Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
A Guide to Dealing With NYC Tourists
Tourism

A Guide to Dealing With NYC Tourists With the involuntary help of a social anthropologist

By Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

If you’ve spent the past few weeks fighting through crowds of tourists, congrats: You live somewhere people think is worth visiting. That may feel like small consolation when groups of teenagers in matching t-shirts are making you late for workbut scholarly research shows you're at least justified in being annoyed.

In 1976, G.V. Doxey became one of the first to conceptualize the burgeoning tourism industry when he drew up an “irritation index” to model local populations’ reactions to visitors. Initially, Doxey believed, host communities welcome tourists, for both their spending power and their entertainment value. As more and more begin coming, though, Doxey's model predicts hosts will grow bored with their visitors. Boredom gives way to irritation and finally antagonism as locals come under pressure to cater to tourists.

The social anthropologist Jeremy Boissevain, who edited the 1996 anthology Coping with Tourists: European Reactions to Mass Tourism, undertook a more nuanced exploration of the ways local populations deal with intrusions of tourists. “It would be a serious mistake to think of natives passively submitting to tourist influences,” he wrote. “Residents in tourist destinations have developed strategies to protect themselves from tourists bent on penetrating their back regions to stare, undergo authentic experiences, and photograph.” Boissevain identified several ways locals cope. I've offered some New York City applications of his findings.

Hiding

“In many societies, communities unenthusiastic about the presence of tourists have now taken to hiding aspects of their cultures from visitors.” Boissevain describes a group of Greek islanders who celebrate the annual feasts of their Saints twice: once for the tourists’ benefit, and once more after they’ve left.

As applied to NYC: Not reviewing your favorite neighborhood restaurant on Yelp; telling out-of-towners to go to Serendipity.

Covert, low-key resistance

“These actions take many forms…. sulking, grumbling, obstruction, gossip, ridicule, and surreptitious insults.” They “avoid direct defiance” and aren’t organized.

NYC: Pushing through packs of tourists while loudly complaining about them on the phone; giving tourists the wrong directions.

Fencing

“Another way of avoiding the tourist gaze is to fence off private areas and events.”

On the Lofoten islands of Norway, fishermen move their operations out of sight of tourists’ cameras. When tourists began visiting the Norwegian fishing village of Henningsvaer, women started building fences around their gardens to deter visitors’ stares.

NYC: New Yorkers don’t really have to worry about stuff being too accessible.

Organized protest

“Local citizens occasionally organize protest action against those marketing their back regions and rights to the tourist industry without their consent.”

When local authorities in the Sardinian village of Abbasanta restricted the community’s access to the Nuraghe Losa, a Neolithic tower, in order to improve tourists’ access to the site, the community organized protests and boycotts.

NYC: The horse-drawn carriages of Central Park are as beloved by visitors as they are despised and protested by New Yorkersespecially by those who are more sympathetic to animals than tourists.

Aggression

“Occasionally, people resort to violence to defend themselves against intrusive tourists.”

Boissevain recounts the case of a French tourist who was stoned to death in Chiapas, Mexico for photographing their Carnival.

NYC: In March, a drunk New York woman wielding a high-heeled shoe made sure a family from Connecticut wouldn't be making any trips to the city for a while.

Loading Related Articles...
The Plank