Tourist in Brussels

Bloody Tourists

“Well he looked down at my silver chain
He said I’ll give you one dollar
I said you’ve got to be jokin’ man
It was a present from me Mother
He said I like it I want it
I’ll take it off your hands
And you’ll be sorry you crossed me
You’d better understand that you’re alone
A long way from home”
Dreadlock Holiday – 10CC from Bloody Tourists 1978
The lyrics refer to an experience Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues had in Barbados. It helped me become a little more streetwise when exploring less reputable neighbourhoods. The title came about as 10CC were touring all over the world but seeing little more than hotel rooms, concert venues and air planes. The only chance they got to explore the world was as tourists, hence the album title “Bloody tourists”. There are other travel related songs on the album but that’s a subject for another day.

Tourist in Brussels

Non-tourist travel
The theme of Travel Talk on Tuesday on the 22nd March 2011 was “Non-tourist travel”. It stirred up a lot of views. I read all of the tweets from the day’s #TTOT and found that everyone wants to known as a traveller /traveler and not a tourist. Why is this?

Is is because @touristdudes @soultourists3 @quirkytourist @tourismDesigned @luxury_tourism @frommerstourism instinctively sounds wrong? Personally I think there’s something more.

Defining travel and tourism

The USA and Britain are two countries separated by a common language. In the UK a traveller is a person who lives a nomadic lifestyle in a caravan (sorry trailer in the USA). A search on the internet revealed that “Traveler or traveller (see American and British English spelling differences) commonly refers to one who travels, especially to distant lands.” Wikipedia. Then it goes on to include all the categories of traveller, which include tourist, perpetual traveller, itinerant, nomad and more. Then, “The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people who “travel to and stay in places outside their usual environment for more than twenty-four (24) hours and not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes not related to the exercise of an activity remunerated from within the place visited.” Wikipedia. Thank you @TraveBlggr.  So I and the majority of participants on #TTOT were tourists, yet the term is now considered derogatory, in the same way that professionals look at amateurs. Personally, I have no problem being called a tourist. Although I remember arguing with a Chamonix Council Official after 5 months, that I was not a tourist as I had been living there full time, but to no avail, I had to pay my tourist taxes like everyone else! The result of this is that I am now a perma-tourist, as I am living off a small pension. Unless I work and pay taxes at each location, I will not be able to discard that tag.

My views on the discussion
My personal view, is that nearly all of the responses to question were posed in terms that excluded that respondent from being a tourist. The P Theroux quote regarding tourists and travelers was a common RT. @Roniweiss believed that volunteer travel was not tourism. Others, that working at the destination was also believed to be non-tourism and that certainly corresponds to the WTO definition.

Another popular idea was that non-tourist travel was exploring without maps, guidebooks and itineraries. That I suppose, would have to mean that the traveller must not book any accommodation in advance as even package holidays allow the chance to do this. Which means that anyone travelling to see items on their bucket list must be tourists unless the list was related to work at the destinations.
As usual there was lots of fun, especially when Tweeps allowed themselves to admit to tourist moments.

A recap has been done by @ConnieHum but with 28 tweets it only scratches the surface of the TTOT experience. I wish there was a way Twitter could archive chats so that you can follow conversations and get the whole picture.

Travel Talk on Tuesday is a live chat, the real fun is participating. So I will not go and post a recap. I hold strong views on the subject. I would recommend any travel chat on Twitter, as it is a great way of finding out more about the personalities on Twitter. Too many accounts are just Tweeting promotional links and not interacting.

In writing this post I also referred to @RoniWeiss‘s post:

Thank you to the #TTOT hosts and organisers: @traveldudes, @insidetravellab, @mobilelawyer, @roniweiss, @tbloggersunite, @toddwassel, @traveldesigned, and @WildJunket.

Edit 5 May 2011:
Since publishing this post, two other blogs have also had a debate on this subject.
Runaway Jane posted: Is there really a difference between a tourist and a traveller?
Mallory On Travel published: Tourists Travel Too – Defining a Traveller

About John Williams

John Williams looks at travel from a responsible consumer's perspective. He is doesn't accept hosted trips, so don't expect gushing reports of experiences that neither he, you, nor our planet can afford. He, is the first to acknowledge that when it comes to sustainable travel, he has a lot to learn. TravelCrunch is a platform for sharing his learning, but if you have any tips or disagreements feel free to air them in the comments.

6 thoughts on “Bloody Tourists”

  1. Interesting post, John. For me, ‘tourist’ and ‘tourism’ are more of an industry term, and it seemingly has (often negative) connotations with what ‘the masses’ do, where as a ‘traveller’ (or traveler if you’re in the US) has more of an air of independence to it.

    I’m not sure I’d agree but some would also argue that a tourist is someone who goes to one destination and visits the sights there, whereas a traveller might go from one destination to the next.

  2. Thanks for the cites.

    I get the feeling you have more to say. I hope you do, at some point.

    And I’m always up to continue the conversation in the Twitterverse.

  3. @Kendal Cottages, yes that appears to be the understanding of most of the participants on #TTOT. Somehow the meaning of words varies over time and perfectly harmless words get hijacked for other purposes. Then there is the difference between the UK and USA complicating it even further.

    However, I cringe when I hear the names chalet staff call their clients at ski resorts.

    There was a school of thought claiming that package holidays were purely for ‘tourists’ and a belief that independent travel was for ‘travelers / travellers’. I think the Wikipedia definitions are just fine (although someone may have updated them today). What did Shakespeare say about roses again?

  4. Hi John,

    I know we have discussed this in some depth and have a slightly differing view but maybe not really as polarised as first envisaged. I still believe there is a distinction between the attitude of a ‘traveller’ and a ‘tourist’ but definitely agree that at sometimes the ‘definitions’ merge. We are all one or the other at times depending on the situation and what suits us at the time, that is the real beauty of travel.

    I am extremely gratified that you have linked this to my piece on the same topic as it is great to have both ‘sides’ of any discussion or debate. Thank you.
    Iain Mallory recently posted..Berber Desert Odyssey – Campfires- Camels and StarlightMy Profile

  5. Hi Roni,
    I may well return to your post and comment again.

    Hi Iain,

    I think we can agree to disagree. Even you recognise in your own post that our travel behaviour changes depending on a large amount of factors. It is interesting that you mention a distinction between attitudes. Having spent the 14 years as a Health and Safety professional I learnt quite a bit about attitude and behaviour. For example if you ask anyone “Do you think you are a safe driver?”, the answer will invariably be “Of course”. However if then ask “Do you ever break the speed limit?”, many will answer “Yes, when it is safe to do so” or similar responses. It all boils down to the fact that there is a massive mismatch between attitude and behaviour. This disjoint is abundantly clear when I read the blog posts, tweets and look at the photos of some of the self proclaimed ‘travelers’; as their attitudes are contradicted by their behaviour.

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