Over-tourism is a reasonably recent phenomenon in that it started to come about with the advent of the budget airline. However, while the streets of Barcelona were getting fuller and fuller, no one saw any problem with it. Instead of noticing that some issues were starting to emerge, only the positive sides of tourism, such as boosting local economies and saving endangered species, were put under the limelight. Few people saw, or at least would admit to seeing, the dangers of tourism.
First of all, over-tourism is the phenomenon wherein there are too many visitors to a certain destination. Of course, too many visitors is highly subjective. London, for example, can handle much more tourism than a tiny island off the coast of Athens. And yet it is the big cities that seem to suffer the most. Ever since Easy Jet and Ryan Air started offering flights within Europe for under a hundred dollars round trip, people have come flocking. As a result, residents are being priced out because buildings are being revamped into hotels, local restaurants are going out of business in favor of fast food places and tourist traps, and no one is able to see the main attractions because of how many people are there blocking the view.
Over-tourism is happening for many reasons, but one of the main ones has to do with the fact that the tourism industry only knows one way: up. Communities everywhere are looking to increase their economies, and an easy way of doing that is by bringing in more people who have needs to be met. The problem with that is that there are many forms of tourism, some of which are problematic. For example, people coming into a port city for the day from a cruise ship are not spending huge amounts of money as they don’t require a hotel and will purchase at most one meal and a small souvenir while on land. The increasing popularity of backpacking means that people are traveling on the cheap, again not contributing much in proportion to how much impact they are having on their destination.
Cities like Venice, Barcelona, and Dubrovnik are suffering the most from over-tourism, but they are not the only ones. Previously unpopular or hard to get to destinations such as the Isle of Skye are suddenly experiencing a tourism boom that they can barely handle. Tourists are not necessarily welcome there either. There have been weak attempts to try to enforce a tourism tax or to cap the number of people allowed in a specific location per day. The Machu Picchu tourism agency has already started this process, only allowing two hundred people per day in the famed site, passes that are purchased months in advance.
However, there are ways to take action against over-tourism. For example, traveling in smaller groups rather than in a massive organized tour is a way to ensure that your footprint on your destination is much smaller. Avoiding capital cities in favor of smaller towns or nature destinations is a way of boosting local economies that desperately need the income rather than adding to an already overflowing pot. The experience will also be much different in as much as you will get to spend time with local people by staying in their guesthouses and eating in their restaurants. If you really want to take a step forward, select from very exclusive experiences, such as gorilla tracking in East Africa. This trip will cost you around seven hundred dollars, something that people are willing to pay for a once in a lifetime opportunity.