The realities of overtourism – are we part of the problem or the solution?

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.

img_9420

The reality

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 demonstrate 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 aimed at 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 rather than learning more about the history and culture of the place they’re in?

img_6632
I saw this on a wall in Lisbon. Simple yet to the point.

The conundrum

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 to 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 examine 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 ensure a better balance.     — Patrick Whyte

As a traveler the overload of toursits can definitely ruin an experience of a new destination. As a local, it can be a neusance. Are you concerned about overtourism? Do you see a role to play in this? Let me know!

img_5647

Recommended reading:

Overtourism Issues Can No Longer Be Brushed Aside as Someone Else’s Problem

Summer of Overtourism: 4 Lessons for the Travel Industry

Barcelona’s Overtourism and 9 Other Tourism Trends This Week

Airbnb and overtourism – let the statistics have their say

The Real Cause of Over Tourism


Yes! Sign me up for more 🙂

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “The realities of overtourism – are we part of the problem or the solution?

  • A piece that should make all of us think when we are out there travelling — and remain conscious about not sowing silly acts just for the heck of it. Overtourism makes sense to me Kasia and it is a great post to spread the awareness. Here’s to travelling responsibly. xx

  • I’ve never heard of “overtourism” until now. I think the real problem is the people who actually don’t know how to give respect the country or the place itself. What I mean is.. People who just go to a certain place for photo, and then leaving trash or dump everywhere – things like that.

    • That is definitely part of it. Some places like Barcelona have seen overwhelming increases in tourism that are becoming too much for the locals. I think many people come and go without thinking of the place they are as someone’s home.

  • A couple months ago, I attended a lecture by a professor from the University of Iceland. She was lecturing on gender equality in Iceland, but tourism did come up as an important topic. She said tourists are ruining Iceland. There are too many tourists coming in too suddenly. The city and towns’ infrastructure are not build for such a rapidly growing tourism industry. The influx of tourists and trash is damaging the fragile ecosystem, and a few tourists are irresponsible and have no respect for the people or the environment. It is very sad and difficult to manage. Iceland is a very wild and beautiful place (I’ve never been, but I can imagine), but there are too many tourists… That said, have fun in Iceland next month!

    • Yes Iceland is one of the places that has been affected by an influx of tourists. I went 4 years ago and I don’t think it was as widely poplularnas it is now. I’m curious to see how it’s changed and how it’s been affected by tourism. There is definitely not enough infrastructure to handle so many people. Especially ones that have no concept of the damage they can possibly cause.

  • I am also thinking a lot about this recently. I think anyone writing about travel is encouraging people to travel – how they travel then becomes very important. I’ve just got to Amsterdam and the lines for attractions are incredible. I understand everyone wants to see the ‘highlights’ but I feel it’s also good just to concentrate on local stuff, spend time in different areas, at cafes that aren’t just listed in guidebooks etc. – try to ‘feel’ a place rather than just see it. Slow travel, rather than ticking of a list of the must-dos!

    • Agreed! I think a lot of people don’t want to learn about other cultures. They expect everything to be the same (ie food and drink) as at home and don’t bother to try anything else. Whatever the guidebook says they do and only that. It’s like catering to tourists has taken a priority over the lives of the locals.

Leave a Reply