It is a wonderful thing that so many people are traveling the world and exploring its great treasures. But there is a downside to so much interest, overtourism. Many of the world’s destinations cannot handle such an onslaught of tourism. In order to protect these popular attractions from overcrowding, many local governments and tourism boards are starting to take action.
What is Overtourism?
“Overtourism” is when too many tourists overwhelm a destination, shifting the balance from a positive experience to one where tourism becomes unsustainable.
The World Travel & Tourism Council partnered with McKinsey & Company to produce a study on the effects of overtourism. The results were boiled down to five challenges associated with overtourism:
- Alienated local residents
- Degraded tourist experience
- Overloaded infrastructure
- Damage to nature
- Threats to culture and heritage
Each of these challenges is important. They must be taken into consideration when rules are put in place to limit the damages from overtourism.
What is being done to limit its effects?
The world’s population is only increasing with more people traveling internationally for the first time. The United Nations World Tourism Organization forecasts international tourism will increase to 1.4 billion people by 2020. With so much demand, there is a need to be more mindful of how and when we travel so that more restrictive rules do not need to be put in place.
Local governments have been placing restrictions on the number of tourists and implementing rules to ensure there are protections for workers, animals, and popular sights.
With so many stakeholders involved, any changes will be met with resistance from one or more parties. On any given issue, there is:
- the local, state, and national government who receive tax revenue
- tourism boards and convention bureaus promoting the destination
- businesses profiting from travel, both locally and abroad
- people employed in travel and related fields
- local residents impacted by the overtourism
- tourists who spend money and expect a good experience
Tourist destinations taking action against overtourism
Destinations around the world are taking action to limit the impacts of overtourism. Here are a few examples of the impact we are having on the local environment, people, animals, and historical monuments.How can you help reduce overtourism?
There are some simple adjustments you can make to reduce the impact of your travels on the locals and the destination to ensure it is available for generations of future travelers.
Be a respectful traveler
The number one thing is to be respectful when you visit. Don’t litter and even consider picking up an extra piece of trash or two along the way. Understand the local customs and adhere to them as closely as possible. Try to learn some useful phrases and words of the local language. Additionally, always stay within boundaries so that you’re not damaging historical sites.
Visit in the off-season
The easy suggestion is to visit someplace else. But that’s not an easy answer because so many of these destinations are incredible and offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
The more realistic expectation is to visit in the off-season when there is less demand.
Not only will you have a more enjoyable experience because of less crowding, there are other benefits as well. Traveling in the off-season will save you money on airfare, hotels, and tourist packages. Plus, if you fly using airline miles, there is a greater chance you’ll find award availability. Now that more hotels are switching to variable pricing, your hotel reservation using points could cost less as well.
Overtourism’s impact on popular destinations
Overtourism is having a negative impact on many popular destinations around the world. Many sites are implementing rules and limiting the number of visitors to combat overcrowding. We can lessen the impact by traveling during off-peak seasons and by being responsible and respectful of the place and its people.