A “tourist trap” is a place or business that has been created or redesigned with the goal of attracting tourists (and their money). The words together have such a negative connotation. There are hundreds, if not thousands of articles about how to avoid these places. On the other hand, there are thousands of articles about ‘must see’ locations that are usually the listed tourist traps. You are left to choose between being a typical tourist or a tourist who didn’t see the most significant place in the city.
The phrase fails to mention the reason(s) why the place is so well-known. For example, if you are not an art lover, maybe going to the Louvre Museum would seem a bit redundant. However, if you want to go to some of the most popular sites around the world, you should do it! But keep in mind, there should be more to your visit than standing in front of these locations, taking a picture, and walking away. You should learn about the significance of the building, ask local guides to show you local restaurants, and be mindful of your impact as a tourist. These trips should increase one's awareness. Traveling is a luxury and if you have the opportunity to learn about a historic site in person, you should take advantage of it.
Normalizing these sites can come with a price, which is mass tourism. This is when thousands of people go to the same place often at the same time of year. For example, Spring Break in the United States, where college students pack into hotels and resorts in Mexico, Florida, or some other location. It also can be in the form of big tour groups that drive tourists to these famous sites in the high season. This type of tourism can be beneficial for locals since it generates huge income for them. However, it does more harm than good by creating harmful consequences to the environment, culture, and host community making it an unsustainable way to travel.
This shouldn’t deter you from visiting this site as there are several ways to travel sustainably while also visiting the city/destination/site of your choice. First, is simply to look for local accommodations - ie. homestays, Airbnbs, and an Agriturismo (in Italy). Second, is to look for local guides, or tour companies that support sustainable tourism. These types of companies provide an itinerary that takes the environmental and social impact into consideration. Lastly, you can look for ways to give back to communities. This is a hands-on way to assure your money is going into the local economy. It can be grocery shopping at a fresh farmers' market, choosing small/local businesses over chain restaurants, and purchasing art/gifts/souvenirs from local vendors. If you do choose to visit popular cities, consider doing so outside peak summer months. This will help restaurants, hotels, and tour companies while saving you money and time as well.
In conclusion, you should take control of your trip, without any influences from the phrase ‘tourist trap’. Making a conscious effort to travel sustainably will ensure you are already doing more for the locals and living like a local.
Do you agree? Comment below your ideas about the phrase 'tourist trap'!