23 Ways to Help Prevent Overtourism

23 Ways to Help Prevent Overtourism

over tourism

Welcome to the second part of Blue Eyed Compass’s Over Tourism series discussing what you can do to prevent over tourism!  The previous post discussed what over tourism is, and its cause and effect on residents, visitors and the place itself.  It can be easier to discuss what the issue is, yet awareness is only half of the battle. It’s important to know ways that you can enjoy your well deserved travels while also creating a positive impact on the tourism industry.

Here are ways that our governments and ourselves can help to prevent over tourism from creating a worse situation:

Ways that governments can help prevent over tourism

(1) Accurately tally & report tourism numbers based on type of visitors; for example cruise ship attendees, resort guests, backpackers, etc.  Having accurate numbers will help determine what future actions need to be implemented

(2) Edit the ‘perception gap’ of destination management

Geez, I’m proud of myself for using ‘big’ words (haha), perception gap in terms of over tourism means the gap of governments concern for the quality of their destinations → over their desire for more revenue from the industry

Governments often think about where the money comes from in tourism, like developers, infrastructure, agencies, etc. instead of remembering that the ultimate tourism product is the actual place itself which ties into the next point:  Tweaking their outlook from more tourism is better, to better tourism is better could be very helpful.

(3) Use holistic management models.

Implement regulations that effectively impact the environment, economic, social and cultural issues.  After doing some research, it’s noticeable that irresponsible business practices lead to benefits that are too selective, which then doesn’t motivate anyone to protect things, which creates difficult obstacles for those who do wish to protect places based on legal, political and/or financial problems

Examples of destinations tourism goals:

San Diego: San Diego put into place a 20+ year plan in 2017 called ‘Experience San Diego Destination 2040’.  Their plan is to raise $1.3 billion in its first five years based on an increase in hotels tax rates.

Is this plan good? YES! Because the funding goes back into the city to repair roads, work on infrastructure, etc

 

Peru: Promperu, the agency of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism Specialized Technical Agency, predicted a 43% growth of inbound tourism in 2016

China: in 2015, the Chinese people took 100 million outbound trips, and are predicted to take 160 million outbound trips in 2020.  This makes China the world’s largest outbound tourism market

 

I had difficulty finding specifics for many locations on ways that this tourism would benefit the destinations and/or the residents there (if you are able to find any distinct details please share!  I would love to know more)

(4) Governments can include the residents & caretakers of the place in their conversations

The locals see the impacts on a place first hand and understand best how to support it.  Bridging the gap between these two is vital for the elimination of over tourism.

(5) Improve visitor management by regulating tourism

Examples of this are already being done in these places:

  • Gorilla tracking in Uganda, Africa; visitors are required to pay for an expensive permit to do so, which limits the number of people going into the forest to see gorillas
  • Havasupai Falls in Arizona, USA requires hikers and campers to obtain a limited number of permits.
  • Japan is enforcing new regulations on AirBnbs once the 2020 Olympics are over so they can ensure certain requirements are met, and therefore limit the number of vacation rentals
  • Iceland AirBnbs are now limited to being in use for only 90 days per year
  • The  Azores have a limited number of hotel rooms available & are working towards becoming certified as a ‘sustainable tourism region’

(6) Raise prices (cautiously)

  • Bhutan’s solution to maintaining their culture is to require visitors to pay $200-$250/day just to be in the country & requires you to book your trip through a government accredited travel agency
  • It’s imperative to raise prices cautiously because if prices increase too much and only the very wealthy can afford them, then the culture, history & nature of a place can become the private property of the wealthy & they’ll be the only ones concerned with protecting it
  • *Consider this tactic this way: Apple iPhones are expensive, but those who really want it will pay for it, I believe the same could be possible for high tourism cities

(7) Disperse visitors & spread their visitation over time by coordinating with a nearby city to spread economic benefits

The Alhambra & Grenada, Spain currently do this by having timed tickets for the palace, so that visitors can spend time enjoying the city

(8) Limit the number of visitors to a place

(9) Have timed ticket admission

(10) Favor longer stays over day trippers

(11) Ban tour buses OR design a certain number of routes that run on a lottery of directions to prevent bottlenecking traffic

(12) Channel people into spaces that are designed to be trafficked (this could be great for outdoor spaces)

