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The Bad Guys

Not every traveller leads the world to a better place...

Pedro de Alvarado

A blond, brave, brutal, deputy of Hernándo Cortés, Pedro de Alvarado’s cruelty and contempt for indigenous cultures was exceptional even among the cocky conquistadors who conquered central and Latin America for Spain in the 16th century.

Although apologists stress the precariousness of his military position in Mexico and Guatemala, Alvarado’s impetuous massacre of hundreds of Aztecs during a religious ceremony in 1520 provoked war. In Guatemala, he spent four years trying to exterminate the Mayans and their culture. He died in 1541, aged 46, suppressing yet another native revolt. He set a sorry cruel standard that too many of his successors, from all nations, have emulated.

Thomas Cook

Villains don’t always know the evil they do. When Derbyshire cabinetmaker Thomas Cook arranged an £8 two-week tour by sea and rail to Germany, Belgium and France in 1855, he couldn’t have known his wheeze would lead, over a century later, to large parts of southern Spain becoming a kiss-me-quick haven for lagered-up Brits, sporting Union Jack emblems and scoffing all-day English breakfasts.

It’s not Tom’s fault – nor is it really fair to blame the company he founded – but places such as the Costa Brava are still reeling from the environmental impact of mass tourism, while too many Brits still fly to places that disguise the fact that they are, actually, foreign. In Cook’s defence, he did invent the hotel voucher and the traveller’s cheque too.

Michael O’Leary

The Ryanair supremo thrives on bad publicity – but with the amount he’s had, it’s a taste he’s had to acquire. Ryanair has pioneered low-cost flights, with O’Leary showing guts and commitment as he invests to pursue his vision. Yet the airline has pushed the envelope in other ways, breaking new ground with tacky advertising (using Winston Churchill to encourage people to fly to London after the 11 July bombings), levying an £18 charge on wheelchairs, proposing a £2.50 charge for check-in luggage, and flying passengers to airports that were, in some cases, up to 80km from the cities travellers thought they were visiting.

Ronald McDonald

Looking bizarrely like the younger brother of Batman’s old adversary, The Joker, Ronald McDonald is the mascot for a fast food giant that has been pilloried for encouraging obesity, helping destroy the rain forests (a charge McDonald’s vehemently denies), and symbolising the evils of globalisation. Mind you, those who say McDonald’s pays no heed to different cultures haven’t dined at their ski-through outlet in Sweden. In an increasingly automated, standardised, dehumanised world, McDonald’s distorts diets, makes the act of eating monotonous and homogenises the planet – nowhere is safe from the Arches.

David Jin

You have to be very brave or very stupid to want to improve on a natural wonder like the Grand Canyon. As Las Vegas entrepreneur David Jin is very rich, we’ll assume bravery. Jin thinks the canyon would look better still if it had a glass bridge, 1.2km up, which will jut out 20m from the rockface. The Skywalk, scheduled to open this summer, has consumed more than a million pounds of steel. Clearly, they don’t know how to spell ‘eco-tourism’ in Nevada, let alone what it means. The only crumb of comfort is that the native Hualapai Americans will rake off some of the money.