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06·AUG·2012

Are you a tourist or a traveller?

Plane taking off “Flying to Alicante is in no way inferior to flying to Ulan Bator. It’s just a different departure gate.” I enjoyed this article in the Telegraph in which “Anthony Peregrine flies the flag for the great British holidaymaker – in particular, those who relish the beaten track, the coach tour, the pedalo and other such jolly pleasures that "cultivated" types love to disdain ……” I have been (when I was a lot younger) a traveller in the sense of travelling from A to B to C sleeping on beaches, eating in cheap restaurants and drinking even cheaper local booze. I am pretty sure though I was also a tourist: after all, I was just visiting. Surely ‘traveller’ and ‘tourist’ are not mutually exclusive: they are just different ways to experience the world beyond your front gate. Superior travellers like to immerse themselves in the local life but how often does that mean sleeping in hostels with other travellers, eating in cheap restaurants with other travellers, and drinking even cheaper booze, often with other travellers? As a tourist I do prefer to do my own thing, to hire a car, to travel around and to explore. I am not a fan of coach trips but that is more to do with me than others: I hate waiting around and I prefer to be in charge (note to self: control freak!). That does not make me a traveller: I am still a tourist. I will head for say the beaches in the unspoilt, protected nature reserve of Calblanque  in Murcia rather than the beaches of Benidorm: not because I am a snob but because that is what I prefer. For me, it is irrelevant what you call yourself: it is the attitude that you travel with that counts. I believe in travelling with respect: respect for local cultures, traditions and mores. Tourism for me is about spreading the tourist dollar and euro as far as feasible. It is about raising income and education levels, it’s about giving people more control over their lives and it’s about giving individuals a sense of self-worth. The coach driver, tour guide, restaurant staff, watersports operator, everyone in the tourism industry, has a right to an income; and you the tourist (or traveller, if you prefer) has the right to choose how you spend your money and your leisure time. Personally I have no time for travel elitists and if the tourist is, as Evelyn Waugh reckoned, “a comic figure, always inapt in his comments [and] incongruous in his appearance” then I know my place beyond any doubt! Yes, I am that tourist: according to my wife, it’s the shorts with socks that do it every time for me. How about you: are you tourist or traveller? About the author. Tony Champion has worked within the travel industry for more than 30 years and ran a specialist tour operation for 16 of those.