Can someplace be a tourist trap if you don't pay money to see it?

Is money the one thing that transforms a travel destination that’s merely a waste of time into a bona fide Tourist Trap? I’d like to read some pro and con arguments before submitting my opinion.

  • Yes
  • No

0 voters

Most tourist traps are designed in the hopes that the people who stop there will spend money. But you might not have to pay to actually visit the trap.

Why would anybody set a trap if not to profit from it in some way?

There are some national parks or other national monuments that are definitely tourist traps.

Just because a place gets lots of tourists doesn’t make it a tourist trap, though, right? It just makes it a popular destination for tourists.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is very impressive in person. It’s in a partially walled space and is, itself, free to visit.

However, the surrounding yard is absolutely jammed with tourist-focused merchant stalls hawking a range of cheap nonsense, the proprietors of which can occasionally be offputtingly aggressive in their invitations to anyone within shouting distance.

I would therefore propose that even where a thing itself is viewable or visitable at no cost, if a large element of its ongoing maintenance is to support an immediate penumbra of tacky entrepreneurship aimed at visitors, then it may be considered a tourist trap despite its free nature.

(This is unfortunate, because the Tower itself is worth seeing, and is not the “waste of time” mentioned in the OP.)

Google is a tourist trap and it’s free.

In the case of Google it’s all about the ads and eyeballs. A physical tourist trap may be all about the food, or the motel accommodations, or the shopping. Or yeah what Cervaise said.

I think a tourist trap is anywhere the value proposition isn’t what it seems to be. Usually this means a low or nonexistent entrance fee that they hope to make up on other sales. Not all of them, though. A lot of touristy areas are choked with garbage tourist traps that rely on families shrugging and paying high admission costs because they’re paying out the nose for literally everything.

Yes, because people, especially people with kids, invariably spend money when attending events that, in and of themselves, are free. They buy food and drink, they buy souvenirs, they pay for add-ons and enhancements, etc.

The first place that popped into my head was Times Square. I consider Times Square to be a massive tourist trap but you don’t have to pay any money to visit or pass through.

I’m in the “No” camp on this. That’s why I think Plymouth Rock (a frequently cited example of a “tourist trap”) doesn’t qualify because it doesn’t cost anything to see. Of course, if you value time at least as much as money, I can understand why you would classify it as one.

There are towns famous for being “quaint” that slowly lose their useful businesses and morph into street after street of gift shops. People go there to see the quaint town but it’s changed from being a real place with a real economy to being a place designed for tourism. Not totally a “trap” because still very pleasant, but not genuine anymore.

Uh, which question are we supposed to be answering in the poll?

  • Can someplace be a tourist trap if you don’t pay money to see it?
  • Is money the one thing that transforms a travel destination that’s merely a waste of time into a bona fide Tourist Trap?

These have opposite answers.

It can certainly be a tourist trap without money for the reasons stated above. Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco is the first one that comes to my mind - free to go, but endless things there to part you from your money like cheap souvenirs, t-shirts, bad restaurants, stupid “museums”, etc.

I did not vote because I don’t know which question I’m answering.

Venice, Italy might be the biggest example of this. I’ve never been there, but from what I understand the city ceased to have any real economic importance centuries ago. Pretty much the sole reason Venice still exists is to be a tourist attraction.

Sorry I didn’t clarify things. The first question (“Can someplace be a tourist trap if you don’t pay money to see it?”) is the one for the poll.

And worth it at twice the price!

As I understand it, tourist trap just means a travel destination that doesn’t live up to the hype. Money has nothing to do with it.

Navy Pier in Chicago is a good example. Free to go, but nothing else is free there. Mostly, it’s a gigantic mall that’s not worth the effort. The boat rides are nice, I suppose. But still, meh.

I’m thinking of Carmel. Were you?

That’s part of it, but mainly it’s places that have some hook to draw in tourists (i.e., the trap) such that they spend money at expensive restaurants and gift shops. I would say they “work best” when they’re free, since obviously that’s a huge draw, but once there they’re likely to spend money (and maybe have little choice if they have to eat).

Some tourist traps can still cost money of course, but even there it’s a gray area. You can visit the Eiffel Tower for free; it just costs money to go up.