Ways that WE can help prevent over tourism

(13) Visit unique places that are off the beaten path

While major destinations may be overrun, remember there is beauty & diversity at the ‘under the radar’ places.  The world is stil a big place filled with natural wonders. Here are a few places I would suggest:

  • Norway
  • The Azores
  • Kennet Canals, England
  • South Wales, Australia
  • Slovenia, Ljubliana
  • Sierra Gorda, Mexico

(14) Go outside of the major cities

There are less people there & those small towns may very well welcome you with open arms, plus you’ll have a more realistic experience on what daily life looks like there

(15) Travel during the ‘off’ season, aka ‘shoulder season’

  • Doing so will allow you to avoid inflated prices, long queues & herding crowds
  • I would suggest aiming to visit right before or after peak season

(16) Be respectful & check your entitlement

Yes, this may mean changing your attitude, however having a little respect to the people & place goes a long way for those who are living in a famous destination and are frustrated with tourists impolite & self entitled attitudes.  And if you see this behavior in your fellow travelers, speak up. Often times we may not notice when we need to check out entitlement at the door

(17) Open your eyes

Instead of going on a vacation to turn away from the stresses of your life at home, and then also looking away while traveling, open your eyes to what you are seeing & be present.  Take note of what people are doing, is it respectful? Ask yourself, “Can I do better?”

Think about it this way, if you were being paid to stay in a nice resort, eating for free & having concierges look after your every need, you would most likely spread wonderful words about it to everyone you meet

The idea behind this tactic is simple marketing, and it’s of course fine.  However, as a reader & possibly as a traveler, make your own conclusion about a place & try not to base your travels on the word of those being paid to say good things

This could lead to becoming an ethical travel writer – so many travelers are PAID to write about a destination by the same place that they are visiting, so their perspective can be skewed.

(18) Avoid geo-tagging and adding your location to social media in fragile environments

As much we want to share the hidden beauty of a place, oftentimes it’s become that beautiful because of the lack of human interaction.  Leave a little mystery to your audience.

(19) Come prepared

  • Ask yourself why you want to visit a destination – is it because you want to truly experience the place, or are you looking to take a great picture that you saw some Instagrammers shoot pictures at?
  • Prevent the creation of further waste – find responsible local restaurants ahead of time, bring your own reusable water bottle & cloth bags for shopping, and even pick up trash you see on the ground if you can.  With large crowds come lots of trash, so limit how much waste you create.

Leave No Trace! is a set of principles for those venturing outdoors.  You can see their list of principles here.

(20) Worry less about that perfect picture

Many travelers will ignore roped off areas or boundaries to be able to capture themselves in a perfect picture.  However, those boundaries are these for you protection & for the environments Imagine if all 2 million tourists visiting Iceland every year walked over the roped off areas of their fragile land (which has been happening much more frequently), the reasons everyone began visiting Iceland – for its beautiful nature -will become mud pits from everyone’s shoes.

(21) Focus on Quality over Quantity

This is behavioral and based on what you, as a traveler, prefer – is it true travel experiences or snap & run selfie stick vacations?  Is it better to save yourself money on a cheap fast food dinner, or spend more on a fine dining experience?

(22) Local local local

  • Eat local produce
  • Stay at a local guest house or a hotel with eco-friendly missions & recycling programs

(23) Share with others their environmental impact while traveling

Many aren’t aware of the issues at hand and the fragility of the destinations they visit.  I only stopped using single use plastic last year, and the friends I’ve seen pay to pet baby tigers only now know it’s horrible after I’ve told them how the animals are treated.  Sharing your experience & know how can help to create a larger community, and you never know what you can learn from others.

(24) Continue traveling!

This list of tips is meant to broaden your knowledge & provide insight into the travelers world.  Of course you should continue to travel, but now you are prepared to do so responsibly, so travel & enjoy!

We all should rethink how we develop tourism and how we travel.  We cannot possibly fit an infinite number of people into finite spaces. And while there is no sole solution, there isn’t a  sole cause either. The more the tourism industry refines itself for each destination, the more people will feel comfortable coming to visit.  And just like we shouldn’t consume mass produced processed foods, we shouldn’t be mindlessly travelers. So, what do you think? Do you think over tourism is even an issue?  If so, do you have any additional tips or tricks to help protect the world?

Interested in learning more about Overtourism?

Here are a few resources for you to explore!

