Fake shanty town experiences, segways and drones: The nine worst tourism ideas

Fortunately, it was a hoax. The good people at Tourism Northern Territory didn’t really come up with a slogan that reads “CU in the NT” – though it seems plenty of others believed they did, which is kind of a worry.

Whoever is selling the T-shirts with that catchy motto doesn’t have anything to do with the territory’s official tourism board, clearing Tourism NT from entering the hall of fame for “Worst Ideas in Tourism”.

Had the Territorians made it onto that list, however, they would have joined an ignominious cast of dodgy decision makers, the people who have come up with the ideas that are quickly ruining the tourism experience for the rest of us, as well as, in some cases, ruining the destinations themselves. For every Airbnb (good thing) there’s always a “fake shanty town experience” (bad thing).

Here are some of the worst ideas those in the travel industry have come up with. Segway tours

These things are probably much like jet-skis, in that they’re really fun when you’re on one, and a nightmare when you’re not. There’s nothing worse than sitting in some charming little piazza watching the world go by, or strolling down a quiet alleyway minding your own business, when 20 helmet-wearing tourists appear on Segways, zig-zagging around, yelling at each other, and generally spoiling the idea that you might have discovered somewhere unique.

Safety first: On a Segway tour in San Francisco. Photo: AlamySelfie sticks

I’ve previously written in defence of the selfie stick, but seriously, this thing is getting out of hand. When you’re constantly being jabbed in the face at major tourism locations by people extending their selfie sticks without bothering to look at who else might be around them – so intense is their concentration on capturing their own awesomeness – then something has to change. Fake slum experience

What could be better than staying in a fake African shanty town and pretending to be really poor for a night while still enjoying running water, electricity, heating and Wi-Fi internet? Well, just about anything I would have thought, but that hasn’t stopped the Emoya Hotel in Bloemfontein, South Africa from offering an “African Village Chalet experience”, where tourists can stay in fake tin shacks, use their “long-drop effect toilets”, and fantasise about living in a shanty town without worrying about any of the horrifying realities of living in a shanty town. Voluntourism

Done well, the combination of tourism and volunteering for a good cause is a great thing. However, it’s not often done well. There are plenty of predators out there who will take advantage of rich Western tourists’ desire to do good for the world, a situation that results in homes being built and torn down and built again, in children being placed in orphanages purely to take advantage of the gifts, and in animals being captured in order to be cared for. Not ideal. ‘Standing’ plane seats

As if the experience of air travel wasn’t painful enough, last year China’s Spring Airlines proposed a system of “standing seats”, in which passengers would perch on something resembling a bike seat in order to cram more people into the plane. Fortunately the concept is yet to, ah, take off. It’s even worse than Ryanair’s mooted move to charge passengers €1 ($1.50) to use the onboard toilet. Drones

Just like selfie sticks, and even Segway tours, drones were great when there were only a few people using them. Now, however, as the trend takes hold, and you get to a point where you’re sitting in a nice quiet campsite and there are several groups of people loudly trying to figure out how to fly their drones properly, and you can’t go to the beach without hearing that telltale buzzing, things have reached a tipping point.

A remote controlled drone helicopter that can record video and photos hovers above sun bathers at Middle Park beach. Photo: Jason SouthShooting farm animals

I have to admit, I’ve never met anyone who’s actually done this, so it could all be an elaborate urban myth. However, if the stories are true, there are places in Cambodia and even Vietnam where you can pay to hire an AK47, or an Uzi, or even an RPG launcher, and fire them at farm animals. I’m not sure what’s more messed up: people who provide this as a service, or people who pay to use it. It’s probably even. Slum tours

Imagine sitting at your local cafe and then watching as a group of tourists alights from a bus nearby and then stands around staring at you while their guide explains, in another language, what you’re doing there. They then take a few photos of you, before moving on to the next “attraction”. That’s essentially what slum tourism, or favela tourism, or shanty tourism, is. It’s a highly voyeuristic way for rich tourists to see how poor locals live. There’s no attempt at effecting long-term change. No actual interaction with the local community. It’s bizarre. Smartphones

In some ways, obviously, smartphones are the best thing to happen to tourism. In other ways, however, they’re also the worst. There is, after all, no spontaneity left in travel thanks to the smartphone. It’s so easy to research every single place you stay, eat and visit on your travels, so easy to get directions there, so easy to curate the ultimate travel experience, that we’ve lost the thrill of personal discovery. I mean, I’m not about to give my smartphone up – but still.

What do you think are the worst ideas in tourism?

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