It’s that time of year when many folks are heading off on a much anticipated holiday.
For those in the Southern Hemisphere, a chance to escape the coolish winter months. In the Northern Hemisphere, a warmer posse to glean more sun rays. Whatever the reason they all require using some form of transportation and with many travelling to a tourist hotspot.
Next comes the impact of that travel on specific popular destinations.
In the world news, there have been quite shocking images of the ques of mountainers dying while waiting in line near the summit of Mt Everest for their chance to tick off another mountain. It turns out this is as much down to the greed of the Nepalese tourist operators as it is to the nativity of the climbers attempting the ascent.
How far would you go to tick another place off your “Bucket List”?.
The issue of tourism then prompted me to think closer to home and the area we are housesitting in which overlooks the foreshore on the Thames Coromandel. It also happens to be in an area that is subjected to hordes of visitors during a long weekend and the even longer summer months.
Some would conclude that this area too is subjected to over tourism without having the infrastructure to cope in the high season.
Overtourism is a word that has been bandied about for the last few years by the tourism trade and many locals. What does it mean? What can we do about it?
What does it actually mean?
According to the Responsible Tourism Partnership, it describes over tourism as “destinations where hosts or guest, locals and visitors, feel that there are too many visitors and that the quality of life in the area or the quality of the experience has deteriorated unacceptably”.
Think Milford Track during the summer months or the Tongariro Crossing during January. Venice during August. There are many more that I am sure we can all think of that we have visited and are now choosing not to revisit during the same period as before.
Where is it occurring in the world?
One of the areas I mentioned above was the biggest shocker for me, and that was Mt Everest. Like most people, I knew it was a popular destination for many adventurists to tick that mountain off their list. What I didn’t realise was how many people are dying in the pursuit of doing so.
It is happening in areas where we are pushed to believe is the place to tick off your “bucket list”, you know the big-name, heavy hitters. Most of us have either been to already or probably want to go because those are the ones that are commercialised and all over the social media.
The more popular destinations that have seen considerable increases in visitor numbers way beyond the coping capacity of their infrastructure.
What is being done about it?
With the spotlight as in the media focussing on Mt Everest, I am hoping that tour guides will become more accountable and be certified in taking groups mountaineering. A limit of people on the mountain at any given time.
Limiting people was one way for Dubrovnik to curtail it’s growing popularity and also a way in which it was too keep it’s World Heritage status as UNESCO threatened to remove it due to the number of visitors that the city was allowing through the Old Town gates. This year only 4000 people a day are allowed to enter. Still seems a considerable amount of people. So, don’t expect to have a view to yourself for more than a few moments.
Dubrovnik isn’t alone in changing how it deals with it’s visitors. Edinburgh has introduced tourist taxes. Venice is banning cruise ships from mooring in the harbour. A few places in Thailand have stopped tourists from entering at all, for example, Koh Phi and Maya Bay.
Amsterdam, a place where the Squire and I have been a couple of times, this city has now switched from seeking tourists via promotion to focussing on the ones that are arriving using destination management. In other words, it is not seeking further tourists and just trying to deal with the ones that are visiting.
What can we do about it?
It isn’t about stopping travelling to other parts of the world. What does it mean? We need to be smarter and more informed.
Want to visit places that are usually overcrowded? Think of visiting during the off-season. The Coromandel, as a good example, is still a beautiful scenic place to explore and capture 180 deg ocean views. Though of course, unless you are brave, the waters will not be as warm as the more busier summer months. Swap that with a cafe visit and a bush hike or a beach stroll. Visiting during the off-season will help spread the tourism burden more evenly.
When you do arrive at your chosen destination, think “local”. Buy local produce, use local guides and their local knowledge. Use local hotels, Airbnb, Bed and Breakfast perhaps not as cheap as the big chain hotels though it will give you more of a local feel staying with people who have a personal investment in their communities. One of the reasons why we love and are still enjoying housesitting.
Another issue is respecting the locals and their environment and behave accordingly. That includes awareness of any cultural sensitivities, such as the way you should dress or behave in places of religious and cultural significance.
One of the ways how we handled avoiding the more overcrowded tourism spots was to choose places, cities, towns, beaches that were near the more popularised areas. They landed up being just as beautiful and historical without the crowds. Think Northern France as opposed to Southern France. Cadiz instead of revisiting Barcelona. In New Zealand, local hikes instead of the more overcrowded tourist traps like the Milford Track.
It is a privilege to travel, so hopefully, those that do won’t take it for granted.
If you look more in-depth, you will always find an alternative destination to those ones that are overexposed. Keep having fun exploring our wonderful weird world perhaps just think outside the tourism square when planning your next holiday.