After catching up on the travel news or scrolling through Instagram for just a few minutes, it wouldn’t take long to understand why overcrowding, or overtourism, is becoming more and more prominent, and effecting destinations worldwide.
How many times have you seen a photo of someone overlooking the awe-inspiring ancient city of Machu Picchu, or standing on pristine white sands against a backdrop of longtail boats in Thailand? So many times it almost feels as if you’ve been there yourself?! These beautiful images are saturating social media platforms in droves, so imagine what it is like actually being there! These infamous sites and destinations offer a trip of a lifetime to most visitors, however the dream sadly doesn’t always match the reality.
Most recently, it was announced that the infamous Maya Bay in Thailand has been closed indefinitely in order to revive the ecosystem and repair the damages caused to the area as a result of the sheer volume of tourists visiting over the years.
While the locals in Kyoto, Japan, have created a ‘scenery preservation’ committee to primarily tackle bad behaviour from tourists, as well as to assist in dispersing crowds in crowded times, areas and seasons.
The consequences of over tourism are widespread, having a knock on effect across the whole economy. In terms of the destination itself, the influx of tourists impacts the lives and wellbeing of the local population, so much so that earlier this year during the May Day weekend, Venice implemented a segregation system whereby residents and visitors were separated at various points. This was put in place in order to support locals and regular visitors of Venice.
It also has a damaging impact on the natural environment, infrastructures and culture and heritage, and with UNESCO sites in mind, it’s essential to protect what makes these attractions so special. For example, Machu Picchu simply does not have the infrastructure to support the huge number of visitors so as of July 2017, visitors can only enter the site with an official tour guide for a specific time period.
In terms of the visitor, overcrowding undoubtedly effects the quality of the experience. How can tourists enjoy visiting such an iconic site when the queue can often be longer than the time spent at the attraction itself? Last year, I Amsterdam piloted ‘Live Lines’, providing visitors with live queue times at the most popular museums across Amsterdam in order to minimise queuing times.
Earlier this year, Visit Oslo launched ‘The Great Escape’ campaign which involved rescuing tourists from overcrowded tourist attractions and bringing them to Oslo where they can visit equally great attractions year round and with less people.
While Paris Tourisme’s ‘Discover Another Paris’ campaign is purely focused on promoting positive geographic spread, highlighting the lesser known districts and attractions tourists can visit rather than the most popular sites.
It is clear to see that the impact of overtourism is prompting destinations to employ positive strategies to minimise the effects as much as possible, in addition to the growing popularity of experiencing a destination as a local.
On the 7th of November, we are inviting applicants to compete for a £3,000 prize by coming up with real solutions to this industry-wide problem at WTM London this year. Participation is free, so sign up now!
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