Individual tourism vs. Mass tourism

On a number of travel forums, we read lot of bitter criticism of mass tourism. 

I also observed a steady trend about violent or abusive language towards people who ask for information on local agencies, because it is "fashionable" to travel solo with the backpack and local transport. Who has not been insulted for expressing disappointment, dissatisfaction, a questioning of a travel forum?

(Mainly on the Guide du Routard and Voyage Forum, most other have mediators that ensure respect for persons)

Many individual travelers imagine themselves to be the opposite of mass tourism. And yet .... with new tourism "trend" that wants individual ("road trip" as they say) we are witnessing an irreversible transformation of a number of destinations. This mass of individual tourists "backpackers" ended up to impose its lifestyle even in the remotest corners of the globe. South East Asia pay a high price for this.

Mass tourism is a business strategy intended for groups such as the individual.

These are the T.O (Tour Operators), restaurants, hotels, shops which deal tourism in terms of mass or à la carte. Customers do what they can with what they have

I had the chance to practice all forms of tourism: the road with a backpack, organized tour, accompanied tour, individual travel, hitchhiking, train, bus, charter, airliners, with accommodation in guesthouses but also in stations waiting rooms or in nature, charming homestay and luxury hotel.

All forms have their advantages and disadvantages.

Most critics reduce mass tourism to group travel in large groups, with participants who would not know how to live, not adapting, no contact with local people, or scared to get lost in the crowd or enjoy a country in depth.

So much so that many travel agencies make it a advertising argument: "off the beaten track", "far from mass tourism" etc ... as if he were ashamed of traveling in a group or bus.

Many individuals imagine having spent 8 hours in a train or local bus stands, immersion in native life, having eaten a donut or soup on a sidewalk or in a market, or walking in Punjabi or djelaba or harem pants with a fake pashmina shawl thrown over the shoulders or rasta braids is a sign of integration.

The reality is that they have spent 8 hours in transports, they ate a donut in a popular tavern, they are disguised as natives. They do not remain less foreign.

I remember in the 70s, thousands of travelers and individual travelers (s) have left indelible traces (not least) in the countries they crossed to get to Kathmandu or Goa.

I observe that individual tourists sometimes turn certain destinations into drug, alcohol and sex orgies such as in Ibiza (Balearic Islands), Van Vieng in Laos, Kô Samui or Phûket in Thailand, Goa in India, Hikkaduwa or Midigama in Sri Lanka, marking indigenous generations, to the point of forcing certain countries to react in order to preserve their dignity, avoiding or even forbidding this type of tourism, knowing that it will inevitably move to other destinations.

The aficionados of Springbreak, Burningman, and some "exotic" surf spots confirm this tendency to the degeneration of many lonely travelers with a preference for mass activities!

I see regularly when hiking mountain trails are dotted with indelible traces of solitary walkers, yet very "eco-friendly".

If it is true that gregariousness tends to get the intellectual level and social behavior at the lowest group average, it is unfair to put everyone in the same bag ...

Groups are mini corporations with interested and interesting people who are looking for, other people who seem unable to adapt to other frames of reference than their own, unless they are allowed to get time, finally others that the world stops at the height of their navels or their wallet.

In a tourist bus of 30 people there is always a sample of different types of personalities.

In the same circuit, there are people who take advantage of their stay, their meetings, their discoveries,  other people are wondering what they came here to do,  and people who criticize what they see, never happy because it is so different from their habits. We find the same samples in individual!

I observed that many people use "tourism group" because sometimes cheaper (which is less and less true), safer, more convenient (because one does not take care of booking etc ...), while behaving as individual tourists, taking advantage of every opportunity to escape the group and enjoy special contacts, special tours, private discoveries.

I did not find any difference between them and the majority of solo travelers, adventurers, backpackers in modern times.

I also observed that when 50 or 80 (sometimes hundreds) solo travelers traveling with their backpacks in the same city, the same area, they recreate a form of "mass tourism" ... with the same samples of personalities: the cool, the cultural creative, the moaners, the boring, thepoorly educated, theopportunistic, the dishonest, the conceited etc. ....