*Be sure to read about what Overtourism is HERE

*Overbooked by Elizabeth Becker

*Crowded Out

*EarthCheck – A group that created scientific benchmarking for destinations to follow in order to be considered sustainable.  This link has tons of different topics & resources to dive into

*Sustainable Destinations Top 100 list, 2018

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What is Overtourism

What is Overtourism

over tourism

Last Updated November 12th, 2019

If you love to travel and you love the planet, put those two together and you’d get sustainable travel.  Alright, this isn’t the best or exact definition of the phrase, but an easy to understand the perspective of it.

My love and respect for both traveling and planet Earth led me down the rabbit hole of research, observation, discussion and acknowledgment of sustainable travel, and one topic that I’ve witnessed more and more personally, which is overtourism.

Overtourism is a relatively new ‘buzzword’ that was first coined in 2012, yet only highlighted in the media in 2017 when protests in Barcelona began against tourists.

Definition of Overtourism :

Overtourism describes a destination negatively by both locals and visitors as having too many tourists. Locals want the tourists to get out of their way, tourists feel like the places are too crowded, and caretakers spend much of their time performing crowd control and wear & tear control duties.  Essentially, the quality of life and the quality of the experience has deteriorated.

There has been a serious loss in authenticity within popular destinations. Yet, we are all apart of the problem. Think of it in terms of car traffic. We complain about the traffic while we’re driving a car, just like we complain about too long of lines at popular landmarks while we’re waiting in the line.  It almost feels like there is no escape from overtourism, and genuine locals are becoming a new endangered species

Tourism is a service industry that sells a product of which it does NOT own.  The physical place is the product. In most cases, tourism is considered a ‘pastime’ as opposed to an industry- when in fact, it IS an industry, and one that has gone unnoticed as it’s grown so quickly.

This global phenomenon of over-tourism is happening all over the world, even in places that you wouldn’t expect. The cost of travel is continually decreasing, and the number of international departures from any given airport increases each year. The tourism industry grows no matter the global issues going on. Effectively creating a destructive force on high-profile and in-demand destinations.

Yet, saying a place has an overtourism problem isn’t a specific label, as the phrase’ too many’ is a subjective term.  It’s easier to understand when you look at the causes and effects of over-tourism.

What causes Overtourism?

Why is overtourism happening?

        As I mentioned before, tourism is an industry, and like most other sales-driven industries, its success is based around its growth.  And it seems that overtourism is a result of success for tourism boards.

Many Americans began traveling after World War 2 ended with a significant increase beginning in the 1970s and 1980s.  Meaning the travel industry we know today has been around for just about 50 years, a measly few decades of uncontrolled growth. Worldwide we’ve gone from about 30 million travelers each year, to over 1.3 billion travelers every year.  And while it’s incredibly exciting to know that so many more people are able to experience the beauty of our planet, it feels as if the tourism industry has gone unchecked during its growth.

Think of it compared to our technology advances.

I grew up with dial-up internet on a bulky computer, then after college, I moved out of my parent’s house with a small, swiftly functioning smartphone. The travel industry has quickly transformed from an unknown perspective to one with multifaceted options, with little control over travelers behaviors.

What are the Drivers of Overtourism:

  • Population growth — in 2009 there was about 6.8 billion people in the world, five years ago it was 7.3 billion & currently we are at 7.7 billion people across the globe.
  • Rising affluence of the middle class –> there are more people who are able to spend part of their income on travel
  • Lack of an ability to track & report accurate data: government’s report their overall tourist numbers which lump together cruise ships, duty-free shoppers, resort guests, backpackers, etc
  • Technological advances –>
    • mass air travel has taken off like a racehorse
    • the internet is accessible in more places
    • and the cruise industry has ships larger than many of the cities they port at, with their 8,000 visitors spilling onto the streets of aodrable places, only to have them all flock back for dinner

*fun fact- cruise ships are allowed to burn cheap, bad for the environment fuels which is one of the reasons cruise ships can be cheap

Effects of Overtourism:

        A lack of accurate reporting leads to misconceptions and disillusionment of how severe an issue of over tourism may be to a destination.  The effects of over tourism reflect on residents, tourists and the destination itself. Here are a few of the effects on all three:

Alienated LOCAL Residents:

