You may have noticed it in your own hometown. That quaint little mom and pop shop has been replaced by yet another sweets store serving up rolled ice cream. The bookstore you used to frequent on rainy Saturday afternoons is now a café offering $7 black coffees. You see on Facebook that another one of your friends just invested in a property exclusively for short-term renting purposes. While new developments can be a sign of economic health, things like this may also be the beginnings of overtourism.
The Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) defines overtourism as “tourism that has moved beyond the limits of acceptable change in a destination due to [the] quantity of visitors.” When mass numbers of people enter a destination without consideration of their impact, this can lead to environmental, infrastructural, and social issues.
While the number of international trips has skyrocketed over the last century from a few million trips a year to over 1.3 billion, the size of the places travelers are going has not changed at all. The Acropolis of Athens is still the same size as ever, except now it’s accommodating several tens of millions of more feet. Barcelona’s coasts are the same length, but now they’re hosting millions more sunscreen bottles, beach umbrellas, and boats.
When too many people descend on one location, they may cause public transportation overload, wear and tear on cultural sites, and overall disruptions to residents’ daily lives. Rent prices in the city’s center become prohibitive for locals and short-term rentals take over, family-owned stores get replaced by trendy gelato or souvenir shops that cater to tourists, and navigating once quiet streets becomes an obstacle course of avoiding selfie-crazed Instagram influencers. From Reykjavík to Dubrovnik to Boracay, it’s happening.
For many years, the travel industry grew without much consideration of that growth’s impact. As more airlines took advantage of subsidized fuel and offered cheap flights, as more regulations allowed cruise ships to burn cheap fuel and keep costs low, more people could afford to travel. And many places were not prepared for that.
Travel is a double-edged sword. It can revitalize communities and engender cultural understanding, but it can also have the exact opposite effect when it is not done responsibly. To ensure that your presence has a positive effect on the place that you are visiting, the following are a few ways that you can combat overtourism:
We all want to preserve the wonderful places that we get to experience today for future generations. To do that, we have to behave as responsible travelers and encourage others to do the same. For more information on booking sustainable travel experiences, feel free to reach out!
Author: Debra Harris
As founder of Life’s Journey Travel, I’m deeply passionate about creating custom travel experiences that allow my clients to truly savor the journey.