Overtourism – 10 Destinations You Will Not See for Themselves Due to Tourists

Tourism brings many benefits to many destinations around the world, but it’s not all good. Overtourism is a fairly new concept, coined to describe the negative impact of the tourism industry.

Overtourism is when there are too many people visiting a destination as defined by business owners, tourists themselves, hosts, and local residents.

For example, when the roads become badly congested with tourist vehicles so that locals find it difficult to make their way around, that’s overtourism.

When goods get marked up in price to capture the tourist market, negatively impacting local residents and businesses, that’s overtourism.

And overtourism is affecting a growing number of the world’s most popular destinations. So, what happens when a place is suffering from overtourism and where does it happen? Read on for more …

The effects of overtourism

Traveling the world is becoming increasingly popular, and the tourism market is rapidly expanding. But with growth comes overcrowding, a problem that is on the increase in many popular destinations around the world.

For example, Barcelona residents staged anti-tourist protests recently, and they’re not alone. Venice and Amsterdam have had to put new policies into place to deal with overcrowding.

When a destination reaches a certain point in attracting visitors, the result can be strained infrastructure, alienated residents, environmental degradation, threats to culture and heritage, and, in fact, a negative experience for the visitor.

Sustainable tourism as a solution to overtourism

With continued growth in global travel, overtourism shows no signs of abating. Sustainable tourism is the polar opposite and seeks to make places better for both residents and visitors.

Tourists who support a sustainable approach try to limit their impact by supporting local businesses, particularly those that are ecologically responsible to reduce non-renewable resource wastage.

They also support businesses that conserve the culture and traditions of the area and inform themselves of the economy, culture, and politics of the communities they are visiting.

There is now an emphasis on responsible tourism, in which all stakeholders take responsibility for achieving these goals.

There is now an emphasis on responsible tourism, in which all stakeholders take responsibility for achieving these goals.

10 destinations suffering from overtourism

1. Taj Mahal, India

This World Heritage site, one of the seven wonders of the modern world, draws visitors all year long. It is a mausoleum built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as the final resting place for his beloved third wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

Its name means “crown of palaces,” and for a good reason: the palace is an enormous 561 feet (171 meters) high, famous for its central “onion” dome measuring 115 feet (35 meters) high.

Built-in the period 1632 to 1653, the palace is constructed from white marble. Due to overtourism, India has instituted a three-hour time limit for visits, and a cap on daily visitors.

According to the Archaeological Survey of India, the number of tourists visiting the Taj Mahal has increased to around 35,000 to 40,000 visitors every day. The number of visitors doubles up during the weekends and reaches around 70,000.

2. Venice, Italy

The city with no roads was the ancient capital of the Republic of Venice from 697 to 1797.

It was a major power in terms of finance and the maritime industry during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. This beautiful city of canals and bridges has grown increasingly crowded and expensive.

A whopping 30 million foreign tourists visit every year, and it’s driving locals away. Rents and water levels are rising, and the ecosystem is suffering.

Countermeasures include a proposed “sitting ban”, asking tourists not to litter, to ride a bike in the city center, and to refrain from lingering on the bridges too long.

3. Mount Everest, Nepal

More and more people want to summit the highest peak in the world and the number of people walking up the mountain has reached traffic jam proportions.

Social media abounds with images of climbers in endless-seeming queues, waiting to the summit. Tons of trash are having to be removed, as well as several dead bodies.

Not much is being done to solve the overtourism problem. With almost 60,000 climbers, guides and tourists visiting the Everest region every year, it’s completely trashed and overcrowded even at the summit.

China has recently started a cleanup drive and Nepal plans to cut down the tourist numbers to around one-third.

There’s a ban on solo or novice climbers, increased fees for foreign climbers, and more careful vetting of potential climbers. That said, record numbers of permits are still being issued to climb this majestic natural wonder.

4. Bali, Indonesia

The number of visitors to Bali has skyrocketed over the past 20 years, and the consequences are not pretty. The idyllic island is now badly overcrowded and faces both a “garbage emergency” and water shortages.

The garbage problem consists largely of plastic littering the islands formerly pristine beaches. Bali recorded 6.5 million foreign visitors during the year 2018, the number increasing at around 8% every year.

So, what’s being done? Due to an increase in unacceptably disrespectful behavior at Hindu temples, the authorities are reevaluating laws allowing visitors to visit these sacred sites alone.

