Turismos: Tour Groups of Central Florida
Tour Groups: (Almost) Every Central Florida Visitor’s Worst-Case Scenario
Give or take a few days before or after Independence Day proper, between late June and early August, you and your family are vacationing in Florida. It's because you either want to stay in the placidness and/or the frugality of numerous offsite hotels and timeshares to do multiple theme parks and other rickracks of The City Beautiful, Orlando. Another reason may be because you want to enjoy it’s fun-filled vicinity or house yourself in a week-long sojourn in the themed accommodations at the Walt Disney World Resort.
If kids are with you, they anticipate days of thrill rides, pool sessions, and meetings with pop culture (screened media) characters like recent Disney-Pixar feature stars (at Disney's Hollywood Studios) or smart Lisa from The Simpsons (at Universal Studios Florida).
You are spending a day at Epcot, a Disney theme park, and despite its many air-conditioned venues, and a rather overcast sky, you experience the sauna-like humidity that bakes visitors each summer.
As you go about your business, ready to queue for, say, Mission: Space, you see a massive group of uniformed young adults. Their raiment consists of identical T-shirts in bright yellow, with the word LAGETUR emblazoned front and back, below some distinctive pair of upside-down L’s colored in graduated pink and blue superimposed over a grid model of a globe. The black cursive manuscript over the logo inscribed on the shirts reads, A melhor Disney, and the presence of the graphics are shown on the front and back of the shirts. the group clan either wear yellow bike shorts (for girls) or yellow board shorts (for boys), along with a black fanny pack.
Few adults in roughly the same costume guides them with yellow-colored pendants with the logo on them as they chant loudly as if Walt Disney World is one big World Cup venue. You can’t bear it – the group size, the chanting, and the presence – you have learned all too well that there’s more to crowds than school closures, locals, and out-of-towners.
The one you have encountered is one of the collective pet peeves of many visitors who make a pilgrimage to the shrines (not talking about the quieter Basilica of Mary, Queen of the Universe Shrine, for the Catholic set, including me) of fun, thrills, and magic known as the theme parks – tour groups. No, I’m not talking about those from the public schools in the likes of marching bands, end-of-school-year grade set excursions, and show choirs.
The ones I’m bringing up, are those inflowing from South America, mainly from its most-populous nation, Brazil, and its neighbor Argentina. Most of us have familiarized ourselves with the groups from the former each family vacation in June through August or December to February, but those of Argentina (known as Argentinean youth herds) flock to Central Florida as well. (Few other South American nations have their own breeds of turismos, thus they are merely called otros.)
Sure, some people call them “the tour groups from heck,” “killer B’s” (in reference to Brazilian tour groups, especially Sao Paulo-based Lagetur), and “weapons of mass annoyance. As the name suggests in many names of South American tour groups and because that term stems from both the Spanish and Portuguese term for "tourism," I affectionately call them turismos.
The What's, Whens, and Whys of Tour Groups
Having been to any given Central Florida theme park (including the ride venue of Tampa Bay locals like me, Busch Gardens) in December-January and June-July, I had my fill of turismos’ apparitions in them. Recently, I learned that not all wear the same shirts (or in the case of Lagetur, same bottoms), but they try their best to maintain their uniformity. Many of them don their “anything goes” raiment, but they tote identical backpacks and whatever portable luggage may be.
Whether in identical costuming or posing as normal tourists with identical portables, they have one thing in common: adults corralling them with a pendant or flag. Based on my findings in every theme park daycation (a term involving just a day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, if you are Floridian and live at most an hour from Walt Disney World), one can only tell a tour group by its pendant or flag.
Well, I imagine many visitors inquiring why they must land on local soil (read: Central Florida theme parks) to annoy the daylights of them each December-January and June-July. Well, I suggest the academic years of the South American nations. In Brazil, the summer vacation occurs on the academic term’s end, in December, and winter break falls on the three weeks through July. The winter holidays in Argentina are more or less identical to Brazil’s, but their summer break extends through early March.
The placement of the school closures prompt bookings of mass quinceaneras (15 year birthdays) by travel agents with turismo on it, in the names of Magic Days, Inside Magic, Rogetur, Universal Turismo (not typically referring to Universal Orlando), and the aforementioned Lagetur. With the right ingredients, the school closures, the alternatives to a lavish party for the South American 15-year-old, and booking the most affluent teens, the agents birth their turismos, ready to pervade the parks north of them, in Central Florida.
Also, they are the heart and soul of the Florida tourism economy. Those teens pump in revenue from admissions, hotel rates, food, and souvenirs to help it prosper. If it weren't for the turismos, misbehaving or not, chanting or quiet, then we would be poor. With tourism the biggest portion of Florida's economy, they are as vital.
