11 Ways Not to be “That Tourist” This Summer

Written by a former tour guide and a former hostel worker

Image courtesy of Cora Fu

By: Aiya Bowman, Peak Associate, and Gabrielle McLaren, Editor-in-Chief

“Hi! How may we help you?”

You’ve heard it before, and if you’re travelling this summer, then you will absolutely hear it again. On the flip side of that, working in tourism is fun and entertaining. You meet interesting people, both on the co-workers’ side of things and on the visitors’. It’s dynamic and exciting, every day is different, and the experiences are unique.

But by God, it can also be draining. You work hard, the hours are long, you forgot when your last day off was, you’re in contact with so many random germs, the pace is rapid, the management can go either way, and the work’s seasonal nature intensifies it. And the worst part? The tourists.

Between tourists that are unreasonably argumentative and those who are just downright lost and confused, there always seems to be a lack of etiquette when it comes to dealing with travel frustration. Hint: it should not be taken out on some poor underpaid employee. To help you avoid being that tourist this summer, The Peak has compiled a helpful list of dos and don’ts for travelling.

  1. Do your research before you arrive at a destination. If you don’t do your homework and try rolling in mid-afternoon to buy tickets that are first come, first served, yelling at some poor employee won’t magically get you tickets. If you find out that you don’t regain that deposit for a towel while checking out of your hostel, yelling at the person behind the counter definitely won’t get you your $2 back.  
  2. Don’t have sex somewhere someone else will have to clean up. Honestly. This isn’t kinkshaming. This is just a reminder that while you can technically have sex anywhere, you shouldn’t get too creative when you’re not on your home turf. If you get mad horny and choose to disregard all this, then at least dispose of the condom. We’re not paid enough to deal with that. And by “we,” we mean absolutely everyone and anyone.
  3. Remember who you’re talking to and be realistic about our agency and power. A random tourist once asked to be brought to Justin Trudeau’s office because they were mad that they’d come all the way to Ottawa and hadn’t seen the prime minister. We don’t know what to tell you, friend: this is both an unrealistic expectation and way above any of our pay grades. Are you mad about the seating options in the area? Leave a comment card and the higher-ups might fix it in the long-term, but at the moment, we can’t exactly drop everything to build you a bench.   
  4. Figure out whether or not you need to tip. If you’re not sure, have some cash with you. A lot of us are underpaid with the assumption that tips will round out our shitty salaries. Find a way to work tips into your budget. And if you can’t tip, leave a comment card or review on TripAdvisor — because we definitely all read our TripAdvisor and Yelp reviews in our break rooms as a group bonding activity, to find out what works and what doesn’t, and also for that sweet, sweet sense of emotional validation.
  5. We hate telling you the rules just as much as you hate hearing them, but please follow them. If you’re told not to touch a thing, do not touch the thing. If you’re told to stay with the group, don’t go wandering down Random Hallway #279. If you’re told to turn the flash off your phone or camera, turn it off. The rules you don’t understand have a reason for existing, and the chances that you’re special enough to touch this 150-year-old artefact regardless are very, very slim. Rules are everyone’s least favourite part of life, so if you make someone repeat them a thousand times, you will be that person’s least favourite part of the tour/activity/stay. If you have a question about the rules, just ask us!
  6. On the subject of reviews, please leave them! For some folks in the tourism industry, this can make or break getting hired or re-hired, getting more hours, or simply growing a portfolio. For others, it’s just fun to read. If we don’t get tipped for whatever reason (i.e. you’re working for the government and tips are perceived as a conflict of interest), comment cards and online reviews are the emotional equivalent. Here are some pointers.
    • Try to remember our names! There’s nothing like getting a specific shout-out for being a great employee, or recognized for going out of our way to help you. Honestly, it’ll put a smile on our face for the whole day — or even the week.
    • Be specific! Saying that everything was utterly wonderful then leaving 3/10 stars: just no. Tell us: what went wrong? Wasn’t it wonderful? Did you just think the rating was out of three? We want answers.  
    • Be honest! Feedback helps us get better at our job, which is so, so important in this industry.
  7. Keep in mind that your problem may not be somebody else’s problem. If you decided to go across town to some other activity and didn’t give yourself time to make it back with time to find parking, we really can’t delay our schedule for you specifically. Did you grab tickets for a tour in a language you don’t speak? That sounds like a you problem, buddy: not a reason for us to go against directions and inconvenience the other 20 visitors we’ve got with us by switching languages.
  8. Don’t forget that this is somebody’s job. Don’t flirt with us while we’re working and literally can’t get away from you. Don’t try to tease out secrets, ask for a discount you’re not entitled to, or show you something off-limits. Similarly, don’t bring up politics or get pushy with someone who is at work. Sometimes, we’re not in a position where we can comment on issues or events. You can ask questions, but if it’s a no, it’s a no. You aren’t cool or edgy, and it won’t create any kind of camaraderie between us. We’ll just be annoyed and uncomfortable and possibly exasperated the whole time, and we will read you to filth in front of our colleagues.
  9. Talk to us if something’s wrong during your stay or activity with us. Leaving a one-star, several-page review ranting about something we could have fixed in literally five minutes is a guaranteed way to make us judge you. Just ask us for assistance; we rarely bite and always want to help. That 40° summer night could have been avoided by asking us how to run the AC.
  10. Don’t let your status as vacation-goer or tourist get to your head. Yes, we can in fact throw you out for chucking beer bottles at us. No, we don’t care that you’re a paying customer. We’re absolutely delighted to give you the boot after having you rave on about getting us fired.
  11. Please, please, please interact with us. When we ask, “Does anyone have any questions?” we really mean, “The sound of my own voice exhausts me and I’ve given this spiel four times today and am desperate for divergence and change.” If we ask, “How was your day?” we really mean, “My favourite co-worker is off today and I crave human interaction.”