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Travel dilemmas on airplanes and at major tourist attractions: Americans answer "What Would You Do?"

Travel leaders group survey asks American travelers about airplane "seat sprawl," the "knee defender," middle seat arm rests, selfie sticks, and tourist behaving badly.

PLYMOUTH, MINN. – 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 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 reseated elsewhere on the plane 58.1%
  • Sit quietly and say nothing 17.4%
  • Not sure 10.7%
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Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.