It is interesting to note how tourists who call themselves "individual" have a gregarious instinct: they all go where they must be, transforming the world into spots of must be, fashion places, gatherings of people who are alike : I remember hiking in the rice fields in Bali, we were alone, a few days later we pass in front of the rice fields of Teglalang. There were hundreds of individual tourists, all dressed in the same way, all posing and making selfies, because that was the place to be.

All these "backpacks" can be found in "road trip" in Ubud, Kuta (Indonesia), but also in Ella, Arugam Bay, Midigama in Sri Lanka, Hoi Anh, Nha Trang, Mui Ne Vietnam, Pushkar or Goa in India, Ko Samui or Phuket in Thailand. They like to believe that they do individual tourism.

They like to believe that they do individual tourism and that they are free to go where they want ! How come they find themselves all in the same place at the same time? Free?

I have observed that if the "tourists" groups pass for people who need their coffee-croissant-butter-jam in the morning, many individual backpack could not do without their burger and their pizza, french fries and red bull which has led many small local restaurants throughout Asia to add burgers and pizza, but also beer, red bull and free wi-fi to their card, at the same time creating a mass effect !

In high season, when the hundreds Vietnamese local agencies have sent hundreds of individual tourists in ethnic markets of North Vietnam, there is more individual tourists in Sapa or Bac Ha than ethnic minorities. It is always a form of mass tourism ...

The impact of this individual tourism "mass" is virtually the same on local populations than large bus.

Hundreds of individual in Patpong, Pathaya or Ko Samui do more damage on the local female population as if they were conventional tourism.

Several hundred western girls half dressed (or half naked) in the countryside and cities in India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia do more damage on locals males, and women by ricochet, than conventional tourism.

More than 300 000 individual tourists on the tiny island of Bali in high season do the same effect and generates the same drawbacks as 300,000 tourists in large groups.

Being a single traveler is not a guarantee of respect for the host countries, nor for the people we meet, let alone the image we give of ourselves. This is not the mark of a quality travel or contact.

The comments made by many backpackers on the forums leave no doubt on ttheir tolerance level, and intelligence level.

Also, some villages in Laos, Thailand, on the west coast of India are now convinced that we are all consumers of chit or yaba or ecstasy, that we think only get drunk, get party and copulate with anyone.

It is true that some sites, some areas, some villages can not be visited with great bus because they are inaccessible.

It is true that it is less traumatic for families to see coming two people rather than 50.

It's true that things do not always go the same way, when in a session of shamanism or an authentic village festival we are 4 instead of 30.

It is true that the home and the contact are different when you are less numerous.

But a village of Black Lolos, where individually pass 300 couples per year, as immersion Homestay, will never have the same attitude towards any foreigner, or in respect of life.

I sometimes have to attend extraordinary things with large groups, I observe that it is often based on the quality of people in the group.

I sometimes attended distressing scenes with individual travelers: profanity, dishonesty, lack of respect for tradition, addiction and binge drinking, sexually provocative behavior, theft in some temples, voyeurism ...

On many forums, authors are reluctant or unwilling to share "tips and advice" under the pretext of protecting these tips from mass tourism and its devastating effect.

They forget that with or without us, the steamroller of globalization is running: the farmer of remote village goes to market, discover new technology set and their propaganda tools. In the small village of ethnic Chinese-Vietnamese border, everyone has a copy of the Galaxy, their request  for electricity connection is not designed to help children with their homework at night, but to operate the TV flat screen.

It is time to admit that this is not tourism that kills the authenticity, traditions and values in the villages of the world.

It does not bother me to share what I've seen, or that there are tourists in the places where I go.

What bothers me is how they behave (individual or group) and what those behaviors generate.

Some examples, the most common:

  1. Some tourists, especially Asians (Japan in the lead), spend their time taking pictures of themselves in front of everything that is interesting, taking zany poses. Sometimes this goes very long time, especially when in groups and they all want to be photographed with each group member separately, forcing to wait (this happened to me + one hour) in order to make a picture without these frozen smiles, raised fingers shaped V. Sometimes the sunrise happened when liberate the place.