Why They Are that Darn Annoying to Some Guests
Believe it or not, turismos are the nuisances of many a typical visitor in the Orlando (and Tampa, if Busch Gardens is in the itinerary) area. Well, there are some things they to to set one into a rage.
Many visitors and vacationers (including fellow members of many Walt Disney World-related boards) reported being offset by their stentorian chanting in either Portuguese (for the Brazilian tour groups) and Spanish (for the Argentinean youth herds) in the parks, on the buses, and in the hotels. In most cases, I have read on the boards, the action causes quite a stir audibly, thus ranking on the top of the negatives of the turismos.
For those with autistic children visiting that area, they are the auditory forces of sensory overload, and their football-match-like behaviors can be cruxes of meltdowns. Until that July at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, I haven’t heard much chanting from them, but the noise seemed to rile up tourists here in America and those from well-behaved Britain and Canada (respectively topping the number of Central Florida visitors first and second to Brazil).
Also, they snag viewing spots (should a parade or fireworks display, typically at Walt Disney World, be featured in a park - see "What Annoys You") to obscure disappointed tourists’ views, ruining their experiences. In some cases, they cut in line at any given attraction – if one queues behind a small group of those in identical shirts or bags, the others join in with them, albeit illegal and risky for expulsion without refund.
I for one had not observed or experienced line-cutting, but many frequent theme park visitors have reported incidences in the forums I for one discussed. At Walt Disney World, where FASTPASSES are free with park tickets or passes, they tend to expel them in a pinch, especially at peak times. While some are well behaved, some other obnoxious turismos seem to be most worrisome for the so-called Orlando vacationers.
My Triond Articles on Turismos
Experiences with Turismos
Having been to the theme parks in Central Florida since I was a toddler, I can tell you that I have many run-ins with the turismos. My first full experience with them was when I spent my Independence day vacation with my parents, cousin, and uncle there as a child growing up in my native New Jersey. Because it fell on a July, I saw my first Brazilian tour groups, with their colored shirts and flag-waving adults.
My encounters increased since moving near Tampa because I obtained multi-day passes to the parks. I learned that the more local I live, the more turismos I encounter.
How to Survive Peak Seasons (of Turismos)
As knowledge has it, it’s relatively easy to survive a Central Florida vacation when the turismos are out in full force. With those helpful tips, your vacation should run with few problems with them.
- Plan for the right time
As I mentioned, June-August and December-February are high seasons for turismos, so I'd advise you to do Central Florida some other times (not on Spring Break, which is very crowded, although the turismos are all but absent). If you don't mind the dreaded Christmas creep, see the decorations in the theme parks (applicable especially to Magic Kingdom, where its hard-ticket Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party commences that month) in November.
- Go there early, regardless of circumstance!
Although January is typically quieter in terms of Central Florida theme parks, it's no surprise that turismos do that month too. Regardless of how you spend that day, get there at least 30 minutes ahead of opening. If you are visiting Walt Disney World's quartet, take this to heart and claim your FASTPASSES for your favored attractions, as turismo porta-bandeiras (referring to flag-brandishing tour guides) expel distribution kiosks in a pinch.
- Go opposite the flow
If you see a turismo heading towards you, go for it (that is, the opposite way) - it will save you a lot of grief and terrible memories of loud chanting and line cutting.
- Take a breather
If you live here in my part of Florida or in Central Florida, you might want to take this advice championed by travel experts - take a break from the bustle of theme parks. That is, come back to the hotel after lunching in the restaurants and playing Marco Polo in the pool (or other activity), and then return to the chaos.
- Stand your guard
Don't cave into victimization from turismo-related line-cutting or spot-snagging - block the members' way if they start to reunite their few fellows on queue, and alert an employee if problems persist. The same is true with parades, firework displays, and so forth.
Turismos can be annoying, but manageable with the right advice and planning. I don't like them that much, but I for one developed a natural immunity to them. Bring on summer and winter (aside from block out dates) and all the turismos from the land of fire and the land of the samba - I'm not letting them faze my days at Disney anytime soon!
- Dont Mix Ride Long Lines and Amusement Parks!
Don't just apply my rules to theme parks where turismos visit twice a year - use it even on parks outside Central Florida too!
- Turismo Watch!
If you have a photo including a turismo or several of them, either on purpose of by accident, feel free to sign up on flickr and post them as long as it's clean.
- Avoiding the terror of tour groups at the theme parks
An Examiner article on the turismos and ways to cope with them