It’s a made up word of course and unlikely to ever get accepted by the Oxford dictionary or the British Medical Association but excursionphobia may adequately describe an aversion to commercial tours.
Organised excursions are often a great way to get to know a destination, to understand the history and culture. An experienced and knowledgeable guide licenced by the tourism board will usually provide an informative and entertaining narrative.
Those organised by tourisms boards can be a great introduction to a destination providing some ideas for further exploration later. Commercial tours however can be a little more of a lottery, there are some good operators which provide excellent excursions but sometimes they don’t seem to be offering the best value for money.
The most obvious disadvantage is that they are a business and their primary goal is to make money. This often means that they involve large groups, one guide having to deal with a coach load of more than 30 people. This always seems far from ideal, controlling big groups of individuals all who have their own interests, agendas and requirements from a tour. Keeping them all happy is quite a juggling act, it is especially difficult when photographers are in attendance as they tend to slow down the remainder of the group needing to take many images during the tour. This leads to impatience from the other tour members and especially from the guide.
Needing to control their charges can also provide some amusement, guides resort to giving their group distinctive names, possibly due to an instantly recognisable group member. I can recall one guide in Egypt calling his ‘flock’ “boobies”, this was due to an attractive pair of girls, one of which was also well endowed in the chest department. His complete lack of political correctness had the group laughing throughout as whenever he stopped to speak with us he held up a guide book and shouted “boobies”! His genuine innocence about the potential offense it might have caused which made it even more amusing.
On another occasion a quite tough looking individual in Istanbul carried a small, bright pink umbrella lined with a frilly white lace. he held it up whenever we stopped. It was hilarious seeing this guy who could easily have appeared on a wanted poster holding up this very feminine brolly. It was especially funny as he was so big nobody could possibly miss him anyway.
Not all aspects of a commercial tour are as amusing however. Guides that resort to using whistles can be especially irritating. They are impersonal, their shrill blast shattering any peace and rounding up the group like lost sheep.
On a recent trip to Knossos, the Minoan Palace on the island of Crete our large group had to share the popular site with numerous other guided tours. The mythical labyrinth excavated by the English archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans was teeming with tourists crawling all over the site like ants. Most were on an excursion and as October is low season it must be horrendously busy during the more popular months.
Knossos was the main attraction of the excursion and the guide was extremely knowledgeable and professional however after collecting tourists from dozens of hotels on the way we appeared to only have time to see half the site. The guide was still describing some of the site attractions as we were departing the car park for Heraklion.
The Cretan capital provided some more amusement as he led us around the city centre like lost sheep. We must have been quite a sight however the locals are obviously used to it, ignoring us as we weaved our way through the crowds. We did however at least have sometime afterwards to explore the city on our own, which was a pleasant bonus.
Making money is what excursions are about, and often the itineraries seem more about potential commissions than providing the customer with a beneficial experience.
Every tour in Egypt seems to include a visit to a papyrus factory, after several visits and having the process explained on each occasion I could almost have produced a few scrolls of my own. Every destination appears to have its special factories to visit, glassblowing in Venice, cigar factory or rum distillery in Cuba. Actually scrub those in Cuba I could happily visit them all day.
Such visits are not always so welcome however, often the main attraction of the excursion is compromised to allow enough time for these factory tours. The tour operator receiving a commission for each visitor and probably for every subsequent purchase.
It is an unfortunate consequence of booking an excursion which often cannot be avoided. Discussing the tour itinerary with a resort representative or various providers may allow for some choice and a possible way to avoid repeated factory visits. It is quite likely however they will be impossible to avoid as almost every provider includes them. It maybe necessary to ‘bite the bullet’ and accept they can’t be avoided. It is always possible those with excursionphobia can remain on the coach when it parks up for the fifth factory tour.
Personally however I prefer to skip the guided tour whenever feasible, a little research of the destination online or in a guidebook and get out to explore. This is often how many adventures are unearthed.