Titanic Awards looking for world's cheapest tourists

Americans like to think they have an appalling reputation in the outside world. We all know a few people who won't set foot on a plane because they fear some anti-American loony is bound to strike them dead on some foreign street. But it may surprise you to know that there are other nationalities that foreign hotel managers dread more.

To assemble the upcoming book The Titanic Awards: Celebrating The Dubious Achievements of Travel, tourists of all stripes are being asked to vote on the World's Worst in a variety of categories. Although voting is still going on, a few of the categories are revealing some surprising results when it comes to Americans and money.

Despite exchange rates that encourage us to be extra stingy, worldwide voters have so far not deigned to hand us the crown of "World's Cheapest Tourists." That honor falls to the British -- a head-turning result considering what their pound is worth.

Americans are currently taking the silver, followed by Australians and then the Germans. (My vote would be for South Africans, whose currency is so flaccid they're pretty much left out of the party attended by the rest of the Western world.)

Worst No-Frills Airline is no shocker. That title is currently held by RyanAir, the airline of the death by a thousand microcharges and the recent "pay to pee" fiasco. (Southwest and JetBlue aren't even on the boards, nor do they particularly deserve to be, considering the competition.)

But West Coasters might have something to say about Major Airport with Worst Shopping. The current leader is LAX. I don't agree with that one, because I always find a way to spend money when I head to LAX, but then again, I don't think the In-N-Out Burger by the runway counts toward an airport amenity.

The venture is a tongue-and-cheek effort to engage in a little casual consumer reporting. Only instead of critiquing the value of DVD players or washing machines, entire destinations are appraised by the people who have gone to them. For this survey, the word "worst" could mean a lot of things, and no one taking the survey has experience with every destination in the world, so you'll have to take the results with a chunk of salt.

But it will get people talking. The execs at Hilton and Super 8 will certainly be talking if their hotel brands are dubbed the worst upscale and budget brands, a distinction they are currently headed for.

The project is is brainchild of writer Doug Lansky, who previous compiled the Signspotting series of books of funny snapshots of signs (disclosure: he's interviewed me for this new project, too).

"There's this huge gap out there in travel writing," he told National Geographic Traveler. "When you go on a trip, the story everyone wants to hear about is what went wrong; what's weird, wacky and crazy. But in travel writing, when you try to tell the dirt, it comes off as negative or whiny."

You can vote for your own worsts for the forthcoming humor book by taking the anonymous online survey, which includes some spaces for write-in nominations. I imagine the Hilton people will be casting some votes before they finish reading this page.
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