Image Generated with AI ∙ 15 November 2023 at 12:28 am
Too much of a good thing?
One of the more obvious issues is crowding. Though tourism almost ground to a halt during the pandemic and many places are still recovering, in others it is starting to roar back with a vengeance. Some destinations are already looking as if they could exceed pre - pandemic levels before the end of the year.
In the unlikely event that you haven't encountered that problem yet, below are some videos which should scare the pants off any sane traveller looking for a quiet getaway.
From beaches in Thailand to bustling cities in Spain, many places have
begun to control visitor numbers. This is particularly important in natural areas to protect fragile eco -systems.
However, more recently it has also become necessary in cities because excessive tourism not only detracts from the visitor
experience, but makes things unpleasant for local people too. Here's how various places have sought to counter it.
[There's a great article in Conde Nast's Traveller series from which I learned a lot about this topic, but which also has useful tips on how to get away from the crowd in some of the more popular destinations].
- Amsterdam (pop. 3 million), attracted some 20 million visitors in 2018, leading to protests by residents. It has responded by reducing the number of Air BnB listings, encouraging visitors to go to outlying regions, no longer allowing tourist shops to open in the city and directing people away from busy attractions using live streams and apps. Cruise ships may be banished from the city centre and must already pay a tourist tax. Taxes on accommodation are already higher than elsewhere in Europe and are set to rise from 7.5% to 12.5% in 2024.
- The 30 million tourists who visit Venice each year, have already driven out most of the locals. In 2019 a tourist tax was to be imposed on day visitors on top of those already being charged by hotels. It also stopped cruise ships from docking in its city centre. Though the pandemic and technical problems delayed the tax, it is now expected to be trialled on especially busy days next year.
- Such bans already exist at Rome’s famous Trevi Fountain, but these are about to be replaced by physical barriers. Vendors have already been evicted from this area as well as the Coliseum.
whose popularity has soared since the 1992 Summer Olympics were held there,
receives 20 million tourists a year of which 2.7 million were cruise ship passengers. It too no longer allows cruise ships to dock in its city centre. Cruise ship passengers must now pay an additional tax on top of those for other visitors. It has also limited hotel beds
and the opening of new hotels.
Although the pandemic disrupted tourism, local people enjoyed having their town to themselves and Barcelona's mayor has no
intention of reversing these measures. It is also considering banning large
tour buses from the city centre.
– Imagine you are a small island off the Spanish Coast with just under 900,000
inhabitants and each day you are visited by 1094 flights and 17,000 cruise ship
passengers. As with Venice, locals have practically been forced out by rising
property prices. So far Mallorca has responded by doubling its modest tourist tax to
around €4 a day but it's debatable whether this will make any difference.
- France, the world's most popular tourist destination with 37 million tourists visiting Paris alone this year -just 1 million short of pre -pandemic levels, is also putting the brakes on by limiting access to popular sites such as the island of Brehat in Brittany. Already in the grip of a housing crisis, Paris is increasing its tourist tax by 200%.
- With Japan bouncing back to 2 million visitors for the September quarter (2023), about 98%
of its pre -pandemic volume, its Ministry of Tourism has unveiled several
strategies. It is expanding bus and taxi fleets to take visitors directly to
popular sites and directing tourists to destinations away from busy ones such as Tokyo and Kyoto. The city of Hatsukaichi in Hiroshima
province which is home to Japan's most revered shrine, has also introduced a
Tourist Tax (see below).
- The Acropolis
in Greece -a World Heritage Site, which attracted 23,000 visitors a day
and was almost back to pre -pandemic levels in May, even before the main tourist
season, is now trialling staggered entry times and limiting admission to 20,000
people a day.
