The Responsible Tourist: Preserving Historic Locations

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Tourism can be a boon for the overall economic growth of a nation and for the local businesses that thrive around a country’s tourist hotspots. These locations are sometimes natural or historic in value, and each one has a unique appeal that piques the interests of people around the world. Locals and government institutions strive to preserve the beauty of these attractions to keep tourists, and the revenue they bring, coming to see them.

But tourists can be more of a bane than a boon to a historic location, particularly if they have selfish or calloused attitudes.

Destructive Visits

The sheer number of tourists that can flock to an attraction can be as detrimental to its preservation as it is profitable for businesses. Although some people prefer less mainstream locations or activities, such as taking alternative mountain routes to Machu Picchu or avoiding tourist season in Venice, other people aren’t as considerate.

Pompeii is one of the fabled lost cities of the world. Mount Vesuvius buried the ancient Roman settlement when it erupted thousands of years ago. The cataclysm perfectly preserved large swathes of the city under the earth for millennia until its discovery and subsequent excavation.  However, hordes of tourists have done more damage to the solemn ruins by their mere presence. Other times, tourists actively destroyed parts of the city in their selfishness, like when aBritish woman tore out mosaic tiles in an important site in Pompeii. Authorities estimated that she had done over £2,000 in damage.

The mythic gigantic stone heads on the island of Rapa Nui, or Easter Island, are under threat from selfie-obsessed tourists who insist on picking the statue’s noses. The island’s authorities have repeatedly warned tourists that the statues are sacred and touching them or disrespecting them are taboo. Over 150,000 tourists traveled to the island in 2018, and their presence disrupted the ecology by straining limited resources, like fresh water.

As a traveler, how can you become a welcome visitor?

Tourist Etiquette

Happy tourists sightseeing city

Tourists lacking in manners have become such a problem worldwide that the United Nations World Tourism Organization released a publication they titled “Tips for a Responsible Traveler.” The advice they printed applies to all locations and may decrease incidents of destructive tourists.

  • Learn more about your destination. You can avoid accidentally disrespecting locals if you take the time to learn more about the nuances and culture of your destination. When you understand the motivations and significance of a historic location, you’ll appreciate it more and avoid damaging it.
  • Respect the locals. Listen to authority figures in the country and obey their laws and regulations. Being a tourist doesn’t exempt you from rules that are supposed to protect the people and locations of the country from harm.
  • Be mindful of the environment. Reduce your ecological impact on a tourist location. Follow the guides and organizations put in place to protect animals and other wildlife. Use only what you need to consume during your stay.

You have a responsibility as a traveler to leave the places you visit as intact as possible. Future generations should be able to enjoy the sights and locales that thrill those who are alive to see them today. Give them the chance to experience the heritage of other cultures by respecting the places you visit and practicing travel etiquette.

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