The number of travelers is rising, already approaching pre-pandemic levels, to the point where overtourism is becoming an issue once again.
After being forced to stay within the confines of their home for around two years, visitors are once again flocking to popular tourist destinations to quench their love for travel.
But while tourism can be healthy for local economies, too much of it is starting to pose a problem. Major cities and sites are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of tourists and now have to find ways to curb the large number of visitors.
What is overtourism?
According to National Geographic, overtourism is “too many people in one place at any given time.”
“While there isn’t a definitive figure stipulating the number of visitors allowed, an accumulation of economic, social and environmental factors determine if and how numbers are creeping up.”
One of the wide-reaching effects is climate change. For example, popular coral reefs are degrading from the amount of visitors snorkeling, diving, and touching the corals.
By 2030, transport-related carbon emissions from tourism are expected to grow 25% from 2016 levels according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
Overtourism is affecting the locals at these famous destinations as well. The rise of vacation rentals are causing house prices to escalate rapidly. Landlords are even evicting their renters in favor of turning their properties into Airbnbs.
“As visitors and rental properties outnumber local residents, communities are being lost,” the article continues.
Tourists themselves will suffer from long queues and escalating costs of food, drinks, and hotels, negatively affecting their experience.
Justin Francis, co-founder and CEO of Responsible Travel, says “Social media has concentrated tourism in hotspots and exacerbated the problem. Tourist numbers globally are increasing while destinations have a finite capacity.”
Popular destinations combat overtourism
The UNESCO-listed village of Hallstatt, Austria has been on the news for the locals’ attempts to discourage tourists from flocking there.
Known for being the inspiration for Disney’s Frozen and a location for the Korean drama Spring Waltz, Hallstatt’s 800 residents are currently facing up to 10,000 visitors a day.
In August, 100 of its residents protested to push for a cap on daily visitors and a curfew on tour coach arrivals. The villagers blocked the main tunnel leading to the destination. They were holding signs with messages like “Visitors limitation, reclaim habitat” and “Radical limits for mass tourism.”
“Many visitors only have a short time and only come to take some pictures. The number of tourists is simply too much,” Michelle Knoll, an office manager for Hallstatt’s tourism board, previously told The New York Times.
Meanwhile, some destinations such as Hatsukaichi in Japan and Mallorca in Spain are implementing a new tourist tax to support local communities and sites. Other places like Bali, Barcelona, and Venice are also considering this route.
In the Philippines, Boracay has been a must-see destination since the early 1990s. Years later, the island receives over a million visitors annually. In 2018, Boracay closed down for six months to recover from the effects of overtourism and improve its infrastructure.
Now with an imposed limit on daily visitors, the island is starting to get a handle on overtourism. While some spots are more mellow now, the vibe still fluctuates depending on which Station you find yourself in.
The role of the individual
As a tourist, one thing you can do to help combat overtourism is to visit the roads less traveled. There are still so many lesser-known resorts, beaches, and cities to see. If you can, head to your favored destination during the off-season to help mitigate the number of tourists.
Practicing a sustainable model of travel is also key in ensuring that tourism will benefit the local communities. Support small, local businesses instead of corporate chains and respect the environment and culture to leave a positive impact wherever you go.
Banner image by DSD via Pexels.