The government also plans a tourist tax in the near future. And that’s about all that’s being done. The government seems intent on building another ten Balis with the help of an investment from China and Singapore.

5. Isle of Skye, Scotland

The Isle of Skye is one of Scotland’s most famous islands, but locals have started complaining about intolerable numbers of tourists, to the extent that they have recommended choosing a different destination.

Gaelic-speaking Scots from Ireland settled on the island in the first centuries B.C.E, while it was ruled by the Norsemen from the 9th to the 12th century.

The chief clan of Skye is the MacLeods, who call Dunvegan Castle home. The impressive 9th-century castle is the longest-occupied house in Scotland.

Overtourism is seriously stressing the island’s historical infrastructure, as well as famous natural wonders such as the Old Man of Storr and the fairy pools.

Researchers are assessing the effects of overtourism but nothing substantial has been done so far to curb the high number of tourists visiting the place. The number is recorded to be as high as 500,000 visitors a year.

6. Dubrovnik, Croatia

Visitor numbers to the historic Croatian city of Dubrovnik have increased dramatically in recent years, helped in part by its use as a location in the wildly popular Game of Thrones series.

The overtourism situation became so bad that in 2016, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) warned the city that its world heritage status was in danger of being removed.

As a result, the mayor of the city announced that the number of tourists allowed to visit the city’s ancient center was being capped at 4,000 from 2019.

But even limiting the number of ships to dock hasn’t helped much.

The place that cannot fit in more than 8,000 people at a time saw an average of 30,000 tourists every month during the first quarter of 2019. Some of the locals now call it ‘Disneyland’.

7. Iceland

Tourism to Iceland has surged in recent times. The number of tourists to Iceland increased by 76 percent in 2015 compared with the previous year alone.

And visitors keep pouring in to a country that has an infrastructure to cater for just 350,000 residents.

There are concerns that attractions such as the Thingvellir National Park and the Gullfoss waterfall might soon not be able to accommodate the growing number of visitors. Iceland is now researching the problem.

The problem is not countrywide, but limited to certain super-popular areas, such as the capital Rejkjavic.

Tourists are advised to visit in Autumn and Winter instead of Summer but it seems like not many people wish to follow it. With six tourists per resident, Iceland’s natural environment is at a great risk.   

8. The Galapagos

Known as the inspiration for Darwin’s theory of evolution, the Galapagos is a group of 10 islands approximately 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador.

And it’s no wonder these islands inspired such a landmark theory: they are home to around 9,000 species in a delicate, but a richly diverse ecosystem.

A 2007 United Nations study showed that cruise passenger visitors had increased by 150 percent in 15 years, increasing traffic between the islands and causing the introduction of invasive alien species.

The total number of tourists visiting The Galapagos was 1.6 million in 2017. Cruise travel has been reduced and regulated by the government, although land-based tourism continues to increase.

9. Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, has given birth to artists like Vincent van Gogh and Rembrandt van Rijn, as well as Anne Frank and the philosopher Baruch Spinoza.

Home to the world’s oldest stock exchange, it is chock full of attractions, both historic and more modern.

A melting pot of at least 177 nationalities, the city is known for its vibrant nightlife and festivals. Almost 20 million tourists were expected in Amsterdam in 2018, while less than a million people call the city home.

The city has taken decisive action to limit visitors, diverting people to other areas of the country but the number of tourists is still predicted to reach 3 million in 2025.

10. Kyoto, Japan

Japan’s ancient city of Kyoto boasts over 2,000 religious places, both Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, and is one of the country’s best-preserved cities.

Centuries of Japanese Emperors called the city home, and its rich heritage is evidenced by magnificent imperial palaces, villas, and gardens.

UNESCO has listed the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto as a World Heritage Site, and the city draws a whopping 5 million visitors every year.

To curb overtourism, the city began taxing tourist accommodation in October 2018. The hope is that overcrowding will reduce and more money will be plowed back into the economy to encourage sustainable tourism.

Final thoughts: A worrying sight

Overtourism, while a relatively new term to most, is a very real problem, and it’s here to stay until authorities take decisive action.

If effective steps are not taken to curb overcrowding in these destinations, the experience of living in or visiting them is going to become increasingly unpleasant.

While tourism is a major source of income for a substantial portion of the population in these areas.

Overtourism poses a significant threat to the ecology, infrastructure, culture and general levels of comfort for both locals and visitors to these places.

Tourism needs to become more responsible and more sustainable to combat overtourism.

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