The selfies era has only worsened the phenomenon, since this trend has contaminated all the youth of the world.

  1. Of being "between oneself," some people "said liberated" are stripped on beaches where women bathe usually dressed, creating a lot of entertainment at the male population, giving an image of Westerners who is not very representative.

  1. many individual female tourists walk around in mini shorts, leggins and jerseys necklines, because the weather is nice and warm in the tropics, in th
    e markets, in the streets, in Africa or Asia, while indigenous women are prudish. (I'm not saying to wear the veil, but just be decent  about manners held over the country visited, especially because the indigenous people are tolerant, and it is rare that they dare to ask cover a little, especially the guys ...)

An European, American, Australian girl in mini-shorts and slip-on tank top among women in sari on Jaisalmer Square, in a Tamil market, in a funeral ceremony in Sulawesi, in the streets, temples and pagodas of Hanoi Or Hoi An, in Indonesian rice fields, in villages in Sri Lanka, western girls wearing leggins (Camel Toe style sometimes without underwear) in the villages of Gujarat, in Udaïpur, on the roads of Bali, in Ella or Arugam Bay, in the events of Beijing Express, not unnoticed, it sometimes creates animation and gives an image of European women, which I do not share, sometimes provoking behaviors of sexual harassment by the male populations on other women.

I am not referring, here,  to those who walk half-naked, drunk or drugged, on the beaches of Goa (India), Phuket, Ko Samui (Thailand) in the streets of Ibiza (Spain) or Van Vieng (Laos). I do not consider them either as tourists or as tourists.

  1. Tourists in bermudas, shorts, leggins and tank tops in villages and temples seem to forget that they are in living areas and in sacred places where people come to work and pray. This is not because it is sunny and warm that all asian and african cities and villages are holiday resorts.

I'm not the only one to say that, The Guide du Routard - Vietnam 2012 p 131 "same advice to most other countries (except Saint Trop 'and Coney Island), no nudity on the beaches, nor in the city.  Avoid shorts too tight (besides the very short shorts) and bare chests. Outfits correct in temples and pagodas (arms and legs covered) and take off the shoes. "

Even in France some municipalities are obliged to remind holidaymakers and tourists to have a decent outfit in the city

The advantage of a group is that a guide sometimes remind the rules of knowing how to live, that does not have a number of individuals.

  1. Many individual tourists take advantage their small numbers, so more discreet,  to slip into the privacy of the families of the countries visited: by entering the confines of their home, in their property, in their huts, in their temples, on the banks of rivers, with a smile from ear to ear, they take advantage of the surprise and pleasure of welcoming a stranger to trample social basic rules, like asking permission to enter, take off shoes etc. ... They take pictures and forget to ask if people agree. 80 times out of 100 they are, but this does not absolve to ask for Correction. They almost never think to offer to send a copy of the photo as a thank you.

How many times have I seen individual tourists taking pictures in hiding or "on the sly"

  1. They play with the children, patting their head, kissing, giving them candy, shower gels collected from hotels, pens, because they are cute, fun etc ... without worrying that in many cultures it does not touch the head of a child, and becoming Santa Claus without having established a relationship can turn children into beggars ...

How many times have I railed against those kids who assault me yelling "hello pen, hello sweet, hello money" ... because of these "friendly visitors" who have gone before!

I'm not saying that we should not offer gifts or candy to children from families who receive it or who share their meals with us.

This is the difference between the relationship, sharing and distribution. Provide pens or sweets to children in a village where we spent the day or night is not the same as distributing pens in the street to children with whom we had no share.

  1. Many people publish pictures of people met during their travels on their blogs without informing people or asking permission beforehand. I'm talking about the people with whom we had a particular exchange.

It's just a formality "can we use the photos that we have done on our travel blog?" It's yes or no, and if it is no we have to respect even if we do not risk an international trial. In general the answer is yes ....

