You may have experienced this before. Travelling for many hours, enduring long lines in customs, navigating around an unfamiliar destination, all to finally visit the place you’ve been dreaming of and finding hundreds in line to see the same thing.
Whether it's a natural or cultural wonder, having the experience marred by the huge crowds can be a disappointment.
The term is now coined as ‘overtourism’ and its having a big impact on travel destinations, and more importantly, the locals living there.
After all, when we are travelling, we are holidaying in someone else's home!
WHAT IS OVERTOURISM?
Put simply, overtourism is when there are too many visitors at a destination.
This is subjective of course. People from big cities used to crowds may not have an issue while many from small towns are overwhelmed in the same situation.
But how we can measure overtourism is looking at the effects that ripple through the local populations and environment.
Take the case of the famous picturesque bay featured in the 2000 film, The Beach, with Leonardo DiCaprio, which has been exhausted from the massive numbers of tourists after the film was released.
The corals have been destroyed by churned up sand from boats, the sea wildlife gone, and the visual impact from thousands of people each day is noticeable.
When roads are clogged with visitors, wildlife scared away, housing shortages for locals to pave way for tourists; that’s overtourism.
In 2017, Venice, Barcelona and a few other cities had mass protests by locals fed up the impact the visitor numbers were causing. The effects are there and they are getting harder and harder to ignore.
Of course travelling is something that many of us, including me, still do, and want to keep doing. After all, there are many amazing places in the world and we live finite lives to see them. Being into adventure and the outdoors, you want to see all the awesome scenery in different parts of the world.
Sometimes there are positives that result from lots of visitors to particular places. Conservation efforts can increase. Differences made. Issues highlighted that would have otherwise never made it further than a local paper.
So if we want to keep travelling, there need to be some changes.
WHAT CAN WE DO AS TRAVELLERS?
While many changes lie with the tourism industry and governments and are seemingly out of our control, there are some things we can do as travellers to help the situation. And like any changes, its up to us to adhere to them and spread awareness.
So here are some tips for responsible travel:
► Try the Off Peak Seasons
Everyone often wants to go to the same places at the same time. Try visiting the destinations you want to visit in off peak seasons. Not only will it often be cheaper, you will have a unique experience and get to enjoy the different pace.
► Go to Places Less Travelled
Before that next buzz is created about some new destination, seek a place off the beaten trail in a country or place less travelled. This takes research but makes the experience all the better for it.
► Go Local Whenever Possible
Avoid big international hotel chains and activity providers. Go local in entertainment, accommodation and travel whenever possible. Think about how your spending and being there affects the local community.
► Avoid Cruise Ships
Cruise ships are huge polluters of the environment. Engines running on cheaper forms of diesel fuels guzzle over 140 tons of diesel a day and produce 1000 times more Co2 emissions than travelling by train. Add to that the 3.8 billion litres of untreated sewage a year pouring into the oceans which is suffocating the wildlife wherever they go. So travel and see the places you want to see without stepping on a cruise ship, the environment and locals with thank you for it.
► Avoid Honeypot Places & Experiences If They Cause Damage
Honeypots are places or experiences everyone is drawn to. Avoid the ones that cause damage. Do your research. People or animals being exploited is one example and should most certainly be avoided.
► Travel With Respect
While most people do respect the environment and local way of life they are visiting, there are still many who do not. Don’t cause trouble and use the destination as a ‘release’ to your stress. Read up on local customs and how not to cause offence. And use common sense. When locals feel like they are ‘animals’ being photographed, its gone too far.
► Leave No Trace
Being in the outdoors, you should already practice good leave no trace habits. Take this further and ensure you do it while you travel. Don’t know what ‘leave no trace’ is? Have a read HERE.
► Visit Places That Have Meaning to You
Instead of jumping on the latest bandwagons, go to places you really want to see and experience because they mean something to you. With outdoor activities, we often already do this by seeking out the places less travelled.
► Enjoy Your Experiences at Home as Well
Don’t forget that there’s always great things in your backyard! In the outdoors especially, it’s easy to forget what is close to us. We can take it for granted. So go out and explore!