The Invisible Tourist?” I hear you questioning. “Surely that’s not possible, it sounds very contradictory?”
When discussing travel, there are quite a few traveller stereotypes that get thrown about. Tourists, particularly, always tend to stick out like a sore thumb.
Stereotypical tourists swarm attractions in their noisy groups, stay in posh hotels, and have no clue about the local language. They have little regard for locals in restaurants with their loud conversations and they obliviously shove their SLR cameras in your personal space attempting to get “that” shot. They are also the first people to fall victim to pickpockets.
“Nope”, you’re thinking, “there isn’t such thing as a mythical Invisible Tourist”. Well, I am here to bust that myth because after twelve years of travelling the globe I’m pretty sure I’ve managed to excel at being one. In fact, I created my blog around this very subject!
Traveller stereotypes are as old as tourism itself, but the combination of travel becoming accessible to more people and a spike in social media popularity in recent years seems to have sprouted a few new kinds into the realm. I’d like to share my take on the interesting folk who have intrigued me during my travels and I wonder if you’ll agree. Read on for more!
Invisible Tourism definition
What are some examples of traveller stereotypes?
Perhaps you are an Invisible Tourist too, (or you’re aspiring to be) but haven’t realised just yet. Here I present 8 traveller stereotypes. These generalisations are intended for a laugh whilst also highlighting the positives, negatives and thoughts for each kind. In my opinion, most travellers fit into one or more of these categories. Have you encountered any of these on your travels?
Traveller stereotype #1: INSTATOURIST
Positives of Instatourists
- Have loads of potential jaw-dropping images to document their experience
- Make their friends jealous throughout the trip with their constant social media updates!
Negatives of Instatourists
- If they aren’t forever posing with their selfie stick at various attractions (or at nothing in particular) they are seeking out the nearest cafe with free wifi to post their heavily filtered images
- They spend so much time on their phone they forget to take a moment to absorb where they are or why they’re there
- Their geotagged photos on Instagram may cause a lesser-known destination to become overrun with other tourists
- Subconsciously, likes on social media outweigh immersing themselves in the local culture and understanding the significance of the subject they are trying to photograph.
Thoughts on Instatourists
- Isn’t gaining an understanding of somewhere different why we visit a new country in the first place?
Traveller stereotype #2: ALCOHOLIDAYER
Positives of Alcoholidayers
- Usually 18 to early-twenty-somethings doing the mandatory Eurotrip with a tour specialist like Contiki or TopDeck
- They can quickly sniff out the best pubs and clubs and only sleep on their tour bus between destinations
- They live to party every night and aren’t afraid to try new (or all) different alcoholic beverages a country has to offer.
Negatives of Alcoholidayers
- They are almost always so hungover they can’t bring themselves to focus… on the details of… whatever it was… the tour guide was… providing information about… *head-pounding*
- Blurred images on their phone pretty much sum up their memories from the trip.
Thoughts on Alcoholidayers
- Isn’t travelling about creating lasting memories rather than forgetting them?
Traveller stereotype #3: COMPETITRAVELLER
Positives of Competitravellers
- Has stepped foot in dozens of countries in a short time period (even if it’s just the airport) so they likely have loads of interesting stories to tell
- Just about any topic can be related back to one of their experiences and they are skilled in pointing out anywhere on a map.
Negatives of Competitravellers
- These serial country-collectors are generally satisfied with a fleeting visit of a city for a few hours so they can boast they have been to “X” number of countries
- Highly competitive and treat travel as a sport.
Thoughts on Competitravellers
- Is stepping your toe in a pond really considered going for a swim?
Traveller stereotype #4: FREEDOM CAMPER
Positives of Freedom Campers
- Choose to experience only free sights and activities, stay in free camping grounds/cheap hostels that are a few kilometres walk to the city centre
- Almost exclusively eat 2-minute noodles whilst their $4,000 SLR camera is strung around their neck so they can capture it all
- Spend very little money (if any at all) at their travel destination as it’s good for the bank balance and allows them to stretch their time further.
Negatives of Freedom Campers
- Spend a majority of time squatting in high foot traffic areas holding scrappy pieces of cardboard with “Fund My Travels” scrawled in black marker pen, whilst they cook mince on a portable stove top (yes, I have seen this). This trend can also be referred to as “begpacking”
- Between spending the bulk of their time hoping for a few coins and trekking to their isolated accommodation and back, they sacrifice having fun and fully immersing themselves into their destination.
