Is There a ‘Right Way’ to Be a Tourist?

Is There a ‘Right Way’ to Be a Tourist?

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Do you think there is a “right way” and a “wrong way” to be a tourist? Do you think one style of travel is better than another?

In “This Austrian Village Wants ‘Frozen’ Fans to Let It Go,” Laura M. Holson writes about how the hamlet of Hallstatt, Austria, is seeking “quality” visitors, and not tourists who “just take pictures”:

They arrive by the busload and on ferries, many in pursuit of the perfect photograph for Instagram, others seeking the transcendence of a fairy tale land.

Each year, one million travelers visit Hallstatt, Austria, a picturesque 16th-century hamlet they say inspired the fictional kingdom of Arendelle in the Disney animated blockbuster “Frozen.”

Never mind that the 2013 film — and its 2019 sequel — was influenced by Norway’s wintry splendor more than 1,000 miles away. Or that Disney offers “Frozen”-inspired activities on its cruises in Norway. To be fair, Hallstatt looks remarkably like Arendelle, which is why visitors continue to arrive. But the 780 people who live there have had enough.

The article outlines the campaign regarding tourism in Hallstatt that will soon be put into place:

In May, Hallstatt is embarking on a campaign to focus on quality — not quantity — tourism, according to local officials. Tour buses, which tally as many as 90 on the busiest days, will be capped at 50 and must register with the tourism office. Groups that arrange lunches at local restaurants, sign up for boat cruises or visit Hallstatt’s famous salt mines will be given preference.

Visitors, too, will be asked to stay more than two hours, said Michelle Knoll, office manager for Hallstatt’s tourism board. The goal is to get people to spend time and money in Hallstatt’s restaurants and shops.

“Many visitors only have a short time and only come to take some pictures,” Ms. Knoll said in an email. She added, “The number of tourists is simply too much.”

The author points out ways that tourists have been intrusive:

Churches have had to hire bouncers to keep selfie-seeking tourists from interrupting funerals and Sunday services, according to news reports. Guests are warned not to use drones or trample village property. After a fire broke out in November, Hallstatt’s mayor, Alexander Scheutz, implored travelers to stay home so locals could fix the buildings.

He recently said he hoped to cut the number of tourists by one-third this year.

The article continues:

Elizabeth Becker, the author of “Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism,” said that tourists should manage their enthusiasm after seeing exotic locales in movies and on television.

“Even nice people start to act like barbarians,” she said of overcrowded tourist spots. “Why do we expect to walk into anybody else’s life and have their romantic adventure?”

That’s particularly true in communities that are ill-equipped to handle the tons of additional garbage that tourists bring with them. Then there is the surge in water usage, Ms. Becker said.

It’s especially troublesome if there are not enough hotels, bathrooms and grocery stores to handle the hordes. She noted that even established tourist destinations, like Dubrovnik, Croatia, which saw a flood of visitors with the popularity of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” buckle at first when the large cruise ships arrive.

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • What kind of traveler are you? What kind of traveler do you want to be when you are older?

  • Would you want to visit Hallstatt? Does the hamlet’s connection to “Frozen” have any influence on your answer?

  • How do you think life in Hallstatt has changed since the arrival of the “Frozen” movies? If you were one of the 780 people who lived there, what suggestions might you make to prevent the village from being overwhelmed?

  • What do you think about the statement that “even nice people start to act like barbarians” when visiting crowded “tourist spots”? Have you ever witnessed scenes that support or contradict that statement? To what degree do you think too much tourism in one place can cause potential problems?

  • A related article suggests that visitors “be curious about culture”:

Having a list of attractions to visit is fine. But try to go beyond the bucket-list check marks.

“A kind traveler is always respectful and curious about the cultural significance of the places and people they visit,” said Heather Arnold, the owner of Routes Bicycle Tours of New Mexico. “Sometimes achieving this requires stepping back from the stresses of travel and any personal preconceptions — which can be difficult — but establishing these roots ultimately allows you to better embrace the ‘spirit’ of a place.”

What do you think about this advice? To what degree, if at all, does it correspond to your views about what travelers should and shouldn’t do? Explain.

Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.