- Cinque Terre in Italy is also limiting visitors.
the pandemic the UNESCO listed medieval City
of Dubrovnik in Croatia, was besieged by 10,000 visitors a day. In
2016, it restricted cruise ships to only 2 per day instead of 10 and had plans
to limit day visitors to 4,000. With the pandemic virtually turning it into a ghost town, there were calls to drop restrictions, but now that tourism is on the up and
up again, it remains to be seen whether they will be enforced.
- In 2015, Machu Picchuu, another World Heritage, site used to attract 1.4 million visitors a year. They were allowed to climb all over the ruins and were contributing to erosion and pollution. From 2017 onwards, only 5,000 visitors a day were allowed in two timed sessions and had to be accompanied by a local guide.
- Prior to 2016, World Heritage -listed Angkor
Wat in Cambodia received 2.5 million visitors a year causing damage to the
surrounding countryside and putting stress on ground water supplies. The Cambodian government responded by doubling entry fees and limiting the number
of people who could visit the central tower to 100 at a time.
- Fragile and teeming with hundreds of endemic species, The World Heritage
listed Galapagos Islands have had to restrict visitors since 1963 when large parts of the main island were set aside as a National Park. The loss of tourist income during the pandemic hit the Galapagos particularly hard and meant that it's only other industry - fishing, had to pick up the slack. This caused considerable deterioration to its marine environment and led to calls for more Marine Parks, despite protests from fishermen.
- In the USA, several too well -loved
National Parks such as Zion National Park, have restricted access by
issuing a limited number of lottery tickets each day.
- In Tasmania, access to the very popular 10 -day Overland Track numbers are restricted by a first -come, first -serve pre - booking system to protect both its natural values and to retain the wilderness experience for visitors.
- From Scotland to New Zealand, from Thailand to Bali, many places have introduced Tourist Taxes on foreign visitors either on entering or
leaving the country or as a bed tax. In some cases, such as Hungary, Portugal or
Austria it only applies to specific cities or only during peak
periods. All non – Schengen country visitors to Europe must pay it on their Visa application.
- At $250 per day,
Bhutan has the highest entry charges, while the Netherlands has the highest in the EU. In some cases, as with New Zealand's $35 environmental tax, it is specifically for protecting and restoring the natural environment, but
for others it is simply to curb excessive tourism.
- Seeking to limit human
traffic jams and accumulation of rubbish on Mt. Everest, the Nepali Government
has raised the cost of climbing permits to $11,000 for foreigners and banned
solo or novice climbers, though as yet, that doesn't seem to have curbed their enthusiasm.
- Tasmania's Overland
a surcharge on top of the usual National Park Fees to cover track maintenance and occasionally needed search and rescue services. Cradle Mountain National Park, where it starts, recently introduced an
additional charge for all visitors to use the obligatory shuttle bus which runs between visitors’
car park to the main attractions such as Dove Lake, Cradle Mountain itself, and
other popular walking tracks.
Banning visitors altogether
- Many of Thailand’s islands have been suffering from overtourism resulting in polluted beaches and damage to reefs and marine eco- systems. Among the worst affected is Koh Tachai which only has space for around 70 visitors, but can draw crowds of 1000 at a time.
- Access to Fox and Franz
Joseph Glaciers in NZ has recently been discontinued because continued access by helicopter to
their ski fields contributes to global warming.
- Barriers are being installed at Stonehenge to prevent deterioration of this Stone Age site. Imagine, until the 1900s, visitors were even given chisels, so that they could take a piece of it home!
- Public access to the Lascaux Caves in France has been banned since 1963, to prevent further deterioration of
its 17,000 -year- old artwork.
- In Australia, the Aboriginal owners of Uluru -temporarily called Ayers Rock by Europeans, and a most sacred site to Indigenous People, have now banned visitors from climbing upon it, much to the chagrin of some segments of the non – indigenous population.
Protecting Local Culture
- In Australia, the acknowledgement of country and prior Aboriginal custodianship of the land now precedes any public event.
