Overtourism is a relatively new phenomenon. With the population growing and the ease of travel giving rise to more holidaymakers, we’ve reached a point as a society where sometimes there are just too many tourists overwhelming a specific destination all at once. This results in a shift from being an enjoyable, positive experience for tourists and residents to one that is uncomfortable, unsustainable, and ultimately, potentially dangerous for everyone, including the local environment. With international tourism expected to increase to 1.4 billion people by 2020, this is an issue that can’t be ignored.
A joint study performed by McKinsey & Company and the World Travel & Tourism Council found multiple areas that are being affected by overtourism. They identified them as: damage to nature, a degraded tourist experience, an overloaded infrastructure, alienated local residents, and threats to local culture and heritage. As a result of these findings, several popular destinations are finding ways to cope with their own popularity.
In Machu Picchu, Peru there are thousands of visitors every single day vying for the chance to see Incan ruins up close. There is now a strict ticketing system with a four-hour time limit and no re-entry allowed. The narrow streets of Amsterdam have been the motivation behind the government’s decision to focus on tourism management, rather than tourism promotion, for the millions of tourists arriving each year. The idea is to foster enthusiasm for other cities within the Netherlands and draw visitors away from its capital.
Visitors arriving by cruise ship to Santorini, Greece will be lessened to 8,000 people per day. In addition, the donkeys that work tirelessly to carry tourists up the hill from the ship’s port to the summit have gotten support from both animal rights activists and local residents. The excessive hours in the heat combined with the weight of tourists have taken a toll on these iconic staples and local resources.
Sherpas on Mount Everest, Nepal are burdened with not only guiding unprecedented numbers of tourists up and down the mountain, they also clean up hundreds of pounds of trash. Safety concerns have forced the government to implement rules about climbing, banning solo missions and demanding that foreigners travel with a guide.
Italy has several major cities hit by overcrowding. Venice no longer allows cruise ships to use the city’s port for fear of damaging the structure of their ancient buildings. In Rome, the famous Spanish steps were closed for months for a multi-million cleaning and repair project.