HOW TO HELP BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS SUFFERING FROM OVERTOURISM
What is Overtourism?
The term overtourism, is defined by ‘too many’ visitors in a particular destination, however ‘too many’ is in inverted commas, as this term is readily defined by each destination, its residents, hosts, business owners and tourists. This causes a knock-on effect for rent to sky-rocket leading local dwellers to leave the destination. These properties then naturally become rentals for holidays, which is in effect caused by over-tourism.
Good examples of overtourism are when small roads are blocked due to a hideous number of tourist transport, or when wildlife is not able to live in it’s natural area due to being scared away. Also when regular landmarks cannot be looked at with ease due to huge crowds and when landscapes or the surroundings degrade or wither away due to excessive use that all lead to signs of overtourism.
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Why Does Overtourism Happen?
The travel industry has seen a huge growth over the years, with travel being both local and to destinations all around the world. Gone are the days when the Seven Wonders of the World are just seen on the television. Travel is being prioritised, becoming experiential instead of purchasing material life investments such as houses, cars and even starting a family. This is all pushed back to later in life and travel is a number one priority for many young professionals.
The huge focus of social media and obtaining the ‘perfect instagrammable’ shot has lead to many destinations being over-run by tourists who are literally there for a few hours, minutes but leave the area in disarray on their exit.
Although travel has now almost crossed a threshold, where in a vast number of destinations, its issues far outweigh its benefits. Overtourism has become not just a problem for big cities but also rural communities and national parks.
There are few places in the world that are free from overtourism, from cities to historical sites, to national parks and even whole countries but some destinations are looking into overtourism and finding a way to try and tackle the problem by means of laws to preserve the rights of locals whilst simultaneously still allowing a huge volume of tourists to visit annually.
Some fine examples of how destinations have added restriction or come up with ways to reduce travellers with tourist restriction measures.
Boracay, The Philippines
Boracay is perhaps familiar to many of us by being the picture perfect- screen saver featuring clear shimmery waters and powdery white sands however the number of visitors is quite an eye-opener.
Back in 2000, the annual number of visitors was around 250,000 but this number has rocketed to close to 2 million. Vendors and the island, which is only four-square miles, has struggled to accommodate things like sewage waste and have to build over-ground PVC pipes, which lead direct to the ocean. The sewage is left untreated! This is turn has lead to the clear waters being filled with green algae, which has destroyed the once beautiful coral reefs by between 70-90%. The infrastructure is inadequate for a stupendous number of tourists and hotels.
In August 2018, Borocay was closed for rehabilitation and and illegal beach-front properties were bulldozed. There are also bans on single-use plastic as well as hotels being asked to apply for permits which include a defined waste management system.
The no drinking and smoking at white beaches is more strictly enforced as well as a ban on casinos. The island wasn’t fully rehabilitated until the end of 2019. There has also been talk of limiting the numbers of visitors to the islands and there is continual assessment for Boracay to ensure it’s act is cleaned up.
How To help
The Philippines is a country with a vast array of islands with beaches, to be precise 7,641. There’s a huge choice and these are not over-touristic destinations. Opt for Siargao or Palawan. Amanpulo is hailed to be a stunner! Go Spread the loves and avoid Boracy.
Machu Picchu, Peru
Read Next (Related Article) An Overnight Stay at The Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, Machhu Pichhu, Peru.
The Incan Citadel of Machu Picchu has seen visitor numbers raising from 400,000 to 1.4 million in a space of 20 years. Previously visitors could climb and walk on the ancient ruins, actually right up until 2017. Unfortunately this hoard of tourists also mean the citadel had littering problems, erosion to the pathways. Things were so bad that UNESCO threatened to add Machu Picchu to the naughty step of ancient sites known as its ‘List of World Heritage in Danger’
On July 1 2017, the Peruvian government launched it’s $43.7 million plan to get Machu Picchu off the naughty list and only allowing tourists to two timed visits each day but also accompanied by a guide. They are also only permitted to walk along the specific trails in the citadel.
5,000 tickets are available per day, although UNESCO did state half this number, however finance seems to have prevailed!! There is also the commissioning of a visitor centre and a restroom at the entrance of the Perimeter of Machu Picchu National Park.
How To help
If visiting stick to the rules and regulations and research before you go. Follow the designated routes once inside the citadel.