  • Irreparable damage to infrastructure, natural areas & cultural monuments
  • Harsh resident resentment due to excess traffic, too large of crowds in inconvenient places
  • Inflated real estate & rent prices: this is partly due to businesses like AirBnb (who is often pinpointed as a scapegoat for this issue).  This happens because apartments are suddenly for vacation rentals instead of rent, and a lack of living spaces creates a new supply & demand issue
    • A decreased supply of living spaces →  higher demand to find a place to live = which means owners can charge tenants higher rent
  • A shift of relevant retail stores to souvenir shops, along with other neighborhood setups catered to tourists, as opposed to those residing there
  • Many jobs are low paying and seasonal, with much of the revenue going back to large, wealthy corporations out of the destination

Tourists & they’re mitigated experiences:

  • Very  crowded destinations
  • A low value for their money spent
  • No sense of authenticity in a destination, which leads to fewer stories to take home to share

Overloaded Destinations:

  • On the bright side, tourism in some places has brought wealth to lesser-known or forgotten rural communities
  • Tourism has helped restore crumbling historic infrastructures
  • Negatively, there is an increase of garbage at these popular landmarks
  • With an increase of visitors, a destination is often unable to enforce respect & regulations for the place

        These causes & effects all bring about concerns with overtourism.  Not only are major destinations losing their unique identity – which is the main reason for so many visiting – there is also a lack of control over the situation.  Tourism managements are either nonexistent or are ill equipped to handle the influx of visitors in a way that still produces revenue for the country. And the ‘sweet spot’ number of ‘happy to have’ visitors versus too many people does not exist, and would be unique to each destination.  The term ‘carrying capacity’ is used to describe this, and needs to be thought of in terms of physical carrying capacity and social carrying capacity.

PHYSICAL — how many people can infrastructures & landmarks contain?

SOCIAL — how many visitors can residents & other tourists tolerate before having a negative experience?

        No matter how you spin it, there is an overall loss of identity that these over visited places are experiencing.  Here are a few examples of over tourism from fellow travel writers, bloggers & photographers:

Overtourism Example & How Rome is trying to fix it

Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing web designer & photographer. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

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Examples of Overtourism:

Where is Overtourism occurring?

You’ll hear and read about overtourism being a continuous problem in many countries. Most recognized is Barcelona Spain, Venice Italy, Amsterdam Netherlands, Japan, Croatia, and Bali Indonesia.

Below are examples of Overtourism witnessed around the world from fellow travel bloggers :

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

“The whole park had a little boardwalk that you had to follow to see the waterfalls. It was PACKED”

From Nicole, @ourwildestlife

Tram 28, Lisbon, Portugal

“The other day, I saw a queue of (I counted) more than 200 people lining up for Lisbon’s Tram 28.

Tram 28 is one of Lisbon’s most scenic tram routes, and the journey is recommended in countless guidebooks and on travel blogs. Unfortunately, it’s not actually a sightseeing bus: it’s home people in neighbourhoods like Graça get to the city centre.

A queue of 200 people not only means that locals can’t use this tram, but it’s also not going to be a particularly fun experience for tourists either.”

From James, blogger at Portugalist.com, check out his post on tourist alternatives, like walking the route this tram takes!

From James, blogger at Portugalist.com, check out his post on tourist alternatives, like walking the route this tram takes!

Basílica del Voto Nacional in Quito, Ecuador

“This photo was taken during a trip to the Basílica del Voto Nacional in Quito. Prior to entering, the security guard made it very clear that we weren’t to deface any of the stonework or climb on the structure. Although the Basílica was constructed in sections, parts of it are very old and undergo frequent maintenance work. Upon reaching the top of the tower, we were greeted with this sight. Clearly the memo hadn’t reached everyone.”

From Sheree, blogger behind Winging the World

Machu Picchu, Peru

“We went to Machu Picchu at sunrise, when there were relatively few people. After a tour with a guide, we hiked up to the Sungate. When we got back to the main site, we could barely get around due to the amount of people. The cleared areas you see in the photos are because you can only walk on specific paths around the historic site. I wanted to stay longer at Machu Picchu because it’s incredible, but it was just too uncomfortable with the crowds. Now, I don’t really recommend going to Machu Picchu unless you can arrive at sunrise and have a moment alone with the site.”

From Hanna, blogger behind Moderately Adventurous

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

“This past summer I traveled to the famous Angkor Wat to watch the sunrise. Turns out that it was quite a popular destination with hundreds of people lined up along the water’s edge.”

