With so many travellers and tourists getting into trouble with local authorities for behaving badly abroad, maybe it is time for a reminder that we we do have a responsibility to show a little respect to the destinations and the cultures we visit.
In a month that has already seen tourists famously deported from Cambodia for stripping, yet another couple have gotten themselves into trouble for disrespecting local customs and sensitivities. Maybe it is time for a wake up call to all travellers to remember that we are not tourists on a jolly to a package holiday club destination and we do have a responsibility to show some respect.
Earlier this month three French tourists were deported for taking nude pictures inside Angkor Wat alongside a six month suspended prison sentence, and are banned from entering Cambodia for four years.
Now two American women have been caught and arrested for ‘taking nude photos of each other’. What they actually did was take photos of each other pulling their pants down and baring their backsides thinking it was somehow hilarious. These two sisters are now facing the same fate as the French tourists before them.
It’s all fun and games until someone gets deported, isn’t it?
At the end of the day Angkor Wat is not just a world heritage site containing the ruins of numerous capitals of the Khmer Empire, it is considered a holy site! A site of religious import!
Why is that so hard to understand?
There is a time and a place!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for having a good party and if someone wants to have a few drinks and strip off at a club then I’m all for it. I may even join in and ruin the party for everyone!
But there is a time and a place for all that. And on a religious site where locals will be offended is not it!
It isn’t just Cambodia of course, go anywhere around the world and you will see tourists clambering over fragile world heritage sites for a good photo op, women straight off a cruise ship in Muslim countries wearing hot pants and bikini tops and wondering why they are getting stared at, men getting unbelievably drunk and sprawling all over the road or even worse. Tourists vandalising ancient sites with grafitti or damaging them in other ways. Tourist after tourist blindly and ignorantly offending local culture and sensitivities because they think they have a right to travel wherever they like and do whatever they like.
It is important to remember that we are guests in these countries and that you have to be respectful when travelling the world.
As travellers we do have a responsibility to be just a bit more respectful. No one expects you to completely understand all the nuances and practicalities of each culture you visit, but they do expect you to do just a little research, know just a little bit about the culture and think and act responsibly.
Backpacking the world and travelling independently has never been easier, and parts of the world that only a few years ago rarely saw western visitors are seeing massive tourism booms. This is thanks in part to independent travellers and backpackers in essence leading the way, where independent travellers lead, package tour operators usually follow.
This can be a huge boon to those countries and bring with it a lot of benefits to the local population and the travellers too. But it can also bring a lot of negative influences.
It is our responsibility as travellers to make sure we don’t contribute toward the latter.
By doing your research, by understanding at least a little of the culture and by at least making as much effort as possible to respect the countries you visit, you can have a positive affect on how tourism develops. You can make sure that the travel industry develops in a sustainable way, respects cultural heritage and benefits the local communities economically and socially without contributing to the negative image of tourists around the world. All you have to do is just be a little respectful. Everything else stems from that.
Be part of the solution, not the problem.
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