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Americans can't stay away from some of the most annoying destinations

Kelsey Vlamis   

Americans can't stay away from some of the most annoying destinations
  • Around 89% of Americans have recently visited tourist traps, according to a PhotoAiD survey.
  • Nearly 70% of respondents also said visiting a tourist trap decreased their trip enjoyment.

"I can't wait for my trip to France — I'm planning to visit all the tourist traps!"… is not something you'll typically hear a Paris-bound traveler say, even if their itinerary consists entirely of the top recommended things to do in every guidebook — the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame — and little else.

Despite all the negative connotations around "tourist traps," most travelers to a new place can't help but visit the sites that attract a lot of tourists.

Around 89% of Americans say they've visited a tourist trap at least two times in the past two years, according to a recent survey by PhotoAiD, a tech company that develops apps for taking biometric photos like those used in passports. The online survey, conducted in September 2023, included 1,002 US-based respondents who had planned a trip in the past two years.

Only 1% of respondents said they hadn't visited a single tourist trap in that timeframe.

There's room for debate over what exactly counts as a tourist trap — can the historic and gorgeous Venice canals really be considered a tourist trap, even with the souvenir vendors and flocks of selfie-taking visitors?

According to the survey, the primary factors that earn a site the title of tourist trap are low attendance or avoidance by local residents, amenities primarily designed for tourists, a lack of cultural or historical authenticity, high levels of foot traffic, and lots of souvenir shops along with aggressive promotional and sales tactics.

When presented with a list of potential tourist traps around the world and asked which ones were the most "trappy," the respondents ranked Skylon Tower at Niagara Falls, Moulin Rouge in Paris, and the Blue Lagoon in Iceland among the worst.

When asked about the US specifically, the respondents said the worst tourist traps were Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, and the International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell, New Mexico.

As for whether popular places like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre count as tourist traps, that likely depends on whether you think the historical and cultural bonafides outweigh the huge crowds, vendors selling cheap trinkets, and the offensively high tourist-to-local ratio.

Although nearly all respondents acknowledged recently visiting a tourist trap, almost 70% said their visit to a tourist trap diminished their overall enjoyment of their trip. Only around 13% said it actually added enjoyment to their trip.

So why do Americans keep visiting these places?

It would appear social factors are largely to blame.

A third of respondents said they went because their family or friends wanted to go (though you have to wonder if said family or friends would give the same reason), while nearly 20% said they went because it was highly recommended.

Other reasons cited included curiosity or personal interest, the site being considered a landmark, and that it was part of a tour package.

When offered advice on how to avoid falling into a tourist trap, the survey respondents said the most helpful tip was to "visit well-known landmarks, but don't make them the sole focus of your trip."

Avoiding so-called tourist traps, or at least spending less time at them, could also help curb the impacts of overtourism.

Tourism experts previously told Business Insider that spreading out tourists who otherwise congregate at the same places at the exact same times can help destinations manage overwhelming numbers of tourists.