Stupidity in Tourism
The past few days, especially if you live in Europe, you will have run across news articles like this one and this one. In the first case, British citizens were denied entry in the European Union as tourists. In the second, they were barred from boarding their flight at Heathrow Airport, despite having a residence in Spain, because of questions about their documentation. Even though the legal foundation of the airline staff’s decision in the latter case was questionable, when I saw the article I couldn’t help but wonder “under what rock have those people been living the past few months?” Britain left the European Union on January 1st, making UK citizens third country foreigners in the EU; with a pandemic raging on top of that you can ask whether insisting to spend New Year in the UK and traveling shortly after is the smartest of moves.
I also immediately thought of an study I read just a short while back: “Stupidity in tourism”, published October 2020 in the journal Tourism Recreation Research, which I had planned to comment on in this forum anyway.
The study caught my eye for several reasons. Stupidity is based on cognitive biases (which will receive posts of their own.). In one definition, it is people’s inability to weight options carefully and to act prudently, i.e. risk unawareness – the very thing this blog hopes to ameliorate. The study itself relies heavily on the definition of Carlo M. Cipolla: Stupidity is hurting others without helping yourself.
Although Cipolla’s essay was written satirically, his five laws of stupidity are nevertheless insightful and helpful. He divides people into four quadrants, based on whether their actions on average benefit or harm others or themselves.  Thus we have Intelligent People (help/help), Bandits (help themselves/harm others), Helpless People (harm themselves/help others) or the Stupids (harm/harm). Or, translated to a Risklantern context: the last category systematically underestimates risk of their actions both to themselves and to others. And in tourism, this seems to be a lot easier to do, as people are living outside their normal daily context and/or culture, and thus overestimating abilities and underestimating risk is a lot easier to do.
It should be noted that Cipolla’s stupidity is not the opposite of intelligence. Quite the contrary – the Second Law of Stupidity states that
The probability that a certain person will be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person. 
This explains how a highly successful businessperson etc. can be stupid. The more specialized their expertise is, the more prone to stupidity elsewhere they might become. And the Dunning-Kruger-Effect also says hello, of course.
The study itself goes on to describe and explain various examples of stupidity in tourism, like the various selfie takers falling off a cliff. (The harm was to their children who saw the incident and have to deal with the consequences.)
Back to the first article, the tourists who were turned away. They knew (or should have known) that the UK is a high COVID-19 risk zone that is now outside of the EU, so the probability that they could enter on non-essential business was close to zero percent. Their risk assessment was entirely off, and this cost them money, time and comfort (self-harm). If they had been allowed to enter, they could have caused harm on the people where they were going due to COVID-19 (other-harm). I’d say they qualify.
 The original essay “The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity” was published 1987 in Whole Earth Review. I read it sometime later in the delightful essay collection  “Allegro ma non troppo”. Unfortunately, there is no English edition of that – you need to read either know German, Italian or Spanish. You can find The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity published alone in English here, or it might be on Google Scholar.
 I am an economist with an interest in philosophy and a geek – I like that kind of thing. YMMV.
 This is a utilitarian approach, i.e. one that looks at consequences of actions. In Ethics, there is a lot wrong with Utilitarianism, but outcomes do have the advantage of being at least somewhat measurable, at least in the short term.
 I can’t resist: It would be highly interesting to analyze Wednesday’s insurrectionists, within and outside Congress, under Cipolla’s insights. Food for thought.
 The Dunning-Kruger-Effect states that incompetent people overestimate their own competence, whereas highly competent ones tend to underestimate themselves. (Except for Sheldon Cooper and Sherlock Holmes.)