Updated: Jul 26
Who doesn’t love to travel? In a world where flights can be as cheap as train tickets and visa applications take only a few days, more and more people travel worldwide. Whether in need of a tropical island getaway or a big city shopping trip, traveling has never been easier.
They need to go on the Internet to check out all the must-visit cities and bucket-list destinations. But, unfortunately, the issue of over tourism is not one which we can continue to ignore. From the social impact on residents to the environmental destruction of surrounding flora and fauna, too many tourists have consequences.
What Is It?
Overtourism describes the phenomenon when there are too many tourists in a destination. While it is impossible to pinpoint how many are ‘too many, it is when tourists start to take over a place at the cost of local livelihood and residents. For example, when rent prices skyrocket and locals have to move out, narrow village roads are full of honking tourist cars or diminishing wildlife due to crowds and sightseers.
To determine whether a destination is suffering from over-tourism, one should consider the situation from multiple perspectives. One conclusive question is: Are there more tourists than the place and local inhabitants can support?
What Causes Overtourism?
The World Tourism Organisation projects that international arrivals will reach 1.8 billion in two decades, which means there will be 5 million people traveling internationally every day. However, it is most likely that the number will be pinpointed only on a few tourist destinations, leaving them to deal with repercussions with excessive tourists.
Whether for business or leisure, travel has become and will continue to become more accessible and more affordable. Large cities like London and Shanghai will receive many business visitors, whereas holiday-goers will flock to popular spots such as Bali and Venice.
The leading cause of over-tourism is the more visitors come to a destination, the more stories they will share about the place, and the more people who haven’t been will want to go.
The Impact of Overtourism
Overtourism is a severe problem that can cause damaging environmental and social impacts.
Increased Waste Production
One of the most obvious yet prevalent consequences is higher waste production. However, without effective waste disposal management, it can pose a massive risk to the environment. Not to mention tourists who often neglect to be responsible for their waste.
For instance, Bali is struggling to combat their waste problem due to the never-ending flocks of international and local tourists. As a result, the local government has imposed fees on plastic bags and incentivized beach cleaners. Meanwhile, Boracay Island in the Philippines had to shut down due to the uncontrollable mass tourism.
A Threat to Natural Ecosystems
Especially in natural destinations like beaches and mountains, the wildlife is usually the one who suffers the most. In some places, over-tourism can bring destruction to entire ecosystems, whether through deforestation or soil pollution.
However, the lack of awareness among tourists and policies on protecting natural environments also play a huge role. Some cases, such as dead coral reefs, are beyond saving, but it is still not too late to prevent other natural ecosystems from ruin.
Maya Bay in Thailand had to close down to allow time for the coral reefs to reform and prevent the bay from eroding. It’s truly a shame that the government has to legally forbid tourists from going to such a beautiful and prosperous place.
Beyond the environmental impact, there are also plenty of social consequences to over-tourism. In many European cities, mass tourism has caused residents to feel rising tension. It is unfair that housing prices have swelled just because they want to build more hotels and tour companies.
In addition, there is also a dwindling number of indie shops and chains, thanks to the massive rise in tourist shops and international brands. Not to mention the loss of a destination’s authenticity as native residents move out and local heritage make way for modern trends.
Do Your Part to Prevent Overtourism
As tourists and travelers, we can do our part to prevent, or at least minimize, over-tourism. The most obvious solution is not to visit destinations suffering from over-tourism. Instead, plan your trips to smaller cities and lesser-known villages. It’s a great way to discover some hidden paradise and wander off the beaten path.
If you still want to see all the popular destinations, try to visit during the off-season. When you go to Amsterdam or Barcelona during ‘the best time to visit, you will be contributing to the hive. Besides, prices are lower outside the peak season, and you get to experience the same thing without the crowd!