How Not to Be an Overtourist
Overtourism is a complicated problem, but even small steps can make a big difference. In this post, we ask our Emerging Destinations judges for their thoughts on how travelers can avoid being an overtourist in 2020 and beyond.
Travel can be a wonderful thing.
It can connect people from different countries, cultures, and backgrounds. It can open our eyes to new experiences and ways of thinking about the world. And, when done right, it can help inject money into local communities that desperately need it.
But travel can also easily become be destructive.
It can degrade the environment, make communities unaffordable for long-time residents, and destroy the very fabric of what made a place worth visiting in the first place.
2019 saw a seemingly-endless stream of new stories about some tourists behaving badly - disrespecting Bali's religious sites, pouring booze into the Trevi fountain in Rome, and even holding a worker hostage in Venice.
Can we all please aim to do better in 2020?
To help you, we asked our judges for the Emerging Destinations Awards - some of the best-traveled people on the planet - to share their thoughts on how travelers can resolve to help fix overtourism in 2020 and beyond.
Read their suggestions below, consider your own travel choices, and resolve to make 2020 the year you become part of the solution instead of part of the problem:
BE CONSCIENTIOUS IN YOUR CHOICES
Overtourism is becoming a bigger and bigger problem in more places where the sheer number of visitors is damaging the local destination and reducing quality of life for local people. A few of the ways that travelers can address it in 2020 is by visiting less popular or known destinations, traveling in the shoulder or off-season to distribute the flow of visitors better throughout the year, taking tours or having experiences with community organizations or social enterprises investing back into the community. More thoughts here.
Audrey Scott // Uncornered Market
DON'T BE A COPYCAT
I feel like much of overtourism stems from travelers wanting to duplicate what they've already seen, whether it's taking the same iconic photo in Norway or having the same iconic vacation in Paris. I would love to see more travelers agreeing to avoid the most overtouristed places in the world this year -- Dubrovnik, Amsterdam, Bali, and Florence are a few of the big ones -- and instead think a bit differently. Lecce, Italy, is lovely and gets far fewer tourists than Rome. Girona is just an hour from Barcelona and shares so much of what makes Barcelona great. Another option is using a more popular destination as a base to visit other nearby destinations that get less attention.
KATE MCCULLEY // Adventurous Kate
CONNECT WITH LOCALS
Travelers need to be aware that local communities are feeling the crunch of overtourism. Seek out new destinations and new experiences; don't just follow the trends of social media. Connect with locals and hear their stories as much as you can. Don't just witness a destination, experience it!
Matt Kepnes // Nomadic Matt
"SPREAD THE WEALTH"
Over tourism is the natural result of a strong global economy, mass media coverage, and opportunistic business persons. For better or worse, it's here. But it's important that we advocate for alternative destinations. With a growing global population and expanding middle class we have to "spread the wealth". Giving lesser known destinations and opportunity to thrive as well as thinning the crowds at popular sites. In essence preserving them for as long as possible.
Erick Prince // Minority Nomad
CONSIDER YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS
If you're visiting a place that is quite popular consider visiting during off-season when there are fewer crowds, and no matter where you visit, always choose experiences and accommodations that put money back into the local economy. Moreover, if you post about your trips on social media, really consider the message you're sending and what you are promoting. Here is an example: I visited Hawaii a few years back as part of an individual press trip, and the tourism board mentioned they were having issues with overtourism at one beach in particular. Not only did I not post about the beach, I didn't visit it as I didn't want to add more stress to the site.
Jessie Festa // Jessie On A Journey
GET OFF THE TOURIST TRAIL (EVEN JUST A LITTLE)
When considering a destination that already has a lot of tourism, look to destinations within that country (or even areas of a city) that aren't on the tourist radar. You'll often be able to have a great experience without the crowds and experience something totally different. Or, even look to neighboring countries who may be lesser known but are equally worth visiting.
Amanda Mouttaki // Maroc Mama
SUPPORT LGBT-FRIENDLY BUSINESSES
We always support local gay friendly businesses, encouraging our readers to seek them out. In a lot of countries across the Carribean, homosexuality is either illegal or can get you into a lot of trouble. In such places, a gay friendly business is already struggling so should definitely have our support! These are also places that are unlikely to have fallen victim to over tourism.