From Chelsey, the blogger behind The Ninja Gypsy

Nyaung Lat Phat Kan, Myanmar

“…on Christmas Day 2018 (when these photographs were taken) the crowds were out in Bagan. At sunset, the Nyaung Lat Phat Kan hill viewpoint was seriously overcrowded as hundreds of tourists competed to take that perfect sunset photo. Our sunset pictures may look serene but that was far from the reality. Our two small children were towered over by the crowds who pushed past them.

Much of the overcrowding at the viewpoints is because nearly all the temples in Bagan that tourists were once allowed to climb are now closed for safety reasons. This is putting a lot of pressure on the few designated viewing places.”

From Kirsty, the blogger behind World for a Girl 

Resort in Kusadashi, Turkey

“This is a resort in Turkey that is filled with European tourists. We spent only about an hour on this beach before leaving as it was such an unpleasant experience! I had to move at least half a dozen cigarette butts just to clear enough space for my beach towel! ”

From Hayley, the blogger behind Life as a Butterfly

The Taj Mahal

“We recently visited the Taj Mahal. From distance you can see the impacts of overturisim. The white marble is tainted by the smog and the fog makes the view a little blurry. The lines to enter starts at 6am. Although tourist seems to believe that if they get there early it will be empty, the reality is complete opposite. Inside, crowds gather on the same spot to get the same picture everyone will be posting on instagram. The expectation surrounding the Taj Mahal comes to pieces once you see the real location without filters; magnificent, but far from what you think it would be like. However, It is an impressive view with or without photo editing.”

From Laura, the blogger behind Three Decades Ago

The Grand Canyon

“The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular national parks in the United States, with over six million visitors annually. Most visitors don’t stray far from the the South Rim Visitor’s Center. But the Grand Canyon is nearly 300 miles long! A few minutes walk/drive away from the crowds, visitors can have plenty of space for themselves.”

From John, the blogger behind The Hangry Backpacker

Venice, Italy

“Activists in Venice have formed “No Grandi Navi,” a group which fights against large cruise ships in the Venetian lagoon. These massive vessels contribute to issues related to overtourism in Venice for three main reasons. The first is that many people who arrive by cruise ship are day-trippers that don’t contribute to the local economy by staying in hotels and dining there. The other is the significant movement in the water caused by the cruise boats, which damages Venice’s underlying wooden structure. The final reason is the pollution that the ships bring, which harms the lagoon’s ecosystem. In 2017, a referendum to divert large cruise ships out of the lagoon and into the docks in a nearby town passed with overwhelming support, but some are skeptical about the length of time and logistics needed to make this happen. No Grandi Navi keeps up their fight in order to protect the future of their beloved city.”

From Molly, the blogger behind Luggage and Life

That Wanaka Tree, New Zealand

“Nestled in the heart of New Zealand’s Southern Alps, a curved, spindly tree breaks the still waters of Lake Wanaka. Its branches spread out like fingers, its unique shape instantly recognisable. The landscape is striking yet serene. At least, that’s the expectation and the impression that most photographs of That Wanaka Tree give. In reality, head to the lake shore at either sunrise or sunset and you’ll be met by a coach-load of tourists all fighting for the perfect spot from which to take their image of New Zealand’s most photographed tree”

From Joss, the blogger behind Little Green Globetrotter

The Mona Lisa, inside of The Louvre, Paris France

“Not wanting to be jostled and pushed by fellow tourists I spent less than a minute in her presence.  So if you want some peace and quiet to appreciate the Mona Lisa, don’t go to Paris in high season or visit the Louvre on the weekend.”

From Katie, the blogger behind Just Chasing Sunsets

The Narrows, Zion National Park

“This is at The Narrows – one of the most popular hikes in the park (this taken early too – only 10:00 AM!)”

From Stephania, the blogger behind Travanie Travels

Sunset Beach in Koh Lipe, Thailand

“It’s hard to believe that just 30 years ago there wasn’t a single resort or tourist on this 2.5km by 3.5km isle.  Whilst it hasn’t suffered extreme overtourism like Koh Phi Phi has, you can start to see strains on this tiny island. The first time I visited Koh Lipe was a year ago at Christmas, which was when this picture was taken. I was surprised when I revisited a month ago in February (1 year later) to find double the number of visitors.”

From Sherri, the blogger behind Travel Mermaid

Want to learn how you can help prevent Overtourism?

23 Ways to Help Prevent Overtourism

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