Overtourism is something I’ve been hearing about quite a bit lately. I’m not sure if I’m just more aware of it now that I’m blogging about travel, or if it’s become more mainstream. As a result, I’ve started to wonder if I, like many other bloggers, have become part of the problem? Could I become part of the solution?
What is overtourism?
It was just before we left for our summer holidays earlier this year that I first became more attune to the topic. Overtourism? What the heck was that all about? Then I read a whole lot of articles, reflected on my previous travels and definitely noticed this occurring during our trip.
“Overtourism describes destinations where hosts or guests, locals or 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. It is the opposite of Responsible Tourism which is about using tourism to make better places to live in and better places to visit. Often both visitors and guests experience the deterioration concurrently.” ~ Responsible Tourism Partnership
At first, I started seeing stories everywhere about reckless and ignorant people who have done some serious damage to priceless artifacts, natural landscapes and/or wilderness. Reading them made me mad. What the hell are you thinking feeding beer to wild pigs (which killed them) or putting your kid in an ancient coffin to take a pic (hint it got damaged)? Why are people so stupid and careless? I couln’t believe anyone in their right mind would do that.
While in Rome, we could barely get a clear shot of the Trevi Fountain, because it was so crowded. We opted not to go inside the Colosseum as we didn’t want to stand in a massive lineup. Same thing in Paris. Lineups everywhere. People everywhere. Loud and drunk idiots littering the streets, having little respect for the places they are trashing.
Many places like Barcelona, Venice and Amsterdam are now pushing back. Barcelona in particular has been in the news as the locals prove their anger with protests as they’ve had enough. Authorities in Italy are banning certain behaviours, like littering and jumping into canals. Amsterdam is prohibiting openings of any new stores for tourists. Are these extreme? Necessary? Probably both.
Tourism can bring many benefits to communities that can lead to improving the lives of locals, but when does that line get crossed? The rise of shared economy, Airbnb in particular, has been a contentious issue. Neighbourhoods get flooded with an influx of tourist who use up local resources, add more waste and put a strain on local resources. How many of them care more about getting a better selfie and not learning more about the history and culture of the place they’re in?
As someone who loves to travel and inspire others to do the same, it was dawning on me that people like me are the ones that make travel seem so easy, carefree and something equaling to a right for everyone. Are we part of the problem?
I can say for certain that I have never read a blog that told people to go and be stupid while traveling. I don’t write about travel to encourage people to damage things and kill wildlife. Nobody does that, but we can’t control how people act and the things they do. So what can we do?
Like anything else, the first step is to realize and admit there is a problem. This doesn’t have to be the elephant in the room. As a travel blogger, I need to be conscious of this. How I write my stories, what message I send to my readers and definitely how much I educate myself about this issue.
There are many sides to this issue, just as many parties that can be blamed for it. Pointing fingers is definitely not an answer and it requires our collective efforts. I’ve included a number of articles below that look at further how this issue can be tackled.
After a couple of years bubbling below the surface, the overtourism concept has broken into mainstream public consciousness this summer. Tourist boards and travel companies can no longer deny its existence; there is an urgent need for these groups to work with destinations to make sure a better balance. — Patrick Whyte
As a traveler the overload of tourists can definitely ruin an experience of a new destination. As a local, it can be a nuisance. Are you concerned about overtourism? Do you see a role to play in this? Let me know!