Travel Dilemmas: Americans Answer “What Would You Do?” Regarding Selfie Sticks, Tourist Behaving Badly and Airplane Etiquette

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Travel Leaders Group's survey asks American travelers about airplane “seat sprawl,” the “knee defender,” middle seat arm rests, selfie sticks, and tourist behaving badly.

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Travel Leaders Group's survey asks American travelers about airplane “seat sprawl,” the “knee defender,” middle seat arm rests, selfie sticks, and tourist behaving badly.

Selfie stick bans at major attractions, tourist behaving badly and “seat sprawl” on airlines have all created waves in the news media recently. In fact, earlier this month, four Western tourists were fined and released from prison in Malaysia after being convicted of posing naked for photos atop a sacred mountain – similar incidents with tourist have occurred in Cambodia and Peru. In a recent survey, Travel Leaders Group asked Americans how they would handle certain uncomfortable – yet fairly common – travel dilemmas such as “seat sprawl,” the “knee defender” and arm rest hogs on airplanes, as well as banned selfie sticks, tourists defacing major attractions and sightseers snapping photos where they are prohibited. The survey was conducted by Travel Leaders Group – a $20 billion powerhouse in the travel industry – from April 3 to April 30, 2015, and includes responses from 3,371 consumers throughout the United States.

“With shrinking airline seat space and planes flying at full capacity, it’s not surprising over 76% of those polled would take some sort of action if the person in front of them reclined their seat all the way back. Yet 52.6% of respondents said they would not use the ‘knee defender’ given the opportunity,” stated Barry Liben, CEO of Travel Leaders Group. “For three straight years, we’ve asked consumers these types of questions. We want to help identify potential scenarios and have travelers think about how they would react before they encounter these situations. We encourage travelers take action, particularly in situations where tourists are demonstrating poor behavior by damaging major artifacts or skirting rules and regulations. Travelers should know they can always go to official personnel – be it security guards or flight attendants – if they don’t want to confront someone directly.”

Selfie Sticks:

Selfie sticks are being banned at some very popular tourist attractions, such as Rome’s Colosseum, the Palace of Versailles, the Smithsonian and on Disney World rides. When asked, “If you knew it was prohibited and you saw another tourist taking photos with a selfie stick, what would you do?” the responses were:

Say something directly to the person (8.9%)
Tell a security guard or official personnel (31.2%)
Say nothing (33.7%)
Not sure (26.2%)

In turn, when asked, “If you were taking photos in a location that banned selfie sticks, what would you do?” the responses were:

I don’t own a selfie stick, so it’s not a problem (78.5%)
I’d still try to use my selfie stick and hope not to get caught (0.5%)
I’d abide by the rules and not use my selfie stick (18.8%)
Not sure (2.3%)

Banned Photos:

When asked, “Have you ever taken photos at a location, destination or exhibit that strictly prohibited all photos (such as the Sistine Chapel, England’s Crown Jewels, certain Japanese temples, etc.)?” the responses were:

Yes, I secretly took a photo when no one was looking (10.1%)
No, but I really wanted to sneak a photo (18.2%)
No, I’ve never done that (71.7%)

Also, tourists have been arrested, fined, and/or deported for taking nude photos of atop a sacred mountain in Malaysia and at a temple inside Cambodia’s Angkor complex. In addition, Machu Picchu, in Peru, has dealt with nude tourism incidents. When asked, “If you were visiting a popular tourist destination and witnessed other visitors behaving badly in this manner, what would you do?” the responses were:

Say something directly to the person (7.2%)
Tell a security guard or official personnel (65.6%)
Say nothing (11.2%)
Not sure (16.1%)

Defacing or Destroying Major Attractions:

Tourists at Rome’s Colosseum were caught carving initials into the ancient site. Also, two tourists in Italy recently broke a piece off a historic statue while climbing it to take a picture.

When asked, “If you were at a major tourist attraction and saw another visitor damaging the attraction (by carving their initials into it, walking off-path and trampling sensitive vegetation, breaking off a piece to take home as a souvenir), what would you do? the responses were:

Say something directly to the person (14.6%)
Tell a security guard or official personnel (72.5%)
Say nothing (4.2%)
Not sure (8.7%)

Airline Etiquette – Seat Sprawl, Arm Rests, Reclining Seats:

When asked, “If you are seated in the middle seat on an airplane and the people on either side of you staked out the armrests, what would you do?” the responses were:

Say something directly to your seatmates (36.8%)
Call a flight attendant and let him/her handle the situation (7.7%)
Sit quietly and say nothing (33.3%)
Not sure (22.2%)

When asked, “If you encountered ‘seat sprawl’ (where the person next to you on an airplane clearly is too large for their seat and invades what little space you have) on an airplane, what would you do?” the responses were:

Say something directly to your seatmates (4.5%)
Call a flight attendant and let him/her handle the situation (9.3%)
Call a flight attendant and ask if you can be re-seated elsewhere on the plane (58.1%)
Sit quietly and say nothing (17.4%)
Not sure (10.7%)

When asked, “If the person in the airline seat in front of you reclined their seat so much that you were unable to lower you tray table or perhaps unable to open up a laptop, what would you do?” the responses were:

Say something directly to the person (37.9%)
Call a flight attendant and let him/her handle the situation (38.7%)
Sit quietly and say nothing (13.1%)
Not sure (10.3%)

When asked, “If someone gave you a ‘knee defender’ (a newer device created so the person in the airplane seat in front of you won’t be able to recline), would you ever use it?” the responses were:

Absolutely – in fact, I have used one (0.7%)
Absolutely I would use it (14.9%)
I’d think about it, but chicken out and not use it (11.5%)
I wouldn’t use it because everyone should have the option to recline their seat (52.6%)
I don’t know (20.3%)

When asked, “If you were on a plane and realized the person behind you used the “knee defender” on your airplane seat so that you couldn’t recline, what would you do?” the responses were:

Say something directly to the person (15.3%)
Call a flight attendant and let him/her handle the situation (43.7%)
Sit quietly and say nothing (25.0%)
Not sure (15.9%)

Through the years, Travel Leaders Group has built a reputation for gathering extensive travel trends data from its vast network of travel agents and more recently from American consumers and travelers. Travel Leaders Group also recently released information related to Cuba Travel and Dream Destinations and Airport Security and Safety Traveling Abroad. This is the 7th consecutive year for the consumer travel survey. American consumers were engaged predominantly through social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as through direct contact with travel clients for the following Travel Leaders Group companies: Protravel International, Results! Travel, Travel Leaders, Tzell Travel Group and Vacation.com.

Travel Leaders Group is a $20 billion powerhouse in the travel industry, comprising approximately 30% of all travel agencies in North America that are wholly-owned, franchised, or member agencies. It is a leader in both the retail travel agency space and corporate travel, and it consistently ranks as one of the top travel companies nationwide.

About Travel Leaders Group:
Travel Leaders Group (http://www.travelleadersgroup.com) is transforming travel with a commitment to our vacation and business travel clients via our progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Having already assisted millions of travelers – through our beginnings as Carlson Leisure Group, a division of Carlson Companies, TraveLeaders and Tzell Travel Group and through the additions of Nexion, Vacation.com and Protravel International – Travel Leaders Group manages leisure, business and franchise travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands. With annual sales of approximately $20 billion through over 6,500 locations, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest traditional travel agency companies.

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Steve Loucks
Travel Leaders Group
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