The Curse Of The Bucket List
Above, some visitors to Venice got the city and the lido confused, and presumably thought the city was a beach.
Meanwhile, residents of the Orkney Islands, which has a population of around 20,000, will be joined by more than 120,000 visitors this summer. The influx is putting attractions such as Skara Brae, Europe’s best-preserved Neolithic settlement, under strain. Apparently last year there was an outcry when dozens of tourists interrupted a funeral at St Magnus Cathedral, taking selfies and trying to lift the lid of a coffin. It led to multilingual signs being erected urging people to show respect.
This latest outrage comes after Italian stag-partyers caused disgust one Sunday morning by strolling naked through the streets of Barcelonetta, a Catholic working class neighbourhood. The incident led to the cancellation of new hotels.
Last weekend I was having dinner in a small Parisienne restaurant when the entrance doors opened and about 50 Chinese tourists crammed into the foyer to take photos of us eating. Some Korean tourists brought half a dozen large teddy bears to stand in the photos.
Everyone has to learn how to be more sophisticated, of course, but do we have to put up with this? Mass tourism isn’t going to go away, so could there evolve a behaviour code for those who have not travelled abroad?
Most international tourists behave very well – I find Americans extremely respectful and not at all as they are painted in the press, but Chinese tourists travelling for the first time clearly have a different cultural perspective on privacy, and this need to be explained to them.
The biggest problem this summer will come from the sheer volume that arrives from cruise ships. Most see nothing of actual cities, being shepherded along a specific route to a restaurant that has been specially set aside for them in the manner of a theme park ride.
The idea that every door along the way should be pulled open and its contents photographed still seems extraordinary to me. Who on earth views all these photos? Are they simply dumped on Instagram? (A media network I have no interest in joining, so I don’t know). When I see 500 people taking the same shot of a cathedral I always wonder what they would say about that cathedral’s history if you asked them. I suspect – nothing.
I was once in a theatre watching Peter Shaffer’s play ‘Lettuce and Lovage’, sitting behind a row of 20 Californian girls. Ten minutes into the play one of them stood up and loudly asked the others, ‘Do we need to see any more of this?’ and they all walked out, the ‘London theatre’ bucket list having been ticked.
So this is an addendum to my Paris piece the other day. Visitors are encouraged to buy the idea of visiting somewhere more than actually understanding what they are visiting. How do we remedy it?