Peru has other beautifully impressive Incan ruins, such as The Chachapoyan ruins, which are located in North Peru. Chocquequirao is another impressive set of ruins which requires four days of hike from Cusco to reach but well worth the effort.
Maya Bay, Thailand
If you’re a Leonardo de Caprio fan, then you’ll be familiar with the movie ‘The Beach’ which had some awe-inspiring scenes filmed on Maya Bay. It’s situated on the Ko Phi Phi Island in Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park in Thailand. There are around 17,00 villagers living there with the vast majority of their income coming through tourism.
Thailand’s Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) in 2018 reported that 2.5 million tourists came to the bay bringing the number of tourists per day to 5,000. This is a phenomenal amount considering the area of land is only 250 metres long and 15 metres wide.
The problem was that countless speed boats zipped up and down the bay daily dropping of mammoth numbers of visitors who were day tripping or here to snorkel or swim. Thus resulting in approximately 80% of its coral reef becoming polluted.
In 2018, Thailand closed Maya Bay for ecological recovery reasons and extreme weather situations. It was announced that the island would close indefinitely due to irreparable damage. The DNP has spent several years rehabilitating the area and replanting over 10,000 coral reefs and building electronic ticketing systems and digital speedboat trackers for boat operators.
Maya Bay reopened in January 2022 with a new set of rules in place. Boats cannot directly enter the bay when they wish to. Only eight boast are allowed to enter at one time, disembarking passengers on a pier at the rear of the island.
It is only permitted to stay on the island for up to an hour from 10:00-16:00. Additionally 300 visitors can be on the island at the same time. If you’re planning to snorkel here, you will no longer be allowed to go onshore but stay withing the designated zones.
How To help
In order to allow the area to regrow back to its natural lush state again, try out the below alternatives. They’re not only equal in beauty but also a lot less crowded and touristy.
- Pileh Bay
- Koh Hong Bay
- Lo Moo Dee Bay
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
In 2017, it was reported that around 2.5 million people visited the 12th century Hindu temple complex, known as the sensational Angkor Wat. It appears that a lot of visitor’s crowd around the main Angkor Wat Temple but also around Ta Phrom, also known as ‘The Tomb Raider Temple’, made famous by the Lara Croft movie.
As well as harming the ruins by walking all over them and placing a lot of pressure on the roots of the Banyan trees that grow all around these temples, but also surrounding areas too.
Nearby urban areas have grown leading to a shortage of ground water, which could cause the sudden collapse of the ancient City of Temples.
Back in 2016, the Cambodian government restricted the number of visitors to the site as well as increasing the ticket prices. These almost doubled infact per day as well as moving their ticket booths away from the East and West gates to control human traffic queues.
The central tower at Angkor wat now allows 100 visitors at a time, although an actually cap on the numbers in and out of the complex has not been capped.
How To Help
Many local guides indeed will recommend getting to Angkor Wat to see the sunrise at around 5 am, when the gates open as this is when it is at its quietest. You may even get the place to yourself, although the news is travelling fast.
There are many other temples in the Angkor Wat and Siem Reap complex, which are deemed to be under-touristed but equally just as beautiful but also quite remote.
Venice is probably one of the most overtouristy cities in the world. But this global influx of visitors has resulted in rising water levels threatening its infrastructure. Venice sees, in the region of 30 million visitors each year. It has been said that the native population of the city could be down to zero by 2030 due to rising rental prices, many cannot afford to live here any longer. Cruise ships are known to be a huge contributor by carrying thousands upon thousands of passengers annually leading to the detriment of the coastline and ecosystem.
UNESCO threatened to put Venice on it’s endangered list thus from 1 August 2021 the Italian government banned cruise ships from the Venice lagoon.
Fast food stores such as Kebab shops have also been banned in order to preserve this ancient city’s character.
In addition to this there are fines in place for spending too much time on bridges to avoid overcrowding as well as littering and riding a bike through the historic centre.
This is all part of the 2017 campaign, #EnjoyRespectVenezia where wearing a bathing suit whilst site seeing is deemed disrespectful especially in places of worship.
How To Help
Plan a trip during shoulder season (April, June, Sept, Oct) and be as conscious as possible. Plan your itinerary so you don’t go to all the major sites in one day, increasing congestion and book walking tours as much as possible.