- On entry to New Zealand all visitors must take the Māori pledge to protect, respect
and nurture indigenous culture and land. Under its new Regenerative Tourism Program it seeks to enlist the help of tourists in regeneration and protection of its
natural and cultural assets.
- In Bhutan,
visitors may only go with appointed tour guides to a handful of pre -approved locations.
This protects local people from the undue influence of foreigners and
exposure to undesirable behaviour. In consequence, there is no begging, no
haggling or harassment by hawkers along tourist routes as you might find in some other countries.
The national dress has not yet been replaced by jeans and sneakers and you won’t see the degree of convergence which has occurred in other countries in the form of global food chains, clothing brands or even architecture.
- Fines have been introduced in several countries for loud, loutish, disrespectful or drunken behaviour. A young Australian man was recently arrested in Indonesia for drunken, offensive and dangerous behaviour which caused injury to a resident. He must now pay hefty compensation to the victim's family.
- Cultural Appropriation is set to become a new battleground. This includes using traditional designs without permission or copyright, or wearing clothing or body art which belongs to another culture. An Australian café owner in New York was recently called out on social media for selling “Australian Sushi.”
Reducing Pressure on Housing
With holiday rentals attracting higher returns than conventional rentals, they have become a common investment vehicle in many countries, leaving those seeking permanent accommodation out in the cold. Residents also complain about being forced out because of rising property prices or because holiday letting brings an influx of strangers into their neighbourhood.
Air BnB with 100,000 towns and cities on its books and being active in 220 countries, has become a prime target of such complaints. In addition conventional accommodation establishments complain about losing business and governments are also displeased because short term rentals usually pay less tax than other accommodation providers do.
resulted in various restrictions being placed on private housing being used for tourism purposes. In some cases Air BnB has co -operated in making it less stressful for host communities.
- Barcelona removed some 2,577 listing in 2018 and has added onerous licensing requirements along with large fines for violations. Amsterdam has restricted short term rentals to 30 days per year.
- Paris which has over 60, 000 Air BnBs -among the largest number of listings in the world, has introduced heavy fines - up to € 25,000 for people who set up second dwellings specifically for short term rentals.
- New York has introduced new laws which amount to a virtual ban on short term rentals.
- San Francisco only allows fulltime residents to let out parts of their home and limits this to 90 days a year, with fines of $US 484 per day for violations. They must also obtain a business licence.
- Perhaps the most draconian measures have been implemented by the City of Santa Monica. In it has eliminated around 80% of its Air BnB listings. It has also secured a number of concessions from Air BnB itself.
Only genuine home -sharing is allowed – that is, the host must remain on the premises. Only one home may be listed per host and for no more than 31 days. Air BnB is responsible for ensuring that that is the case, and for removing illegal listings. It must also collect and pay the city a $2 tax for each night booked.
How to be a welcome guest
There is a lovely post in Lonely Planet, “How to be a Mindful Traveller“ which stresses many of the following points but also talks about travel being a state of mind, if you want to get the most out of your trip.
1. Go Off – Peak and Off Beat. As the New Zealand travel industry advises, “Don’t follow the Herd” to tourist hotspots.
2. Bloggers, Travel Writers and Instagrammers also have a responsibility here. [Guilty as charged]. Many are already directing people towards lesser known and more sustainable destinations.
3. Travel Low and Slow and stay longer
4. Dig deeper. Read up on your destination so you don’t cause offence and understand some of it's history. There's a good reason why no one wants to discuss politics in some places or you shouldn't be walking around bareheaded in a temple. See for example what it means to be a good Traveller in Thailand. Lonely Planet has lots of tips like this but you may need to sign in.
Learn at least a few key
phrases such as “Please," “Thank you” and “I’m Sorry,” lest you accidentally spill your drink or bump someone.
It goes without saying that you should follow the laws and customs
in the countries you are in.
As we’ve seen, travel is important for all kinds of reasons. It can draw countries together and enrich them, but we must do it much more mindfully if we want to be able to keep doing it.