Overtourism: When Traveling Becomes Too Mainstream

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Picture this: You have booked a flight to Paris, packed up, cleaned your Virginia Beach apartment, hired a service provider to perform that much-needed termite treatment, and finally boarded the plane. Seeing the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo at the Louvre Museum has always been your dream. Now, you’re a few hours closer to that dream…

…Only to find that the Louvre Museum is closed for repair – not just for the day but for an undisclosed period until the damage caused by overtourism has been fixed.

The Issue of Overtourism

Overtourism is a phenomenon in many well-known destinations around the world. It occurs when a place becomes overcrowded with tourists. Sometimes, this overcrowding results in conflicts with the locals or damage to tourist spots. The exotic beaches of the Philippines, the poppy blooms of California, the natural beauty of the Sierra Nevadas, and historical religious sites in the Middle East are all at risk of damage due to overtourism.

Business and macroeconomic trends that lead to increased crowding in popular tourist destinations cause over-tourism. Though not all tourists are a pain, over-tourism has degraded famous spots, brought dangerous conditions to the place, and raised prices to higher than local levels.

Residents faced displacement issues and other problems. A city like Venice, for instance, has a declining population, despite the millions of tourists it welcomes each year. This is because residents are leaving to get away from the problems over-tourism created. For a small city, it has enormous traffic and accessibility problems. Overcrowding also affected the city’s amenities and infrastructure.

What Causes It?

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For one, international tourism has increased significantly. From 70 million in 1960, global tourist arrivals have skyrocketed to 1.4 billion in 2019. Also, traveling is no longer limited to the wealthy. The expanding middle class now has the means to travel overseas, thanks to these developments:

  • Budget airlines made airline tickets more affordable.
  • Vacation cruises are popular.
  • Airbnb services offer affordable rooms or home rentals.
  • Social media makes it possible to find accommodation, dining, transportation, and entertainment options and provides a venue for reviews, such as TripAdvisor and Yelp.

Is It That Bad?

Not all of it is bad. Some over-tourism claims can be exaggerated or overblown. Cases persist, such as racism and classism, even today.

To combat over-tourism issues, governments implement various measures. Some countries like Amsterdam, Ireland, and Rome proposed tourist taxes to reduce visitor traffic and provide revenue to the country. These revenues are used for infrastructure and property repair by locals and tourists.

At the End of the Day

Mass tourism is very real and very big today. As much as it deteriorates tourist destinations, it also benefits governments, businesses, and services in those places. The tourism industry creates employment opportunities, small businesses, backyard industries, and more. It also allows for economic and educational growth not found in tourists’ country of origin. It enables more connections between people, helping them understand cultures and broadening their horizons. It all boils down to whether the tourist destination can handle the influx of visitors without compromising the rights, freedoms, and resources of the residents.

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