Thoughts on Freedom Campers
- If you’re travelling but not spending money to enrich your experience, is it really considered travelling, or just existing someplace different to home? You get what you pay for!
- If you can’t count on yourself to fund your travels, what makes you expect you can count on others to provide you with a handout?
Traveller stereotype #5: BACKPACKER
Positives of Backpackers
- Aren’t afraid of sharing a dorm room with other backpackers as this means meeting new people and always having a travel buddy
- They are spontaneous, go with the flow and usually don’t know their next destination or how they’ll get there
- Very familiar with travelling on a shoe-string budget.
Negatives of Backpackers
- Sharing a dorm room with complete strangers can mean fighting over the bathroom, having to endure snoring throughout the night, or coming back to their room to see their backpack has been rifled through and their iPad and passport gone without a trace
- Not knowing their next destination could mean hostels may be booked out well in advance, especially if travelling in peak season.
Thoughts on Backpackers
- Is sharing your personal space with a bunch of strangers, sacrificing privacy and being unprepared really worth the potential drama?
Traveller stereotype #6: TOUR GROUPIE
Positives of Tour Groupies
- Book their entire trip through a travel agent as all the work is done for them
- Accommodation has been mass-purchased as they travel as part of a group
- When travelling, their tour guide is able to pack loads of must-sees and optional activities into a short timeframe so they can experience many unique traits about each destination
- Sometimes in Europe, Tour Groupies get to visit three countries in one day!
Negatives of Tour Groupies
- Pay more than other travellers due to travel agent fees and hidden surcharges
- May be afraid to do anything without their tour group which means missing out on a personalised travel experience
- Usually travel in a package tour within a large group of 50+ people, creating huge issues related to overtourism
- Having no say in the choice of accommodation means the nightlife aspect of their destination has to be omitted as they need to catch a bus, ferry, and another bus to their hotel just outside the city (unfortunately, I have experienced this once!)
- Forced into time-wasting detours seeing pointless “attractions” like a perfume factory or silk carpet store purely because the tour company is taking kick-backs by bringing potential customers there.
Thoughts on Tour Groupies
- Does merely scratching the surface of your destination with a mass-produced itinerary show you what the city is really like?
Traveller stereotype #7: LUXE LOVER
Positives of Luxe Lovers
- Stay in 5-star resort-style accommodation in such an enviable location they can almost hear the Freedom Campers groan from their forlorn camping spots miles away
- Rarely need to lift a finger as housekeeping tidies up after them and room service keeps them well fed
- Chauffered around in private transport booked though the hotel.
Negatives of Luxe Lovers
- Barely venture outside the hotel’s doors alone
- Have an incredibly limited experience of a destination and won’t get the chance to understand more about the city’s unique traits and local way of life.
Thoughts on Luxe Lovers
- Avoiding local shops, eateries and public transport will skew your interpretation of a destination. How can you appreciate the treasures of a new city without delving into its heart to uncover them?
Traveller stereotype #8: HOPE-FOR-THE-BESTER
Positives of Hope-for-the-Besters
- Have the confidence to book flights and accommodation without the help of a travel agent and can find a few things to do at their destination
- Save money by spending much of their time searching for the cheapest flight and place to stay.
Negatives of Hope-for-the-Besters
- After they’ve ticked off the few options on their initial list at their destination, they wander around aimlessly in the hope of stumbling across a new attraction or activity to fill in their time
- Spend more time at their destination looking for ideas in their guidebook rather than experiencing the things they could have done, if they’d planned ahead
- Don’t consider doing much research about their chosen place which can result in becoming an easy target for pickpockets (In a pickpocket’s mind: “Hey, they look lost and probably haven’t heard of my latest pickpocketing technique… Target engaged!”)
Thoughts on Hope-for-the-Besters
- Valuable and once-off experiences can be missed without prior knowledge. Isn’t investing a little extra time in researching a destination and what to expect there (pickpocket tricks and all) worth as much as the research for flights and places to stay?
Traveller Stereotypes: Where does “The Invisible Tourist” fit here?
After reading the above stereotypes we’ve left with this big question. If the suspense is killing you, in Part 2 of this series we’ll get to find out!
What type of traveller are you? Don’t fit in to one of the above stereotypes or have your own you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!
While you’re here, if you’re interested in learning more about how to “blend in” in many locations throughout the world, check out my Destinations page for detailed travel tips and guides. My “Be Invisible” series covers more destination-specific advice on cultural etiquette and my Itinerary Planning page features my free tried-and-tested itineraries to help you make the most of your travel experience.