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Commentary: Social media fuels the 'democratisation' of travel — what travellers can do to minimise its ill effects

Travel is back in full swing this summer, and so is bad behaviour by tourists.

Other destinations have taken similar steps. Iceland, Hawaii, Palau, New Zealand, Costa Rica and others have adopted pledges for visitors to abide by local laws and customs.

Campaigns like Switzerland’s “No Drama”, Austria’s “See Vienna — not #Vienna”, Finland’s “Be more like a Finn” and the Netherlands’ “How to Amsterdam” are aimed at attracting well-behaved tourists.

Where such efforts aren’t successful, some places such as Thailand’s famous Maya Bay have taken it further and fully closed to tourists, at least temporarily.

TRAVEL RESPECTFULLY

Remember you are a guest of the host communities when you travel. Here are some ways to ensure that you will be asked back.

DO YOUR RESEARCH

Even if you’re a seasoned traveller, you may not realise the impact your actions have on local communities. But a bit of information — from your own research or provided by local governments — might be enough to help you act more appropriately.

Before you go, look up guidelines or background information on local cultural or safety norms.

Whether you agree with the customs or not is irrelevant. If it is a more conservative place than you are used to, you should be mindful of that — unlike the two influencers who were arrested for explicit behaviour in a temple in Bali.

PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE…

Research shows that when travelling, people can become alienated from their surroundings if they are more focused on their devices than the destination.

Often the most memorable travel experiences will be when you have a meaningful connection with someone, or learn something new that you’ve never experienced before. That becomes harder if you’re constantly looking at your phone.

…OR USE YOUR INFLUENCE FOR GOOD

In popular “Instagram vs reality” posts, influencers are revealing the huge crowds and queues behind the most Instagrammable locations.

Showing the less-than-glamorous conditions behind those iconic shots could influence your own social media connections to rethink their personal travel motivations — are they just going somewhere to get the perfect selfie?

Having more evidence of these conditions circulating online could lead to a larger societal shift away from social media-induced tourism.

If you have the urge to post, try to promote smaller businesses and make sure you are demonstrating proper (and legal) etiquette on your holiday. THE CONVERSATION

The Conversation

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lauren A Siegel is a Lecturer in Tourism and Events at the University of Greenwich in London. Her research focuses on how social media has transformed experiences into objects of collectable consumption and visitor impacts to destinations considered ‘Instagrammable’.

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