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  • Writer's pictureHelen Avaient

Overtourism - it is a real thing

Updated: Oct 22, 2023

From 2023 Venice was the first city in the world to introduce an entrance fee. Venice is introducing a system where visitors will need to make a reservation and pay a fee to enter the city. This is seen by some as a money making venture. Instead, it will help the historic city to manage the millions of people who visit each year, making it a more pleasant experience for both tourists and local residents. This city of just 260,000 citizens attracts around 25 million tourists a year.

Venice canals and houses, with gondolos on the canal

image from unsplash

Imagine saving and dreaming all your life to visit a bucket list destination. You have read all the information, watched documentaries, dreamt of stepping where thousands of others have also treaded....

Hang on, yes, thousands have been there in the past, but what about the thousands that visit there now, every day! Overtourism is a real thing. What is it and how does it affect your perfect holiday?

Well, forget getting that perfect picture with just you and whatever landmark you want in the background. Chances are there will be hundreds of others crowded in for just the perfect shot like you, and they wont want to stand back and let you have your turn.

Forget the dream of walking down a street yourself, smiling at the locals and enjoying the scenery. Chances are you will be shoulder to shoulder with other tourists, with hundreds crowded into a small alleyway or square, unable to get your way through unless virtually pushing against others.

It is a nightmare. Nothing like your dreams of a wonderful holiday.

Why is overtourism bad?

I often hear "Don't places want our tourism dollars?"

Of course, but when there are too many people jammed into one area it can lead to many problems, just some of these are:

  • Local residents have to move out to make way for tourist accommodation, becoming resentful

  • Fragile environments become degraded

  • Wait times in restaurants and coffee shops can take hours

  • The rubbish left behind creates its own problems

  • Roads are jammed with tourist vehicles

  • Wildlife habitats can become destroyed

  • Loss of culture

  • Economic downfall when prices are pushed up and locals cannot afford them

  • Inability to clean and maintain historic sites

  • Strain on staff who become overworked and stressed

Why does this happen?

Many believe that home rental platforms have increased the number of tourists. When hotels and bed and breakfasts were the only options, there was control over the amount of people who stayed in a town. Now that anyone can rent out rooms in their home, a lot of locals have been forced to move out of their residences, to make way for higher paying holiday rentals. This leads to larger numbers of people visiting.

This can be a scapegoat though. Others blame large cruise ships which can often dispense around 2000 day trippers into a small area.

Yet others blame instagram or tik tok. When a blogger posts an awesome photo of a fabulous destination, it can inspire thousands of people to go there in the attempt to experience it for themselves.

How to avoid it?

Countries like Spain are often overcrowded in cities such as Barcelona and Madrid. Barcelona has a population of around 1.6 million, and is being visited by over 32 million people per year. However, this large country has many other towns and villages that can give an authentic Spanish experience without the problems of too many people.

a large church in the heart of downtown Barcelona

image from unsplash

Travel in the off season. Winter is a glorious time to visit destinations as there are less people, it is easier to get around and prices can be cheaper. The queues will be shorter, if they are there at all, and locals will genuinely be happy to meet you. I spent a month travelling around Europe in winter by train and it was one of my most treasured holidays.

Stay local. Spend money with local tourist operators, stay in local bed and breakfasts, go to local eateries and buy from small grocery stores. Your money will stay in the local community and the residents will appreciate it.

What can be done?

A lot of areas are instigating permits and controls on the amount of people allowed in areas.

On the Inca trail, only 200 trekking permits per day are allocated. This keeps numbers low whilst still allowing visitors to participate.

in the mountains of Peru is the ancient abandoned city of the Incas, Machu Pichu

image from unsplash

Some tourist areas are closing down to visitors and not allowing them entry. Some are temporary closures, until the habitat is restored, others are indefinite.

A quick google search shows that some areas that definitely do not want more tourists include:

  • Santorini, Greece

  • Lord Howe Island, Australia

  • Cinque Terra, Italy

  • Mount Everest, Nepal

Swap destinations

Instead of going to overcrowded destinations, swap your holiday to a similar, yet more uncrowded one. Suggested by

  • Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam instead of Bangkok, Thailand

  • Cuenca, Equador instead of Florence, Italy

  • Bucharest, Romania instead of Paris, France

  • The Albanian Coast instead of Dubrovnik, Croatia

  • Annecy, France instead of Venice, Italy

  • Colombo, Sri Lanka instead of Singapore

Another google search resulted in finding some amazing destinations that are definitely worth going to at nationalgeographic click here

  • Armenia

  • Nicaragua

  • Nepal

  • Iran

  • Kosovo

  • Uzbekistan

  • Albania

  • Tunisia

  • Georgia - one of my own must visit destinations!

a small town in the Kazbegi mountain region of George, large mountains loom over the town and a small river flowing freely nearby

image from unsplash

Oh dear, my own bucket list just (happily) got a lot longer.

Or visit the most remote capital city on the Planet, home to over 2 million people with sunshine, beaches, hills, history, great food, friendly people and much more - Perth Australia.

(check out my other stories and suggestions on Perth on this website)

Perth city skyline reflected in the waters of the Swan River

One of the benefits of visiting these new areas is that they haven't been swamped by visitors and your amazingly unique experience is going to be new when you share with family and friends, or facebook, instagram, twitter and tiktok.

Have you ever been in a conversation with a friend about a destination you have visited, and they interrupt to tell you their own experiences there? At some of these new places to visit, this will not happen :)

Wherever you travel to, remember - leave only footprints, take home lots of precious memories.

Happy Travels!

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1 Comment

Bryan Davis
Bryan Davis
Jan 13, 2023

Can't do with crowds....luckily I did the popular places when young. Now I look for less visited, but interesting places.

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