Ways that we can reduce negative tourism

There has been some bad press, particularly in Spain, where locals got very vocal about the impact that over tourism is having on their home towns. Mallorca and Barcelona come to mind as two areas that have seen a huge mass tourism boom in recent years and residents have angrily voiced their feelings about the results they witnessed.

I by no means support the way that they handled the situation. Taking their frustration out on tourists and being aggressive, in the hope that people will be deterred from visiting, is not the answer. I am a true believer that we should all travel freely and explore new places. Also, these towns need our tourism, the money we spend while on holiday helps to support local businesses and the overall economy of the area.

A journalist living in Barcelona shares what they saw and heard about the situation in Barcelona. A tourist “invasion” as they call it, seems to be the root of the problem. Plus a rise in accommodation being provided to tourists, such as Airbnb properties, has lead to less apartments for locals to live in. Or they can no longer afford to live there.

As tourists we do need to remember that local people live in the places we visit for just a few hours or a few days. I think there are some things we can do to reduce the overall negative perception of tourism.

Ways that we can all be better tourists and help reduce negative tourism.

The easiest way to reduce negative tourism is to reduce the negative affect we are having on the places that we visit. Being active in conscious travel and sustainable travel are two ways that we can really help.

Ways that we can help reduce negative tourism and all be better tourists

Conscious and sustainable travel

“Conscious” = Awake, thinking & knowing what is happening around you.

“Sustainable” = Causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue over a long time.

I do feel that big package holiday companies, tour operators and cruise companies need to make some vital changes. But if we as holiday-makers start to implement some small changes ourselves, we will be taking a step in the right direction.

Here are some simple things we can do as individuals to be good tourists…

How to be a good tourist

Be respectful

Let’s behave in the same way that we would in our own home towns. Don’t leave rubbish behind or vandalize in any way. Be aware of what we are wearing in certain places and that our behaviour is always respectful to our surroundings. Pay attention to signs or posters with restrictions like ‘no touching’ or ‘no photos’ and leave things exactly as we found them.

Go with the flow

Many places we go to on holiday run at a different pace to back home. Let’s not fight that and just go with the flow. Don’t get angry it if the crowd is walking slowly down the street, or if the waiter is taking ages to bring our drinks. We are on holiday and will have a better time if we just relax and go with the laid back lifestyle that surrounds us.

Travel out of season

It will really help to spread out tourism if we travel to holiday hotspots throughout the year instead of just during peak season. This stops overcrowding and relieves pressure on the busy attractions and sights. Plus it will make the experience much quieter for us and out of season prices will probably be lower.

How to be a good tourist 1 Seeking the Spanish Sun travel blog

Learn some phrases

Locals will really appreciate us attempting to speak their language. Even if it’s just a few key phrases, don’t be afraid to give it a try. A simple phrase book or translation app on our phones will work. Even if the pronunciation isn’t perfect, it will come across to locals much better then us expecting them to speak our language.

Interact with locals

We shouldn’t behave like locals are from another planet. Interact with locals, learn about them and the country we are visiting. Start a conversation with the taxi driver, staff in the hotel, person next to you at the bar. By asking questions we can gain valuable insight and maybe even some local tips.

Be open minded

On holiday we will see, hear and taste things that we don’t get back home, that’s part of the fun. We shouldn’t try to change local customs, traditions or flavours to match what we’re are used to. That will only lead to them losing their local identity. Let’s be open to new experiences and embrace the differences.

Avoid single use items

Try to avoid anything that will be used one time then thrown away, especially if it’s made of plastic. The less we contribute to local landfills, the better it will be for the local environment and the planet in general. Where possible recycle paper, plastics and tin and follow the local rules on rubbish disposal.

How to be a good tourist Seeking the Spanish Sun travel blog

Buy local goods

Wherever possible we should buy from a small independent shops or restaurants. These businesses really rely on us to ensure they survive. Let’s try not to buy from our hotel or the big supermarkets. Small things like snacks from a local shop, souvenirs from street stalls and having lunch at a little family run café all make a difference.

Don’t be loud and disruptive

When we are walking by houses or entering a scared place, let’s lower our speaking tone. We should try not to travel in big groups, particularly through narrow streets or in small shops. Breaking into smaller groups where possible will make it easier for us to interact with locals and cause much less disruption.

Go out of the main areas

Look outside of the main areas or the most populated tourist spots for your accommodation. Going a little further a field, maybe a short walk or ride on the local bus will take you to an area of the beaten path. We really don’t need to populate the same holiday spot to enjoy our holiday. You will most likely find some amazing local gems.

Can we reduce negative tourism?

I believe that we can reduce negative tourism. Going on holiday is all about having fun and relaxing but by being more conscious of our behaviour and actions we can be better tourists. Just these little things mentioned above would help a great deal. I would hate to live in a world where beautiful towns, villages or beaches are open only to those who live there.

I hope this article has given you some food for thought about how we can all have less impact on holiday destinations. If we all try to make some small changes maybe we can help make tourism more sustainable.

Do you believe you are a good tourist? Do you have any other good ideas or advice on how we can be better tourists? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

You might also be interested in our other advice articles…

Why I think everyone should travel 

Why I started a blog – I just couldn’t settle 

How to keep your valuables safe when traveling

Check out our Spain travel guides…

The best time of year to visit Spain

A great family holiday in Mojácar

Useful Spanish phrases for traveling in Spain

The sights and sounds of Seville

How to be a good tourist - Seeking the Spanish Sun travel blog



  1. 16th January 2018 / 4:12 am

    Not trying to change the local customs is a good one! It wouldn’t be the place you want to visit.

    • 16th January 2018 / 8:43 pm

      You’re right it would change the place completely but unfortunately most people seem to forget that and make demands for home comforts which then leads to places losing their own customs as they cater for tourists. Thanks so much for reading this post and taking the time to comment.

  2. 3rd December 2017 / 2:32 pm

    Such inportant reminders. I just got back from Lisbon and they have the same issues there. I believe that people need to be aware of the impact they have on the communities and people that they are visiting. I mean, if I love a place then I want to preserve it and do eevrything I can to keep it intact and be reapectuful. Great reminder!!

    • 3rd December 2017 / 2:43 pm

      It’s a shame the animosity seems to be spreading across Europe. Yes, why can’t people preserve the places they love? Thanks! Hopefully with us addressing the issue and talking about ways that people can be more aware, things will get better.

  3. 2nd December 2017 / 2:59 pm

    We were actually in Barcelona and Mallorca this summer, ha ;). And I can understand why natives get upset. However, like you say, people should have the freedom to visit and tour where they want. I think you make some good points here, the most important one being open-minded. How can you enjoy traveling if you’re not open-minded? It’s a big world.

    • 3rd December 2017 / 12:38 pm

      I totally agree that being open minded is the most important point, its sounds so simple and obvious but I think people forget to be accepting to the differences when they go on holiday and small towns try to provide what “bad tourists” want. We should be free to visit anywhere in the world but we do need to consider the impact of our actions. I’m so glad this negativity didn’t affect your holidays this year 🙂 Hope you had a fab time in Barcelona and Mallorca!

  4. 30th November 2017 / 10:01 am

    Great tips in how to be a good tourist! Thank you.

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