Will the world’s worst tourists please stand up?

Written by admin on August 25, 2008 – 3:04 pm -

So the French are the most obnoxious tourists in Europe, according to a recent survey. Are they better off staycationing?

Having lived in France for twenty years, I’m fully aware the French might be perceived as brusque with one another. But I wondered how the French might be seeing themselves. So I conducted a poll of my own.

Maybe it’s not so surprising that the French were critical of one another about their travel manners.

“I don’t know about their being the worst, but I normally stay away from the French when I travel,” says Laurence de Bure. “My brother, who’s a Parisian travel agent, says avoid the French when traveling because they tend to be negative. Their inability to maintain open minds make it difficult for them to adapt or accept other cultures. They tend to complain and compare everything to France and close their eyes. They can take the pleasure away from your travels.”

Parisian hotelier Thierry Dechaux said, “I don’t know if the French are the least desirable tourists. I do know they tend to complain about the minute details rather than calling attention to something that may not be to their liking. As a result, the staff may be more accommodating. But there is no good or bad tourist. We only have guests who expect value for the money they’re spending. As professionals, we hope guests will respect our staff and our local culture, and the French don’t tend to be the best when it comes to that whether they’re in France or traveling elsewhere.”

One of the problems, of course, may be that traveling in packs brings out the worst in everyone. Large groups of any nationality can be obnoxious, since whining ring-leaders can dominate the whole group. The French are generally no different, although their generally far higher standards for cuisine and antiquities can lead them to publicly express comparisons that may not be ideal in a foreign environment.

David K. Gibson, a journalist who lives in Aspen, has a different perspective. “I suppose it depends on what your criteria are,” he says. “I live in a tourist town, and the French who come here seem polite in town and excited on the ski slopes. I don’t hear complaints about the French. The stereotypes I do hear. Russians are rude and entitled, and too rich for their own good. Germans are too loud, in voice and dress. Australians are friendly but don’t tip. And Texans are all of the above.”

Susie Lavenson, senior partner of a consulting firm that advises clients in the hospitality and tourism industry said, “We’re all hosts in our own countries. If hospitality is welcoming and thoughtful, the recipient of that hospitality is going to be grateful and personable, whether he’s French or American. That’s a universal truth. Tourists are travelers, hungry for food, shelter and recognition. They’re in a foreign land. It’s not too much to ask hosts to behave graciously … particularly if they’re in the hospitality industry. If they’re not in that industry, then good manners and human kindness should fill the gaps. Everything else is just trimmings.”

Gary Clarke, an executive in business development says, “In my travels, I have witnessed ugliness from people of all walks of life, from every corner of the world. Generalizations certainly apply — but parochially rooted small-mindedness is an affliction made worse, not better, with money and transport.”

Karen Fawcett is president of Bonjourparis.com

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Posted in Consumer Traveler |