Machu Picchu draws as many as 5,000 visitors a day in high season
Mathieu Pollet

With many in the Northern Hemisphere now making their way back to the office, it's time to share stories and rankings of our respective summer vacations. One question that always comes up: How crowded was it?

Indeed, travels to popular foreign destinations continue to grow worldwide. In 2018, there were an estimated 1,4 billions international tourist arrivals, according to The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) — which forecasts a 3-4% rise for the current year.

Sure, tourism does generate wealth and creates jobs. Yet certain destinations around the world are now seeing it as more a question of "overtourism." The list of troubles outside visitors brings is long: overcrowding, littering, rising housing and land prices, hidden costs to upgrade infrastructure to meet both tourist demand and to take care of sometimes already endangered, natural habitats and monuments. There is also a broader awareness of travelers' contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

All of this adds up to an "invisible burden" — as dubbed by the charity The Travel Foundation which has been taking on the matter by focusing on different ways to curb mass arrivals. Here are five destinations which have been looking for new ways to, well, push back on the growing crowds:

NEW ZEALAND — Matapōuri

Waitangi and the Matapōuri Mermaid Pools, two New Zealander hot spots, were recently added to the interactive map of the Travel Responsible website of 98 "places that are suffering under the strains of overtourism." Matapōuri had already been closed since April after being polluted by urine and sunscreen, reported the New-Zealander news website Stuff.

Matapouri, with tourists — Source: Google Street View

A nationwide response has been put in place: Since July 1st, every tourist flying to New Zealand has to pay $35 NZD ($23) International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy. This new tax will help combat the environmental damage that overtourism is causing to the country's world-famous natural venues and landscapes.

PERU — Machu Picchu

Peruvian authorities are taking a very different approach when it comes to dealing with the flows of tourists to Machu Picchu. As a cornerstone of the local economy, the government recently approved another airport in the Cusco region, hoping to double the number of tourists to the ancient Inca site that is already visited by more than one million tourists each year.

It didn't take long for UNESCO to send a letter to Peruvian authorities to warn about protecting the Inca citadel, which has long been on the list of world heritage sites, the Lima-based newspaper El Comercio reported. Any construction that may have an impact on protected areas must be cleared with the UN agency. In 2017, the news website Gestíon reported, Peruvian authorities decided to tackle this alarming issue — by introducing a new ticket for a specific period of time, a guide for each group of visitors.

ITALY — Venice

Desperate times call for desperate measures. The city council in Venice, which is bursting with 36 million international tourists annually, implemented a new set of regulations, including fines from 25 to 500 euros and permanent bans from the city center for visitors showing "anti-social" behavior.

The "City of Canals' — Photo: veneziaunica via Instagram

Among the behavior that can be punished: taking part in some sort of noisy celebration (stag, hen, university-degree parties, etc.) Monday to Thursday between 8 A.M. and 8 P.M., eating or drinking outside of designated areas, wearing bathing suits or walking bare-chested, riding or even pushing a bicycle in the historical center, caught singing, shouting or listening to music without earphones from 11 P.M. to 8 A.M. and noon to 5 P.M. Italian daily Il Giornale wrote about two German backpackers who were fined 950 euros (and then banned) for making coffee on a travel cooker on the steps of the Rialto bridge.

THAILAND — Maya Bay

Made famous by the 2000 movie The Beach starring Leonardo Dicaprio, the beautiful Maya Bay is closed for business. Initially, the Bay was supposed to be granted a four-month break to allow the local natural ecosystem to recover from the up to 5,000 tourists, on 200 boats, who visited every day. But last May, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation decided to extend the closure of the tourist magnet for another two years, the Bangkok Post reported. It is estimated than 80% of the coral around Maya Bay has been destroyed by human activity.

The decision received mixed feelings from professionals and experts. Some fear that focusing on one spot will just move the damage someplace else, and not really deal with the root of the problem. So, unless authorities tackle the environmental damage caused by tourists more generally — by imposing a limit on tourist number for instance, it may just be a matter of time before other national parks meet a similar fate.

THE NETHERLANDS — Amsterdam

De-marketing as last resort. Last year, an estimated 19 million tourists descended on the 850,000-inhabitant Dutch capital...! Last December, the city decided to remove the "I Amsterdam" letters, a famous selfie hotspot for tourists. Symbolically, it marked the beginning of their intention to "de-market", i.e. stop advertising, the destination, after it reached its breaking point. Locals had had enough of disturbances and were pushed out to quieter areas, outside of the city center.

I (and them) Amsterdam — Photo: Kevin Mcgill

New regulations were introduced in 2018 to fight against mass tourism, as listed in Dutch Review: higher tourist taxes, Airbnb accommodations won't be rented to tourists for more than 30 days per year (in some neighborhoods, there is even a complete ban on holiday rentals), several awareness campaigns. In an interview for Het Parool, Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema has even started considering relocating the Red Light District — famous for its prostitution industry — farther out of the city as it had become an attraction for tourists, and disturbed both sex workers and locals.