Read Next (Related Article) 10 Ways to Increase Sustainability & Eco-Tourism
Between 1990 and 2017, Indonesia saw a huge rise in travellers, from 2.2 million to 13.7 million. About a third of these were headed for Bali. It’s hard to believe that the island only had three hotels prior to the 1960s. The opening of Ngurah Rai International Airport combined with the effect of Julia Roberts movie Eat, Pray, Love has seen the island over congested and suffering water shortages. Bali already has declared a ‘garbage emergency’ after many of its famous beaches such as Kuta and Seminyak were ridiculously littered. Many tourists also have not been respecting Bali’s modest culture and having Instagram style photographs outside temples in swimwear.
Due to some disrespectful behaviour, the Balinese government was looking at not allowing tourists to go into temples unaccompanied but apart from this it doesn’t seem like a lot is being done. In fact quite the opposite, as more and more resort style accommodation is opening, it seems Bali is being replicating in other parts of Indonesia by investment from overseas.
How To Help
Incorporate some remote travel into your itinerary. Head for places like North Bali which incorporates the beautiful rice paddy fields of Ubud but with so much more culture. Travelling to these areas can mean discovering new and hidden treasures as well as stunning boutique hotels owned by locals thus supporting the country’s economy.
Due to the popularity of TV series ‘Game of Thrones’, Dubrovnik has becoming a bit of a hot spot amongst travellers, cruise ships and party goers.
The city’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and its reported that back in 2016, 10,000 people purchased tickets to the defensive walls of the city in just one day! UNESCO is concerned that a huge amount of traffic will damage buildings and local community that has already seen 80% reduction of residents who have already moved out of the area.
In 2019, Dubrovnik was restricted to two cruise ships a day and also maximum of 5,000 visitors per day being allowed into the old town, with number decreasing to 4000. Cameras were installed in the city’s entrance to track the number of visitors as well as reducing the number of souvenir stands and restaurant tables to keep numbers at a minimum.
How To Help
Travelling during shoulder season (May, June, September, October). As always there are less crowded destinations that can be accessed via Split, such as Zadar or Vis, which have similar Adriatic Sea settings.
Suggestion: Head to VisitCroatia.com for more great ideas on where to visit and what to do.
Read Next (Related Article) 10 Luxury Eco-Friendly Hotels & Their Sustainability Practices
Barcelona sees a staggering 32 million tourists annually but also being home to the Mediterranean’s largest park could be a reason for the influx! Back in 1990, 115,000 cruise visitors came to Barcelona compared to 2.7 million in 2016. These passengers are generally day trippers and not adding to local economy by staying in hotels.
With cruises in town the most popular sites passengers will head for on their day trip are:
- La Rambla
- La Sagrada Familia
- Parc Güell
Barcelona’s Mayor has talked about the idea of introducing a tourist tax that could charge visitors who are not staying overnight and just in Barcelona as a day trip. Back in January 2017, a law was passed in the city reducing the amount of beds available at hotels and tourism apartments. The banning of coaches into the city centre as well as Segway’s, like some other European capitals is thought to be helping the situation.
How To Help
On your visit to Barcelona, instead of a Airbnb, opt for a licensed hotels or even hostel. How about locating a neighbourhood that’s not so well known such as L’Eixample. Learn about your chosen area and what it has to offer and if you still want to head to the main sites, chose off season when crowds are low as opposed to peaks season.
Round-up of Overtourism & Be-lavie Tips
Preventing overtourism has a lot to do with being a mindful and responsible traveller. Check out the tips below in preparation for your next travel destinations.
- Do your very best to travel in shoulder season or even out of season. Some destinations can suffer from a low season lull but are still just as beautiful in autumn or even winter months. The crowds will be significantly less and the temperatures bearable. Plus, museums, restaurants, bars and places of interest are easier to walk straight into without queues.
- If you love a spot of adventure, how about finding alternatives to some of the very popular sites, as mentioned in this article with regards to Thailand, Angkor Wat and Boracay.
- Travel at a slower pace, stay longer in each destination and reduce your carbon footprint. Get a taste for the country by meeting the locals, learning the lay of the land and appreciating life in a different locale.
- Second city tourism is a thing. Try it! Explore the lesser-known destinations in a country as often these can be just as beautiful and untouched by tourism.
- Keep everything local. Stay in locally owned and run accommodation, organise tours through local guides, eat at local restaurants, scope out ways you can help the local community with your skills, especially if you’re having an extended visit.
- Use social media to raise awareness of overtourism and post about places that may not be so well known too, Give your social media audience a taste for the ‘real’ country not just the glossy well curated insta image.