Travelling is an incredible privilege that we all have thanks to methods of travel being increasingly accessible and affordable, and our own curiosities motivating us to see new places and people.
There are so many benefits when it comes to travelling that we often forget about the damage it can cause. And believe me, there’s a lot of damage that is done.
That’s why we have created a reminder of the consequences of travel, specifically looking into ‘overtourism’ which we go on to explain below.
What is overtourism?
Overtourism is when a destination receives too many visitors, creating a situation where a conflict arises between locals and visitors at the destination.
Overtourism often makes locals feel that the high level of tourism has an effect on their quality of life and visitors often feel that it affects the quality of their experience because there are too many other tourists.
Environmental and social impacts
Overtourism is a big problem because it creates negative environmental and social impacts.
In terms of environmental impacts, overtourism contributes to an increase in water consumption, air pollution, litter and waste in tourism destinations.
And for social impacts, overtourism can cause difficulties for the locals as mentioned above overtourism affects their quality of life, often due to prices rising e.g. for food or short-term rentals (consequently causing housing shortages).
Destinations with overtourism
1. Venice, Italy
Probably one of the most well-known destinations where overtourism has been a huge problem is the beautiful Italian city, Venice.
Being one of the most popular cruise destinations in Europe, cruise ships in particular have had a massive impact on Venice’s environment. The ships cause tides that erode the foundations of buildings and they contribute to water and air pollution. The city is believed to be sinking at a rate of 1-2 millimetres each year, with climate change studies warning that Venice will be underwater by 2100. Cruise ships have also had an impact on the cityscape, making the city’s monuments looks less impressive by overshadowing them.
Solving this issue hasn’t come easy for Venice, since their economy hugely depends on tourism. As a consequence, Italy’s government have banned cruise ships from Venice’s Grand Canal; under the new rule, cruise ships and large vessels will be diverted to a neighbouring town. However, it will take 4 years for this new route to be ready.
2. Maya Bay, Thailand
Made famous by the 2000 film The Beach starring Leonardi Di Caprio, Maya Bay is part of the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand and has suffered at the hands of overtourism.
The area’s ecosystem (coral reefs, mangrove, and the beach) had been damaged so much due to the warmer water temperatures and tourists dropping litter, that the island was shut in June last year for 4 months to recover.
However, Thailand authorities said that the island’s ecosystem needed even more time to recover, so Maya Bay has been closed to the public indefinitely.
3. Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu is famed for its extraordinary ancient Inca citadel that tourists usually explore as well as hike through the Inca trail.
But this wondrous ancient settlement has become so popular that the high volume of tourists has taken its toll on the environment. Erosion is occurring within the Inca Trail due to the pressure of tourists and litter is a huge problem (often being thrown into the River Urubamba).
These environmental impacts pose a threat to the local biodiversity such as the wide variety of orchids that populate the area and the endangered Spectacled Bear.
Due to the overtourism, fears on whether the fragile infrastructure of the site can handle the large footfall of tourists, a new ticketing policy had been introduced to restrict visitor numbers, aiming to control the flow of people and prevent bunching of crowds in the historic settlement.
Tips on avoiding overtourism
Overtourism doesn’t mean you have to miss out on visiting your dream destinations just because everyone else wants to visit too.
However, it does mean that you should try to travel to these already vulnerable destinations more responsibly so that you don’t add to the problem.
Below we have some responsible travelling tips you can follow:
Tip #1: Travel in off-peak seasons
Travelling to a destination in the off-peak seasons is a great way to reduce your environmental and social impacts to a destination, due to the fact that there aren’t as many tourists visiting at this time.
You often won’t get the ideal weather for the location, but that doesn’t mean your trip will be ruined.
Moreover, travelling during off-peak seasons has its benefits: flights and hotel prices are cheaper, there are no crowds making it easier to visit main attractions, and the locals are likely to be friendlier due to there being less tourists.
Tip #2: Stay in an eco-conscious accommodation
Another great way to minimise your impacts on a destination is to choose a hotel, lodge, villa etc. that is eco-conscious.
Large hotels can often be great contributors to pollution with excessive water consumption and waste production due to a high volume of guests. And there are ways that these hotels can reduce their environmental impacts on the local area, however they often choose not to (or do the bare minimum).
Staying in eco-conscious hotels benefits the environment as they’re not as harmful, but they can also be healthier for you too; they often use organic ingredients in their food, have chemical free pools, and provide eco-friendly soaps.
Tip #3: Support local businesses
Supporting local businesses is a great way to positively contribute to the local economy. You can support local business by choosing independent restaurants and cafés instead of chains, or buying souvenirs from local shops instead of duty-free products at the airport etc.
When you spend money at a local business, it means that the money will go straight back into the local economy, which will help towards the local schools, libraries and public services.
Supporting local businesses is also a great way to connect with the local people and get a better understanding of their culture; you can experience the local cuisine and you are more likely to find something unique by shopping in local businesses.
Tip #4: Use public transport
Using public transport such as trains and busses is much eco-friendlier than driving a car or using a taxi. Because public transport carries many passengers rather than a single occupant in a vehicle, it produces less pollution per passenger mile, making public transport less harmful to the environment.
Tourists can often cause congestion due to a high volume of people in the destination, but by using public transport you can reduce the congestion which will contribute positively to the social impacts of the destination. Also, as public transport is a public service, your money going towards public transport will contribute to the local economy.
There are benefits to you also by using public transport such as saving money since it is usually cheaper than hiring a car or getting a taxi (without mentioning it reduces your stress levels as someone else is driving!).
Tip #5: Plan eco-friendly activities
Choosing your itinerary is a big part of planning your holiday, especially for those who are more adventurous. But sometimes these activities can be harmful to the environment or the local community.
That’s why it’s important to choose activities that are eco-conscious and have a little impact on the environment and local community.
A good example of harmful activities are zoos; they take animals out of their natural habitat and they are placed in a space that isn’t sufficient for them. If you are interested in the local wildlife, it’s better to choose an eco-friendly safari where you can see the wildlife undisturbed in their natural habitat or an animal sanctuary where vulnerable animals are protected.
For inspiration on eco-friendly activities, check out our blog article: 5 Eco-friendly Activities To Do On Holiday This Spring.
Travel eco-consciously with Kiwano
Overtourism can have devastating effects on popular destinations, as we have displayed above. So, when planning your next adventure, it’s important to keep in mind the impact that you can cause.
Using the travel tips within the article can help you keep your environmental and social impacts to a minimum, helping to create a greener future for travel.
Kiwano can help you towards the first step of becoming a green traveller by providing a list of approved green accommodations for you to stay at and give you further tips on how to stay green as a traveller.