STEFAN ARESTIS and SÉBASTIEN CHANEAC // Nomadic Boys
HOLD COMPANIES ACCOUNTABLE
We need to vote with our dollars as tourists and hold companies accountable. It shouldn't be tourists who the finger needs to be pointed at, it should be the huge multi billion and million dollar industries and companies who need to make more of an effort in reducing their impact on the environment and locals in destinations from cruise companies to airlines.
Megan Indoe // Bobo and Chichi
SKIP CAPITAL CITIES
If you're thinking of visiting a capital city, swap it for the 2nd or 3rd city. Replace London with trips to Manchester, Birmingham or Bristol. You'll be rewarded with more authentic (and cheaper) experiences!
Chloe Gunning // Wanderlust Chloe
VISIT TO HAVE AN IMPACT
By visiting lesser known places and helping local communities as much as possible, travellers can help nurture healthier, more sustainable tourism growth. Instead of rushing to get the same Instagram photo as everyone else, how about visiting to have an impact on places that need it. You can’t always help the world by travelling, but you can try to do it once in a while.
Nick Wharton // Goats on the Road
SKIP WELL-KNOWN LOCATIONS
I would recommend travelers to consider alternatives, i.e. rather than visiting the most well-known cities or beach locations in Thailand, try and find a secluded spot, with less visitors - spread the benefit of tourism across countries or regions.
Daniel Herszberg // @dhersz
TRAVEL IN THE OFF SEASON
Over-tourism has become a serious problem, and it's important for responsible travellers to try and lower their impact while travelling in 2020. Some of the ways you can do this is by visiting lesser-known destinations, travelling in the off-season and spending your time and money on community-based tourism initiatives and local businesses. See more thoughts here.
Jarryd Salem // Nomadasauras
STOP BEING A LEMMING
Overtourism is mainly the result of a lack of imagination. While there are a few spots like Machu Picchu that are facing overcrowding issues, an hour away you can be the only foreigner on the mountain or in the village. You can visit the equally large ruins of Kuelap in the far north and you'll be lucky to run into a dozen other tourists most days. If travelers stop being lemmings that are all trying to tick off the same things on a list, the problem goes away effortlessly. For every destination suffering from overtourism, there are 1,000 that could use more visitors.
Timothy Scott // Luxury Latin America
SEND BLOGGERS TO LESSER KNOWN PLACES
I think it’s more of a case of getting tourism boards to send blogger/influencers to lesser known places in order to spread the traffic of the influx of travelers.
Alyssa Ramos // My Life's A Travel Movie
USE LOCAL OPERATORS
You're already on the right track by reading this article and considering lesser-known destinations to visit. Know that the dollars you spend as a tourist matter: During your travels, try to stay in locally-run hotels, eat at family-run restaurants, and book tours with operators that give back to their communities.
Katie & BEN // Two Wandering Soles
SKIP THOSE TOP 10 LISTS
Choose your destinations wisely. Figure out why you want to travel in the first place and then look for second and third tier destinations that offer what you're seeking. There is no shortage of destinations in the world that don't end up on Top 10 lists but that still offer interesting history, great food, excellent photo ops, unique museums, festivals and markets, adventure activities and more.
Derek Baron // Wandering Earl
DON'T TRAVEL FOR THE 'GRAM
Really think about why it is that you want to visit a destination. If it's to learn about the people and its culture then it's always a good idea...if it's to get "that insta-shot" maybe rethink your life choices!!!
Tommo & Megsy // Food Fun Travel
VISIT EMERGING DESTINATIONS
Over tourism affects the environment, real estate prices, salaries, local business, infrastructure and many more things that can be hidden from a tourists’ eyes. I have lived in Barcelona and Rome, spoke to some locals from Iceland, and I know that unfortunately over tourism is a real issue of today’s world. It could actually be a lot of fun to go to an emerging destination, be mesmerized by what it has to offer and, of course, take a couple of epic pictures none of your friends have, why not give it a try?
Yulia Safutdinova // Miss Tourist
TRAVEL LONGER & OFF-PEAK
Eager to learn more about how to avoid being an overtourist?
Visit our Overtourism Solutions Center or read our other articles on the topic: