We all like to think ourselves world savvy. But the truth is, the second that first airport beer touches our lips, we tend to become Poor Decision Making Machines.
Call it hedonism if you like. Hell, call it living. But letting your hair down comes often comes with your judgement going (at least a little) out the window.
This opens you up to positive experiences you might never otherwise enjoy. But it also has a price, which has been investigated in a study called “stupidity in tourism.”
Published in the Tourism and Recreation Research section of the Taylor & Francis online journal, the study conceptualises “various manifestations of stupidity in tourism,” categories them, and “provides a basis for further investigation of the irrational behaviour of tourists and the impacts of circumstances on stupid behaviour.”
The scientists are quick to point out that, “By stupidity we do not mean individuals who lack cognitive ability,” but rather define stupidity as “the absence or lack of wisdom.”
“Stupidity is people’s inability to weigh options carefully and to act prudently.”
The scientists cite a 2002 paper which shows “the same person could be smart in his or her home country and stupid when travelling, hence introducing stupidity in the tourism context.”
In an article discussing their study in The Conversation, the two authors (Denis Tolkach and Stephen Pratt) wrote that stupidity is generally caused by an excess of one or more of the following factors:
- the person believing they know everything
- the person believing they can do anything
- the person being extremely self-centred
- the person believing nothing will harm them
- the person’s emotions (for example, fear or anger)
- the person’s state (for example, exhausted or drunk)
Tourists can be affected by all of these factors, the pair wrote, explaining, “Leisure tourism, by its nature, is a very self-centred and pleasure-seeking activity. People often travel to relax and enjoy themselves.”
“In pursuit of trying something new or escaping their daily routine, people may go to places with very different cultures or practices than their own, or try things they wouldn’t normally do – such as adventure activities. As a result, individuals can act differently while on holidays.”
“There also seem to be fewer social constraints. Tourists may not follow rules and social norms while travelling, because relatives, friends, colleagues, bosses are less likely to find out. Of course, tourists may not be aware of the commonly-accepted rules of where they travelling, as well.”
Their conclusion? Strict regulation (think: physical barriers, warning signs and other punitive measures) alone may not work. This can be seen in the hordes of tourists every year who made headlines by getting themselves in trouble (think: everything from selfie-takers falling off cliffs to a man trying to sneak into a zoo and being mauled by a Tiger.)
“Education of tourists on how to behave during travels has some effect. But more importantly, tourists need to be self-aware. They need to consider what is likely to happen as a result of their behaviour, how likely is it that things will go wrong, and whether they would do this at home.”
In the context of COVID-19, this is more important than ever, as respectful travel will be crucial in getting the industry back on its feet, without causing excess spreading of the virus.