How 7 Vacation Destinations Are Pushing Back Against Over-Tourism
From setting new rules, imposing tolls and fines, local officials in some of the world’s most desirable tourist spots are trying to figure out the right balance to keep visitors coming without ruining the environment, or the experience.
From the canals of Venice to the beaches of Maya Bay, the world’s vacation paradise destinations are under assault. The second full summer since the COVID-19 pandemic abated has seen a massive rebound in tourism, which has made ever more clear that the effects of mass tourism (or over-tourism) are a real threat to the places and the people who live there. Environmental damage, deteriorating cities, overcrowding, rising prices and an impediment to local people's way of life are all consequences of international mass tourism.
In response, many touristic localities are taking this issue head-on by implementing innovative strategies to combat the negative effects of excessive tourism. These initiatives aim to protect the environment, preserve local culture, and ensure the long-term sustainability of these cherished locations. From Bali to Amsterdam and Machu Picchu, here's an international look of vacation destinations that are trying to find the right balance between welcoming visitors and being overrun by them.
A gondola is anchored in a Venetian canal as tourists watch.
Venice's unique charm and historic canals attract thousands of tourists every day — and millions every year, causing strain on the city's infrastructure, cultural heritage and population. To preserve this beloved destination, the city has imposed measures to encourage sustainable tourism practices and promote off-season visits. These efforts aim to strike a balance between welcoming tourists and protecting the city's fragile ecosystem.
As one of Europe’s most popular destination for tourists, Venice has seen itspopulation move away and abandon their houses due to rising prices, flash floods and rising water levels but above all the invasion of international tourists, which sometimes amount to twice the cities’ inhabitants.
The municipality of Venice has implemented several measures to curb over-tourism such as limiting the number of visitors in many locations, banning large cruise ships, but also considering implementing an ‘Entry fee’ (between 3 and 10€ depending on the season), which was supposed to be put in place this year, but was postponed.
Still, the city has announced a €2.50 fee for air passengers boarding planes at the city's airport that will come into effect on April 1, 2024.
Bird's eye view photography of Maya Bay
Maya Bay, Thailand:
Made famous by the movie "The Beach” featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, Maya Bay on the Thai island of Ko Phi Phi Leh faces severe environmental degradation due to excessive tourism to such a degree that the the beach was closed in for four years. Keeping the international tourists away was also a way to remind of the need for responsible tourism and ecological preservation.
The paradise beach reopened last year, but keeps being closed in regular intevals since to let the ecosystem regenerate itself. Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn though insisted on the fact that the Island administration should focus on "high-end travelers, rather than a large number of visitors” to put an end to uncontrolled tourism. As a result, a limit of 300 tourists a day has been established, boats are banned and snorkeling and swimming are prohibited.
Amsterdam's Red Light District at night
Amsterdam's picturesque canals, historic architecture with its narrow houses, and vibrant culture have made it a top destination for travelers. But this has a cost — the city has experienced issues with overtourism, particularly in the city center, that led her to aradical change of attitude towards tourists. To ease the burden on local residents and preserve Amsterdam's authentic character, the city has implemented measures such as tourist taxes and a ban on new hotels in the city center.
The idea is to manage the destination instead of promoting it.
Known in the past as a tolerant city, especially towards tourists, Amsterdam has a new approach. More than pollution, environmental degradation and rising property prices in response to tourist demand, the city is above all struggling with saturation of iconic tourist sites such as canals, museums and the red-light district, which not only affects the daily lives of local residents, but also worsens the experience for visitors.
While locals fear Amsterdam could become the new Venice and be overwhelmed by tourists, the city has tackled the problem of over-tourism with its "Perspective 2030" project for “a new vision for destination the Netherlands to benefit all Dutch people.”
The idea is to manage the destination instead of promoting it, for example by highlighting more cities to visit in the Netherlands than Amsterdam, to put residents first and attract visitors who will contribute to the Netherlands as a future-proof destination.
Photograph of Caño Cristales, Colombia
Caño Cristales, Colombia:
Caño Cristales, often referred to as the "River of Five Colors" or the “melted rainbow,” offers a mesmerizing display of colorful algae and aquatic plants — which has been on even greater display thanks to Instagram. To take aim at overtourism, the Colombian government introduced visitor caps and stringent regulations to give the unique ecosystem of the region a break and restrict the area from visitor traffic.
Arulebook was therefore drawn up to strike a balance between an unprecedented increase in demand and an extremely fragile ecosystem. The rules are pretty simple: no objects that could threaten the natural site allowed (plastic, sunscreen products, cigarettes) - no garbage. Also, visitors are not allowed to swim in the river. To familiarize themselves with the rules, all visitors must attend a briefing before entering the site.
After an 18-month closure in 2019 and during the pandemic, the country has opted forecotourism to help maintain a form of tourism: a balance between the tourism industry for the small towns around who enjoy the benefits of tourism, and the protection of the area, which now offers new trails, zones for swimming and strict visiting hours.
"Don't Worry be sexy but not naked" sign in Tegenungan Waterfall, Bali, Indonesia.
Bali, the exotic gem of Indonesia, enchants travelers from all over the world with its white sandy beaches, picturesque rice terraces, rich culture and majestic temples, offering an unforgettable experience of relaxation, adventure and the discovery of ancestral traditions.
Yet, just as other places, the paradise island of Bali has experienced exponential growth in tourism, resulting in environmental degradation and cultural challenges. To address these issues, the Balinese government has launched initiatives to reducesingle-use plastic, promotesustainable tourism practices, and raise awareness about preserving the island's stunning landscapes and traditions.
To also make a point on what is unacceptable from visitors, the countryexpelled a 24-year-old Russian tourist, who posed naked on Mount Agung, considered by Hindus to be the abode of the gods.
Small bay in Mallorca with crystal clear water.
Paradise beaches with crystal-clear waters, mountains, flavors and vibrant culture - what could be better for a dream vacation? The charm of the Spanish island Majorca have made it a popular Mediterranean destination that received16.4 million tourists in 2022. But the island is also know to be a great place to party, even when you are on a budget.
In addition to encouraging visitors to explore lesser-known regions and promoting sustainable activities and eco-tourism, to tackle over-tourism, the local government made the choice to do without budget tourists and to increase the price of stays by almost33% compared to 2022. It also comes at a time when inflation on the island is running at close to 5.8% and neighbouring Lanzarote has become a tourist hotspot.
As in Bali,new rules have been introduced this year, and partygoers will not be spared — alcohol limited to just a few drinks in some places, no more happy hours, no more offers on drinks and no more alcohol sales at night.
A group of tourists stand on a cliffside in Santorini.
Your summer social media feeds are no doubt filled with photos of Greek beaches, and there’s no more Instagrammable island than Santorini. The stunning cliffside villages and crystal-clear waters of Santorini have made it a dream destination for many. But as reminds us the mediaThrillist, “Instagram is not reality” — but over-tourism is.
Santorini and other Greek Islands such as Mykonos and Corfu have faced issues with overcrowding and cruise ship arrivals. While Europe has seen a boom in tourism this summer, Greece has sounded the alarm about the threat of overtourism.
With no fewer than 2 million tourists a year, Santorini is one of the most visited places in Greece, something the country deplores. As part of its commitment to promote sustainable tourism on its territory, Greece is adopting the strategy of the alternative: reminding people thatGreece is not just islands, sun and beach, but much more than that.
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