4 Tips to Being a Better Tourist

My first job after moving to Toronto was at one of the big tourist attractions – the CN Tower. As someone who has lived all over the world, getting a job at an attraction in a new city was exciting. I would get to experience the thing that people come to the city to see every day. I don’t work there anymore but in the 10 months that I did work there, I learned a lot about the dynamics of a tourist attraction. These are the things I realized while working at a huge attraction and dealing with tourists. Maybe this will help you have the most pleasant experience next time you visit an attraction.

1. Accept being corralled like cattle

If you ever go to a tourist attraction like the CN Tower, you will be waiting in line for a while. All along the way, there will be people telling you to “wait here for a moment”, “go down this path” (with thousands of other people), or “move in closer together” (to allow more people into the small area). I had to tell people something similar to that almost every 2 minutes. As much as you may hate it, you will be corralled like cattle in tourist attractions. Although it wasn’t technically in my job description, I felt like a herding dog – moving mindless tourists where I need them to go. There is nothing you can do about it. Accept it and try to have someone else between you and the sweaty man in front.

2. It’s okay to say No

Selling photos to people was part of my job. A lot of people would not want to buy them. You don’t need to buy them if you don’t want to or don’t have the money for them. There is never an obligation to buy souvenir photos from tourist attractions. You can take a look and decide. There were a lot of people who would feel like they had to say yes to buying them and feel guilty about not. I would have been one of those people until I was placed on the other side. While working and trying to sell the photos, I really did not care if you wanted them or not. It was my job to give you the option, if you said no, it didn’t change my day. It’s not a big deal to say no. While traveling Asia, I encountered this at the Singapore Flyer and the HK Peak. Both times I was confident in saying no to buying the photos without any guilt leaving them behind even if the people I was with did not.

3.  A little Politeness goes a long way

You should be happy while travelling and experiencing new things. To make this the best experience for you, you need to be open and polite to the people you meet. I have encountered some of the rudest, most arrogant people imaginable while working at a tourist attraction. If you see someone, who clearly works there, don’t just ignore him or her if they try to say something to you. Do not walk past them like they are invisible. Do not shoulder bump them and not apologize. While trying to direct people where to go in the tower, I got so many stuck up noses it was unbelievable. I am there to enhance your experience and you snub me?!?! It’s your loss and your experience you will be stifling. Also, just a note to tour guides, don’t lie to the people you are leading. I was never there trying to force people into anything, contrary to what some tour guides have said. I was offering a service that they had full control and choice. Even if you are instructing them in another language, we may be able to understand and know that you are outright lying. Not cool.

4. Actually Listen

This is tied to the last point but is important enough to get it’s own section. Listen to the people who are working at the attraction. This is the one thing that I never understood while working at the tower. When an employee of the place you are visiting tells you something, it’s probably something worth listening to. Yes, I would stop you and try to sell you something that you probably don’t want. Yes, I am probably the most annoying thing you would encounter. But when I say, “Please wait here for a moment”. LISTEN! I never actually cared if you wanted to take the photo or buy it when I tell you the price, but there are other things I could be telling you that is important. You could be going the wrong direction, doing something dangerous, or ruining someone else’s photo or general experience. So, please, whenever you are at a tourist attraction, just listen to what the person is saying before you assume you know what they are going to tell you. If there is a language barrier, you will have to put a little more effort into this, but it really will make your time at a tourist attraction much more pleasant.

I recently went back to the CN Tower to experience it in the typical tourist way. If you were interested in visiting Toronto and the CN Tower, check out the video I made: “My CN Tower Experience”

2 thoughts on “4 Tips to Being a Better Tourist

  1. RE
    January 15, 2013 at 7:48 AM

    “Accept being corralled like cattle”…yeah, this describes exactly how I felt when I visited the Empire State Building for the first time. I think the employees even had cattle prods to push people around! I hop its not like that in the CN Tower, as I will visit it for the first time this summer.

  2. January 15, 2013 at 10:13 PM

    These are excellent pieces of advice. Everyone should have a healthy dose of patience and humour when they’re a tourist in a new city.

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