Travels with Bob

Destinations Overrun by Excessive Tourism

Too much of a good thing is seldom a good thing!

Crowds of tourists in Venice

Tourists drawn to St. Mark’s Square threaten the lifestyle of Venice residents.

A billion-plus people – or about 15 percent of the world’s population ‒ will travel at least 100 miles for a vacation this year, contributing to the growing problem of “Overtourism”. As a result, iconic destinations overrun by too many tourists must act to offset the growing negative environmental impact and diminishing quality of life for local residents.

To manage throngs of vacationers descending upon them, cities, regions and even tourist attractions increasingly impose new fees, limits and other restrictions designed to handle too many tourists. Europe, in particular, struggles to cope with the onslaught during the peak summer vacation season.

For example, the venerable Louvre Museum in Paris, welcoming 10 million visitors in 2018, now requires advance tickets for admission. A limited number of people inside the museum at a time enhances the experience for those admitted and creates a more manageable environment for the staff. At least visitors may now get a better view of the Mona Lisa.

Peru also implemented daily limits on the number visitors at Machu Piccu, with half of the 2,500 people allowed to enter the site at 6:00 am and the balance at noon. Access is restricted to major trails and the most endangered areas are completely off limits. Meanwhile, the Galapagos Islands permits access only to those ships carrying fewer than 100 passengers to protect the fragile environment and wildlife, while enhancing the travel experience.

Even the remote Isle of Skye in northwest Scotland must deal with increasing infrastructure issues due to growing tourism. Officials there, however, have yet to restrict access to its magnificent vistas and several iconic distilleries, including Talisker – the oldest on the island and my personal favorite.

Visitors to America’s national parks reached record numbers since the system’s Centennial two years ago. The impact of increased tourism: mountains of trash that must be removed daily. Furthermore, limited reservations for park lodge accommodations must be made almost a year in advance.

So how can you avoid becoming part of this problem and still enjoy your vacation without increased fees and restrictions during peak travel periods? After all, no one appreciates standing in long lines and wasting precious vacation time. Here are three suggestions:

  • Schedule permitting, plan your vacation for off-season travel periods with diminished crowds. You will save money and enjoy a better overall travel experience.
  • Avoid travel “hot” spots by getting off the beaten path, or by simply going elsewhere. You can always visit the hot travel destinations when they have cooled somewhat.
  • Seek tour operators and cruise lines emphasizing cultural experiences and getting close to the locals. You will make new friends and enjoy a more fulfilling travel experience.

Most importantly, be a responsible tourist by respecting the environment and treating the world’s antiquities and natural treasures as your own.