Think about the last time you shared where you’d be vacationing with family, friends, neighbors and coworkers. Those who’d already been there probably bombarded you with oh-you-have-to-go-to-(fill-in-the-blank) recommendations. And surprise, surprise, they were all the same handful of places. Even less surprising? These over-recommendations are very likely those most overrun with more tourists than you can shake a (selfie) stick at.
To help unpack the problem of overtourism (and identify solutions!) we’re looking at three wildly popular destinations around the globe to map out some of the ways they’re managing the issue and inspire action you can take in your own corner of the world.
Venice…and its volume of visitors
As a bucket list destination for generations of travelers, Venice has seen the downside of overtourism. In 2017 alone, the city welcomed 36 million international visitors. This explosion of crowds has long put a strain on its shaky infrastructure, increased housing prices and living expenses and even hurt its famed waterways and lagoons (thanks to the cruise industry).
To combat these negative effects, multiple levels of government stepped in to redirect cruise ships and other large vessels to an out-of-the-city industrial port, limit crowds to its most popular sites, collect tourist taxes and turn away some day-trippers. But the government isn’t the only one making moves. Private businesses Venezia Autentica and Fairbnb are proactively promoting more sustainable tourism.
Machu Picchu…and its too-much tourism
This UNESCO World Heritage site and “lost” city of the Incas has been a go-to for decades – between the 1980s and 2013, visitation exploded by 700%. While tourism has brought in revenue for the country, it’s also brought some very real problems. Soil and vegetation erosion attributed partly to daily tours helped cause serious mudslides in 2010 and 2017. Intentional ruin has been inflicted upon the site’s ancient ruins. And the previously pure environment has been hit with pollution.
To protect the site, local tourism authorities created a security corridor around the city of Cusco, Sacred Valley of the Incas, Machu Picchu, the citadel and the Inca Trail that’s monitored by tourism police. New rules have also been put in place. They include a limit of 4,500 visitors/day that can only access the site through guided tours with a maximum of 10 visitors per group. These rules also prohibit certain behaviors and objects from coming in.
Iceland…and its very many vacationers
Unlike Venice and Machu Picchu, this “Land of Fire and Ice” is a more recent victim of overtourism. Many troubles from the flood of enthusiastic travelers were caused by a lack of preparation – including too few national park wardens to control crowding as well as nearly no safeguards to prevent the destruction of natural landmarks.
This Nordic volcanic island recently launched an educational campaign to encourage travelers to take the Icelandic Pledge for responsible tourism. This includes agreeing to statements such as: WHEN I EXPLORE NEW PLACES, I WILL LEAVE THEM AS I FOUND THEM; I WILL TAKE PHOTOS TO DIE FOR, WITHOUT DYING FOR THEM; I WILL FOLLOW THE ROAD INTO THE UNKNOWN BUT NEVER VENTURE OFF THE ROAD and WHEN I SLEEP OUT UNDER THE STARS, I WILL STAY WITHIN A CAMPSITE.
DMOs have an important role to play in overtourism – protection and redirection. And Dana can help. Contact Lynn Kaniper at 609.466.9187 ext. 117 or firstname.lastname@example.org to start the conversation.