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A tribute to the 30,000 Iranian political prisoners murdered in Iran in 1988

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Laba diena!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Afghanistan's Taliban demand to speak at the United Nations, China takes a bold ecological stand and we find out why monkeys kept their tails and humans didn't. Business magazine America Economia also looks at how Latin American countries are looking to attract a new generation of freelancers known as "digital nomads" in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

[*Lithuanian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Taliban ask to speak at UN: With global leaders gathered in New York for the 76th meeting of the UN General Assembly, Afghanistan's new rulers say their country's previously accredited United Nations ambassador no longer represents the country, and have demanded a new Taliban envoy speak instead. Afghanistan is scheduled to give the final intervention next Monday to the General Assembly, and a UN committee must now rule who can speak.

• Four corpses found on Belarus border with Poland: The discovery of bodies of four people on Belarus-Poland border who appear to have died from hypothermia are raising new accusations that Belarus is pushing migrants to the eastern border of the European Union, possibly in retaliation over Western sanctions following the contested reelection of the country's strongman Alexander Lukashenko. The discovery comes amid a surge of largely Afghani and Iraqi migrants attempting to enter Poland in recent weeks.

• China to stop building coal-burning power plants abroad: Under pressure to limit emissions to meet Paris climate agreement goals, China announces an end to funding future projects in Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries through its Belt and Road initiative.

• Turkey ratifies Paris climate agreement: Following a year of wildfires and flash floods, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced at the UN that Turkey will become the last G-20 country to ratify the emissions-limiting accords. Turkey already signed the agreement in 2016, but has yet to hold a vote in parliament.

• Mass evacuations following Canary Islands volcano: More than 6,000 people have fled the Spanish archipelago as heavy flows of lava have buried hundreds of homes. Four earthquakes have also hit the Canaries since the Sunday eruption, which could also cause other explosions and the release of toxic gas.

• Rare earthquake hits Melbourne: The 5.9 magnitude quake struck near Melbourne in southern Australia, with aftershocks going as far Adelaide, Canberra and Launceston. Videos shared on social media show at least one damaged building, with power lines disrupted in Australia's second largest city. No injuries have been reported.

• The evolutionary tale of tails: Charles Darwin first discovered that humans evolved to lose this biological trait. But only now are New York scientists showing that it was a single genetic tweak that could have caused this shift, while our monkey relatives kept their backside appendages.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"The roof of Barcelona" — El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world. Work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882 as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. The Barcelona-based daily reports that a press conference Tuesday confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years. Although it is currently the second tallest spire of the complex, it will become the highest point of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated "great cross."

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Latin America, the next mecca for digital nomads

Latin American countries want to cash in on the post-pandemic changes to the fundamental ways we work and live, in particular by capitalizing on a growing demand from the new wave of remote workers and "youngish" professional freelancers with money to spend, reports Natalia Vera Ramírez in business magazine America Economia.

💻🏖️ Niels Olson, Ecuador's tourism minister, is working hard to bring "digital nomads" to his country. He believes that attracting this new generation of freelancers who can work from anywhere for extended visits is a unique opportunity for all. Living in a town like Puerto López, he wrote on Twitter, the expat freelancer could "work by the sea, live with a mostly vaccinated population, in the same time zone, (enjoy) an excellent climate, and eat fresh seafood." For Ecuador, the new influx of visitors with money to spend would help boost the country's economy.

🧳 While online-based freelancers already hopped from country to country before COVID-19, the pandemic has boosted their current numbers to around 100 million worldwide. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates there could be a billion roaming, digital workers by 2050. Some European countries already issue visas for digital nomads. They include Germany, Portugal, Iceland, Croatia, Estonia and the Czech Republic, but in the Americas, only four countries make the list, namely Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Panama and Costa Rica.

💰 In August 2021, Costa Rica approved a law for remote workers and international service providers, intended to attract digital nomads and make its travel sector more competitive. The law provides legal guarantees and specific tax exemptions for remote workers choosing to make the country their place of work. It allows foreign nationals earning more than $3,000 a month to stay for up to a year in the country, with the ability to renew their visa for an additional year. If applicants are a family, the income requisite rises to $5,000.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

$2.1 billion

Google announced yesterday it will spend $2.1 billion to buy a sprawling Manhattan office building, in one of the largest sales of a building in U.S. history. The tech giant plans on growing its New York workforce to more than 14,000 people.

📣 VERBATIM

It is sickening and shameful to see this kind of president give such a lie-filled speech on the international stage.

— Opposition Brazilian congresswoman Vivi Reis in response to President Jair Bolsonaro's inflammatory 12-minute speech at the UN General Assembly. The unvaccinated head of state touted untested COVID-19 cures, criticized public health measures and boasted that the South American country's environmental protections were the best in the world.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank & Bertrand Hauger

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