titanic waste of resources, which must have been more than a little embarrassing for a cruise line that prides itself on its environmental record. Not only did these passengers leave their manners and common sense on shore; they were also selfish gluttons.

What is it with travelers today?

• Rachel Harrison recently overheard a guest at a Tampa, Fla., hotel order a veggie burger “medium rare.”
• Michael Dillon saw one airline passenger drop her bags off at a check-in kiosk and walk away. “She thought someone would pick them up for her,” he remembers.
• Michelle Bell heard a passenger ask why it was necessary to stay on the ship in Antarctica. “Couldn’t they just get a hotel?” she wanted to know.

You can’t make this stuff up. But are these tourists sinking an entire industry? The correct answer is: they are — and they aren’t.

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No, not all travelers. Most of us still pack our sound judgment and good manners when we go on vacation. And most of us will continue to do so, especially after reading this column.

But there are a few annoying exceptions, and they’re hurting travel in ways you probably don’t know. Here are five types of travelers who fit that category:

1. The stupid tourist
With the possible exception of a Caribbean all-inclusive resort, you won’t find a more impressive collection of brain donors than on a cruise. Never mind the buffet line. Once these passengers set sail, they belly up to the bar, get blitzed, and act like … well, drunken sailors. Some of them jump overboard, too. Our friends at the Web site Cruisejunkie keep a list of cruise and ferry passengers who fell off a ship. Since 1995, there have been more than 100 documented cases. How many of them involved passengers having one drink too many and then doing their best Kate Winslet impersonation? Like you have to ask.

2. The rude visitor
I live in Orlando, which has more than its fair share of discourteous tourists. These vacationers cut in line, drive like teen-agers and the words “please” and “thank you” aren’t in their vocabulary. When I lived in the Florida Keys, the locals had a saying: “If it’s tourist season, why can’t we shoot them?” But one city has figured out a better way of punishing the unmannered masses. Bars and restaurants in Venice have three price lists: one for locals, the other for visitors and a third for rude tourists. So if you’re Italian, a croissant and a cappuccino might cost €3.50, but if you order in English, and are impolite, you have to pay €7.

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