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Why are tourists stupid? - Arvind Narayanan's journal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

Why are tourists stupid? [Aug. 19th, 2008|10:09 pm]
Arvind Narayanan
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The Space Needle is as iconic of Seattle as the Eiffel Tower is of Paris. Perhaps the most common tourist activity in Seattle is to enjoy the view from the top of the Needle.

Can you even spot the Space Needle?

I was at the top of the Columbia Center earlier today. From up there, the vaunted Space Needle looks like a runt. I mean, you wouldn't notice if it if you weren't looking for it. Obviously, the view from the Columbia Center is much better. Besides, it costs $5 whereas the Space Needle is the "most expensive elevator ride in America." And finally, there is no waiting time at the Columbia Center. It's a regular building, so you just get into a regular elevator.

And yet, there were exactly three people there at the top beside me. I shit you not. The guy at the ticket counter for the observation deck looked positively astonished to see a human. In fact, as I later realized, I could have just walked in without buying a ticket; he would have preferred it since he wouldn't have had to look up from his reading.

All it takes is 5 minutes of googling "Seattle travel" or something like that to learn that the Columbia Center is a much better way to get a view than the Space Needle. And a bunch of other useful facts.

I refuse to believe that people are this stupid in general. And yet, tourists overpay for everything, visit the same crappy overcrowded tourist attaractions, and in general behave like morons incapable of engaging in anything except extreme herd behavior.

Any ideas why?

[User Picture]From: medryn
2008-08-20 05:39 am (UTC)
People want to see things that are different and iconic when they travel. The space needle is an architecturally unique building constructed for the World's Fair. The Columbia Center is just a random downtown office building. The USA provides a pretty homogenous experience all over, so it makes some sense to concentrate on the few things that are truly unique.

The other reason is that people want to be able to tell good stories about their travels. The Space Needle makes for a better story than the Columbia Center. Did you go to see the original Starbucks? It's basically the same as any other Starbucks, but you can buy a special coffee blend that is only available there, and you can possibly craft an interesting story about how you saw the original Starbucks.

My own Seattle record is that I've been to the Starbucks about 4 times; I go to Pike's Place and the International District every time I visit Seattle; I've been to the Experience Music Project 3 times and the underground tour once; but I've never been to the Space Needle.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2008-08-20 07:07 am (UTC)
my point was slightly different -- i did go _to_ the space needle, i just didn't go _up_ it, which you'd do just for the view as far as i can see.

also, architecturally, the seattle public library blows away everything else.

some day you should explain to me why people go to pike's place :)
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