As overtourism continues to hit the headlines, Justin Francis, chief executive and founder of online travel company Responsible Travel, explains how agents can help combat the problem.
Tourists have long complained about destinations being ‘too touristy’ – from Spanish beaches hidden beneath a patchwork of towels, to the stag party-choked streets of Prague.
While crowds are the most visible consequence of overtourism, they aren’t the only one. Overtourism also results in noise and rubbish, plus tourists also use vast quantities of water; in some destinations, an average of 16 times as much as residents.
Disrespectful tourist behaviour adds to the unpleasantness: drunken antics, inappropriate dress, and a lack of regard for places of spiritual importance.
Neighbourhood cafes and functional stores are replaced by souvenir shops, restaurants and bars – many unaffordable for local people.
Rents soar too, as properties are turned into holiday lets. This hollows out city centres and picturesque villages, leaving inhabitants without neighbours or a sense of community.
According to The Guardian, for example, around 2,000 residents are said to be leaving Venice each year, a big hit on a city of just 55,000.
While it’s true that tourists generate income, this often doesn’t reach the destinations themselves. Cruise ships, multinational hotels and all-inclusive packages can leave little money in the country, while using water, making waste and creating crowd surges at peak times.
Residents have begun to express their frustration, with protests and angry graffiti demanding that ‘tourists go home’.
Local authorities are searching for measures to combat the issue – introducing or increasing tourist taxes and limiting tourist-focused shops and accommodation. In Thailand, entire islands have been closed to tourists.
While governments are reacting to the problems, more proactive policies are needed to prevent these issues occurring in the first place.