Monday, 21 July 2008

Ignore Low-Rent Tourists

Let's say you live in a region which gets some tourists. You're looking to start a business with which you might encourage some of those tourists to part with some of their currency and give it to you.

A Restaurant! That's a fine idea. Everybody needs to eat, particularly those pig-like North-West Europeans: they can't help but stuff their faces at every opportunity! (so sad; so true).

Hmmmmm..... Only problem. I only know how to make My Native Food. And the pigs won't like that. So I'll have to make their "cuisine" to make them come to my restaurant. But there are so many of them, so I'll have to make sure that I have a part of my menu devoted to each country I think might come to my restaurant, so that there are at least 100 things on the menu, none of which will be fresh, and none of which will taste good at all.


Look, I'm not saying that there aren't people having a Full English, downing it with a pint, at 10:00am on any of the Canary Islands at any given time. And I'm not saying that there aren't people who won't visit anything other than a German beer-hall in a coastal town in Cambodia. Sure, there are those people. Here's what I will say though:

Those people are trash.

There. I've said it. They're Packaged Holiday-makers who want My Village But With Better Weather.

Anyway, they are. They're human scum, and more importantly, they don't spend very much. One of the attractions for them is that they can get exactly what they get at home, but for cheaper. Not great profit margins, are they?

Now you might say that the only Whiteys who will go for local cuisine are backpackers who are even more price sensitive than the Low-Rent Weather Seekers, and that's true to a point. But here's the other hint: there are a bunch of us who want local food, but don't want to get sick, and want air conditioning now and then, and might want a bottle of chilled Sauvignon Blanc with our dinner. We might even want delicacies that you would really only eat once in a couple of months.

Give us somewhere to eat. Cook for us. Whatever you'd eat at home, whatever you'd have for a celebration, heck, if you're in the main city of your country, cook me whatever you'd have in your home town. Just make sure it looks like you have proper hygiene standards, and we're good to go.

Yes, you're ignoring the people who will never eat anything that isn't served with french fries, but those people honestly aren't going to your establishment probably anyways (because the ones they're going to have been staked out years ago and it ain't you). Give me somewhere I can go on holiday.

Oh, and that doesn't mean go the absolute other end. I don't want a "fine dining experience" as I wander around with flip-flops and shorts on. I don't want you to pretend that your home cuisine is classical French (which you actually can't do without a full hotel kitchen because you naturally have the disadvantage of weather, which means that you don't have the cold temperature to play such magical games with butter). I don't want to have fawning service. I want a bottle of wine, I want local food, I want to have a good time.

And it doesn't matter that where the locals live is nowhere near where the tourist hotels are. That's fine. Set up by your home and make sure my hotel (and all local taxi/tuk-tuk drivers) know where you are and what you do, or just open by the tourist hotels.

Also, I don't want to hear your daughter sing. Nobody wants to hear that. Nor do I want to hear music which may be grating to my ears too loud. Yes, I want to hear it, it's part of the faux-native experience (and don't think I don't know it's faux-native: I'm not stupid); just make sure I can hear my other half at the same time.

Please don't make me eat in the hotel another night...

And by the way: if you get offended by this post, ask yourself why you're offended that I think someone eating the cheapest full english breakfast they can get every day in Cambodia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, ... is a bit stupid and rubbish. Then again, I doubt those people read anything other than The Sun, so the chances of them actually getting offended by this are pretty darn slim.

And if you're offended by the hygiene standards, my only real rule when travelling is this: if I can't see ANY way for staff to wash their hands, I walk out. You'd be surprised how often I have to invoke that rule in some of the places I go. It's one of the reasons why I always visit the toilet before I eat anything.