IT’S not hard to conjure up the image of a bad tourist — I live in Edinburgh after all. So let me paint you a picture. I’m going to call them Bob and Sheila. Bob and Sheila are from Columbus Ohio, they’re inching towards retirement and are on a three week furlough in Scotland to connect with Bob’s ancestral home. Bob wears slacks and a fannypack, Sheila wears her rucksack on the front of her body to avoid pickpockets and always carries a gimcrack pac-a-mac.

Sheila likes to talk loudly and at length to anyone serving her in a shop. Bob doesn’t have the exact change for the bus. They both stop without warning in the middle of the street to capture the queer and the quaint peculiar to our fine city. Bob wants to buy a kilt in his clan’s tartan, (MacAulay’s of Ullapool) and Sheila wants to rub the nose of a grotty dog statue and David Hume’s toe. They want shortbread, haggis and replica bagpipes. Their daughter Kayla loves Harry Potter, so they’re going to go to the Elephant House and take lots of pictures. With their selfie stick.

Bob and Sheila are having a wonderful time in Edinburrow, blissfully ignorant to the esoterica of habitués, and consequently also ignorant to the slow-burning fury formenting in the locals they brush against.

Of course, this is a caricature, and an unfair one to boot. They’re both good church-going folks who just want to have a good time visiting somewhere new that holds meaning for them. How are they to know how much tourism-fatigued locals enjoy a regular grumble in their direction? And aren’t we all that same tourist wherever we go, despite our best intentions? Most of us want the mythical version of a country we’ve been sold, to see backdrops of other people’s holiday snaps for ourselves, to glut ourselves on croissants and wine, or bagels and coffee, or wurst and beer. Tourism by its very nature is voyeuristic and intrusive. It takes a concerted effort to counter those impulses.

Naturally, this isn’t unique to Edinburgh. Living in a capital city and global tourist destination, I know this existential pain is shared by locals in New York, London, Paris and every other place you could list on that theme. In Venice, they’ve reached the tipping point. Last September they took to the Giudecca Canal in their wetsuits and boats, blocking cruise ships which can disembark over 30,000 tourists a day into the city. Thousands more have taken to the streets crying ‘‘mi no vado via” (I’m not leaving), protesting against the impact of increasing visitor numbers on residents. The city’s population is in decline, local rentals are impossible thanks to AirBnBs, and pollution levels are causing significant lasting damage. It’s a wonder they’ve put up with it for so long.

Enter mayor Luigi Brugnaro, a man determined to take a stance against the forces transforming their city from a treasured destination to a throwaway backdrop. He’s launched the #enjoyrespectVenice campaign, with a tariff of visitor fines up to €500 to expurgate anything considered disrespectful of public safety or in violation of “urban decorum” (can I just say how much I love that phrase?). It includes €150 for not having a bus ticket, €100 for jumping in the canal, €100 for loitering on bridges, and if you cause excessive noise during siesta time, you can say ciao to €400.

At first glance it seems... excessive. But money always has that ability to make us pause for thought. Pondering tourism in my own city quickly produces an extensive list of bêtes noires as grist for an increasingly salty attitude towards inconsiderate visitors. Clearly, you’d have to be nuts to strut around Edinburgh in a bathing suit, and though we’d love to, most of us aren’t napping after lunch — but we do have our own tourism challenges. There are downsides to cohabiting long-term with a near-permanent transient population of people who want to graze on the good bits, and leave us to pick up after them. We too are living in an UNESCO World Heritage Site,want to enjoy our city and see it preserved and improved, rather than depleted and recalibrated for those who’ll leave as quick as they came.

Beyond the fines, Venice is doing something brave and clever. Not only have the citizens and the government come together to put their collective foot down, through this initiative, they’re modelling another way. They’re championing the concept of “detourism”, offering sustainable itineraries, maps of picnic and toilet areas and an unambiguous guide to what responsible tourism and good behaviour in the city looks like.

It makes considerable effort to focus on the city’s artistic and cultural heritage, encouraging visitors to look beyond the quick-wins and the typical “junk-food” experiences. It’s the equivalent of a very mature relationship chat: “This isn’t working for us any more. We still want you, but this is what we need from you.” Could we have some of that, please?

In a city that depends on tourism, if the visitors disappeared we’d be stuffed. Like many of Venice’s residents, I’d never advocate an exodus — but a tourism based on respect is the “antidote to all of these infractions” (as one tweeter pointed out). It’s the future for our cities we need.

Here’s to Venice for taking one for the team and starting a much-needed public conversation about the need for sustainable tourism. I’m watching their example with interest, and taking their message to heart, not only in my aspirations for Edinburgh, but in my desire to be a better (more invisible) traveller.