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“Several Visitors Too Many”: Popular Destinations In The Throes of Overtourism

Locals lament as cost of living skyrockets due to tourist congestion The pandemic might have crippled tourism to an extent. However, three years later, this industry has bounced back in full force. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, the tourism industry is expected to bring in some $9.5 trillion in 2023. This is equivalent to 95% of its pre-pandemic levels. This figure is expected to increase by 2024, as more individuals embrace the thrill of travel and experiencing other climes. With this surge in visitors, countries known as popular tourist destinations are expected to brace up for the unpleasant impact of overtourism. Overtourism refers to when those living in an area, or those visiting, feel the experience has become worse because of the sheer amount of tourists.

Locals lament as cost of living skyrockets due to tourist congestion

The pandemic might have crippled tourism to an extent. However, three years later, this industry has bounced back in full force. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, the tourism industry is expected to bring in some $9.5 trillion in 2023. This is equivalent to 95% of its pre-pandemic levels. This figure is expected to increase by 2024, as more individuals embrace the thrill of travel and experiencing other climes. With this surge in visitors, countries known as popular tourist destinations are expected to brace up for the unpleasant impact of overtourism.

Overtourism refers to when those living in an area, or those visiting, feel the experience has become worse because of the sheer amount of tourists. Overtourism lends credence to the saying “too many cooks spoil the broth”. That is, the most pleasant experience may become inconvenient when the number of people queued up to enjoy it go beyond manageable standards.

Overtourism is readily seen in the following examples: the port city of Dubrovnik in Croatia has a population of around 28,400 people but was visited by more than one million tourists in 2022, according to the Dubrovnik Times. Barcelona in Spain, which has a population of around 5.6 million people, was visited by around 9.7 million tourists in 2022, according to the city’s council.As of 2020, the number of tourists visiting the ancient Inca site had jumped from less than 400,000 tourists a year to over 1.4 million visitors in 20 years. Bath in Somerset, which has a population of around 109,000 people, attracts around six million visitors a year, according to a statement by the city council.

This influx in the number of tourists coming into these regions has brought about hardship for both the tourists and the locals as living conditions worsen. The Dutch city of Amsterdam now hosts many apartments which are rented out solely to tourists. This caused a housing shortage and jacked up rent prices. Locals are therefore finding it difficult to secure affordable accommodation.

The same scenario plays out in the Catalan city of Barcelona, where the influx has put a heavy burden on its infrastructure. Residents grapple with soaring housing costs and noise pollution, while overcrowded beaches and historic sites lose their charm. Barcelona has implemented tourist taxes and pedestrian zones to manage the crowds, but the debate on balancing tourism with local well-being continues.

The iconic canals and gondolas of Venice have also suffered from the sheer volume of cruise ship traffic and tourist footfall. The constant churn of water from gondolas and boat wakes has eroded the city’s foundations, while rising sea levels exacerbate the issue. Overcrowding has also strained Venice’s infrastructure and led to resentment among residents who feel their city is being overrun by tourists who just take selfies and leave. For natives of Bali’s Island of Gods in Indonesia, overtourism is about how the rapid development of resorts and luxury tourism has threatened Bali’s unique culture and traditions. Local communities feel exploited and priced out of their own land, while sacred ceremonies and rituals are increasingly commercialized for tourist appeal. Locals in the Inca Citadel fear that erosion from thousands of feet trampling the paths and increasing pollution from waste are jeopardizing the site’s preservation.

2019 saw the global number of tourists travel reach 1.5 billion. At the moment, post-pandemic data suggests a resurgence of tourism after the plummet that took place during the pandemic. Experts predict the tourism figures for 2024 to surpass that of 2019. Sandra Carvao, director of market intelligence and competitiveness at UNWTO ( United Nations World Tourism Organization) has the following to say;

“There is a lagging tourism recovery in Asia, which pre-pandemic was the second biggest region in terms of travel after Europe… but if Asia keeps recovering at the rate it has been, the global figure will most probably surpass the 1.5 billion figure we had in 2019.”

You may wish to travel early next year to a popular tourist destination to spend your holidays. Chances are, thousands others are thinking the same thing. Rising incomes, cheap flights resulting from airlines’ marketing gimmicks, the social media hype, and changing trends are all factors that fuel overtourism.

Popular tourist destinations have now come up with a variety of measures to reduce their influx of tourists, or at least, keep them within manageable figures. Venice implemented timed entry quotas and reservations for its main attractions, while Machu Picchu restricted daily visitor numbers. Barcelona and Amsterdam use tourist taxes to raise funds for infrastructure improvements and manage visitor numbers. Another measure is Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport introduction of flight caps to curb noise pollution and limit tourist arrivals.

If you plan on enjoying a pleasant tourism experience, your best bet is to visit less popular regions, as there will be a lesser number of tourists there. Now, what are the chances that thousands of others are thinking the same thing?


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