  1. Puce Imagine a group of Chinese come to you with a smile ear to ear:

they walk in your apartment as if they were at home, touching all your items

they dive nose over your pans in the kitchen,

they take pictures of your wife going to wash in the bathroom (we do not washe in the river actually)

they take pictures of your children by making them jump in the air or by covering them with kisses, by giving them a china made gadgets

they take pictures of your grandmother praying before a statue of the Virgin in her room

they take pictures of your daughter tans topless in the garden

and finally they ask you to pose with them and your entire family for posterity.

Imagine a month later you find all this on the net, on a blog, facebook, twitter and other flickr ....

That's what a lot of tourists make families living in the countries they visit. Individually or in "mass".No tourist has a monopoly on "know-travel"

It is more the way of being and living that makes the difference, than a form of tourism practiced.

As saying Le guide du Routard in most of his guides: "Remember abroad, the foreigner is you."

When we travel, we  are first tourists, either individually or in groups, with a backpack or Delsay. 

Before arriving at destination, there is the obligatory passage of the air travel:

here begins the obligatory journey of mass, since it imposes a regrouping !

CNN has published the list of incivilities (inappropriates behaviors) who create tensions during an airplane trip.

Having some experience in air travel, especially on long flights, I have established my own list. If we share some observations, I add others which seem to me to be obvious.

You may have chosen the best airline in the world, you will never escape the incivility of the passengers.

While the democratization of air travel, particularly long flights, allows more people to discover other horizons, it also brings about the lack of education and incivilities related to the greatest number, individual or in groups.

1 - Occupy several seats in airport waiting lobbies: because some passengers are tired or poorly educated, they lie down on three seats to sleep or relax, because there are many of them, many travelers are condemned to stroll through the aisles of "free tax" shops, or to sit on the floor until boarding. Lack of education, hypertrophied ego.

2 - Do not respect the queues at the check-in counter: many try to free-ride one or more places, to reach the ticket counter faster. Laying their luggage, pushing their trolley, pushing their children in front of the others. They do not care that you've been waiting there for an hour or so. Lack of education, hypertrophied ego.

3- Try to embark before your number is called: Most airlines are setting up a system to board hundreds of passengers in a minimum of time, making calls by zones or rows of seats. All of a sudden the majority of passengers become deaf or illiterate or no longer understand the instructions given in several languages.

Since the majority of employees are polite or do not care, 99 times out of 100, it works. When you arrive at your seat, a bunch of people are already installed in your area and occupy your luggage compartment, which require you to usurp another luggage compartment, further away. Self-centered opportunism.

4 - Try to change places by pretending that the one you occupy is attributed to them, all in a condescending tone, at the aggressive limit, until the hostess intervenes, controls the boarding cards and tells the moaners the place assigned to them. Self-centered opportunism

5 - Abstain from the space reserved for hand luggage: once your jacket, your purse or your photo bag, or your luggage cabin installed in the luggage compartment arrives passengers with a luggage cabin + a coat + shopping bags from free tax (cartridges of cigarettes, bottles of alcohol) + a laptop. They push or pile your things to place theirs, without precaution. When they are in couple or in family it is even worse ... Lack of education, ego hypertrophied.

6 - Passing hold baggage for cabin baggage: either because they are late for boarding (voluntarily or unintentionally), or because they try not to pay a surcharge or because they want disembark and exit the airport faster than the others. The crew do their best to store the bulky baggage.. Self-centered opportunism.

7 - Knocking the other passengers with a backpack: Once seated in your place, it is common for a boarding passenger to hurt your face with his backpack, because he(she) is not aware of the place he(she) takes or because he(she) is poorly educated. In both cases, the ego is hypertrophied. 98% forget to apologize, lack of education.

8 - Forgetting to wash before flying, and incommode the people: either because they are negligent and have no hygiene, or because they have spent several hours in transportation to the airport. (many airports have sinks, and sometimes shower, some genuine bathrooms). Lack of education.

9 - Squat the middle seat while empty. Take advantage of the fact that the center seat is not occupied to lie down or extend his(her) territory by depositing personal belongings. Lack of education, ego hypertrophied.

