Today’s tourists are on their worst behavior

From smashing Roman busts to trampling the Spanish Steps, ill-behaved tourists are now a summer staple.

An ancient marble statue of a bearded man with graffiti added on top of his eyes.

Did you ever get in trouble at school for carving your crush’s initials into a desk?

We won’t tell, but there’s a new vandal in town making that look like child’s play: tourists.

Around the world, officials are reporting an uptick in misdemeanors, and it’s getting ugly:

  • A man was caught on video etching his girlfriend’s name into the wall of the Colosseum. He could now face up to five years in prison and a $16.4k fine.
  • In China, tourists damaged geological landforms by standing in prohibited areas (to take photos, of course).
  • An American smashed two sculptures in the Vatican after being told he couldn’t see the pope.
  • Rome’s Spanish Steps got pummeled by a Maserati just weeks before a tourist caused $27k in damages by throwing a scooter at it.

The worst part? Those aren’t even a fraction of the incidents. Venice alone had 46 acts of tourists defacing monuments from January to October 2022.

WTF is going on?

The simplest explanation: more tourists mean more chances for things to go awry, and international travel has outpaced last summer.

Italy alone saw international arrivals increase 86% YoY in the first quarter of 2023 (which explains why so many of these horror stories are taking place there).

But there’s more at play:

  • Easing covid restrictions have travelers eager to get away, and two years of pent up energy can be destructive.
  • Social media and striving to “go viral” can push tourists into making risky choices.
  • Movies and TV turn monuments into popular tourist attractions, which can harm locals and disrupt cities (looking at you, “Game of Thrones”).

But tourist destinations are fighting back: Bali has deported 136 tourists this year, Italy passed a bill that ups the penalties for vandalism, and Amsterdam launched a “stay away” campaign to discourage rowdy visitors.

We think Croatia should be next up, yelling “shame” at tourists who misbehave.

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