Community impact

The behaviour of tourists, who sometimes lack knowledge of and respect for local traditions, customs and religion, can have negative impacts on local communities.

What might be a part of everyday life and custom in one’s home country, may be seen as offensive in another place. Issues such as how to dress appropriately, if and where to consume alcohol and drugs, how to behave in religious or sacred sites, how and where to take pictures, or how to act as a couple in public, are seen differently in different cultures. Unsensitive or offensive behaviour often occurs because visitors do not have adequate knowledge and understanding of their travel destinations. Retail and sales companies should provide customers with relevant information or encourage them to inform themselves about local habits in destination countries.

For many tourists, taking pictures is an indispensable component of their holiday. It can, however, offend people in destination countries, e.g. when the photographer neglects or violates communities’ rights to privacy, takes pictures of people (especially children) without their consent, or views local traditions through the camera lens in a voyeuristic way. Retail and sales companies should sensitize their customers on how to behave appropriately when taking pictures in a destination country.

“The behaviour of tourists can also have negative social and cultural impacts. These may include the lack of respect for local traditions, customs and religion, including respect for religious buildings, the consumption of alcohol and drugs, and gambling practices. Tourism may also contribute to or reinforce economic inequality, which can fuel conflicts or an increase in crime. The SWIA team heard concerns that increased tourism by Myanmar nationals, coupled with income inequality, was believed to be contributing to prostitution in locations such as Yangon, Mandalay and Mawlamyine in a country where prostitution is illegal and culturally frowned upon.”

Disrespectful behaviour in Bali’s Hindu temples

The local authorities in Bali are planning to introduce new rules for visiting the island’s estimated 10,000 temples, after tourists were showing disrespectful behaviour at the sites, including posing for pictures in bikinis or climbing sacred temple structures.

The board of the Australian national park in which Uluru is located, unanimously voted to ban climbing on the rock from October 2019. The red monolith is a sacred site for the Aboriginal people, who have for a long time asked tourists not to climb it. Already before this decision, customers were requested not to climb the mountain, but only some tour operators have informed their customers accordingly.

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Communication and reporting

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Find more information in the Resource Centre.