10 - Occupy both armrests: encroach on the comfort of others who have at least right to one of the armrests. How many passengers read the newspaper, or eat while occupying the space of a seat and a half, even if they put their elbows in the face of the neighbor. We can add the passenger who falls asleep with the head falling on the shoulder of the neighbor, or who snores during the 6 hours of flight. Lack of education, hypertrophied ego.

11- Take off the shoes and walk barefoot on the plane: lack of hygiene for yourself and for others.

12 - Coughing, sneezing and spreading germs everywhere: it is difficult to escape from these infections, either because people do not take care when they have a cold, tracheitis or bronchitis, sometimes a more severe respiratory illness, or because many passengers forget to put their hand or handkerchief in front of their mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze. Each sneeze or coughing flush vaporizes a cloud of thousands of bacteria to at least 6 meters. In a confined space such as an aircraft cabin, this increases the likelihood of contamination. Lack of hygiene and education.

13 - Lowering his seat suddenly without warning: To gain seats and money, the airlines tighten the rows of seats in order to add. This reduces the space available for the legs. A large majority of passengers suddenly lower their seats, the plane having barely taken off, without worrying about the person behind. Lowering slowly allows you to anticipate, and reposition the legs so as not to receive a blow. Absence of education, ego hypertrophied.

14 - Strike the back of the chair in front. Relatively rare in the elderly, frequent in young

people and in children. Since the airplane seats are particularly light, all vibrations are reflected in the back and pelvis of the person sitting in front. It is all the more disagreeable when one is dealing with a passenger whose legs are without rest: legs which vibrate or tremble permanently. Impatience, anxiety, compulsive nervousness.

15 - Smoking in the toilet and triggering the fire alarm. While it is said and repeated in different languages that it is forbidden to smoke in airplanes, some passengers in addiction to tobacco or grass can not help but go to grill one in the wc: putting the safety of passengers in danger when they throw the cigarette butts into the garbage cans, and anyway triggering the fire alarm. Being awakened in flight by the alarm and seeing the on-board personnel running with extinguishers is a real stress. Lack of education, ego hypertrophied.

16 - Spending hours on the toilet: in airplanes with between 300 and 500 seats, toilets are used almost all the time, except between 1:00 and 4:00 in the morning. Some passengers remain very long in the toilet, to the detriment of the comfort of the other passengers.

After passing the toilets of some people, it is sometimes necessary to make an almost complete cleaning: urine, water, paper on the floor, on the basin and around the washbasin. Lack of education, lack of hygiene.

17 - Try to get off the plane before everyone else. The engines of the plane are hardly stopped as the majority of people get up, hurriedly open the luggage chests to extirpate their belongings without worrying about the others.

They crowd one against the other to get out first, even if they walk on them. This can be understood for those who have a correspondence and that the flight is delayed, but not for the others. Lack of education, hypertrophied ego.

18 - Not having ones papers in order. Although the ground crew checks on boarding that the passengers are in good standing with the country of destination, many passengers have not filled (or not well filled) their landing card,or have not done the visa formalities, or have an expired passport. They block the waiting lines at the immigration counter sometimes for hours. Carefree, lack of education, opportunism (they will have tried).

19 - Go past those waiting in front of the luggage belt. Many people do not take account of passengers arrived before waiting for their luggage in front of the belt. They settle in front of them, sometimes by hitting them with their trolley so that they push and occupy the place. Lack of education, opportunism, hypertrophied ego.

When most of these incivilities are repeated on the same trip, flying can become a real stress for those who still have some education.

Below my ranking of tourists, all tend combined, based on the observation of several thousands of people encountered while traveling during 40 years.

There is no value judgment on nationalities in general. These are observations of people of various nationalities in travel status. 

"You think I do not like tourists! No, you felt, understood, I just hate certain behavior. Especially since I happen to be myself a tourist. So I make sure not to behave like that kind of tourists."   Jacques Salomé - Vivre avec les autres - Editions de l'homme - 2002