Wednesday 20 March 2019

How not to be an overtourist

It's something I wrestle with constantly: how is my work as a travel writer affecting the way others travel? Am I encouraging travel that has a positive impact? Will my stories about untouched destinations inspire those who follow to respect them - or not?

Lately these issues seem to be gaining urgency as "overtourism" becomes the buzzword of our time. I'm not going to pretend I know what to do about it, how to reduce our impacts as travellers, but sometimes I get a chance to explore this side of travel - as I did in my recent cover story for Traveller, The Sydney Morning Herald's travel section.

It's about what the travel industry is doing to reduce the pressure on certain destinations around the world and what we, as travellers, can do too. It's as much about how we travel as where, says one industry insider.

But where is important, so after talking to various travel experts I came up with a list of 10 destinations that actually want tourists, where the place and its people can benefit from tourism and where they welcome visitors with open arms. Here's an excerpt and a link to the story:

You're welcome: 10 unsung destinations where we're wanted 
We’ve all been there. And wished we hadn’t been. Standing elbow to elbow with our fellow travellers, breathing in “eau de tourist”, seething at selfie-sticks protruding from the sea of heads like periscopes and wishing, for the love of god, that everyone else had just stayed home and left Angkor Wat, the Eiffel Tower or Macchu Picchu in peace.

Overtourism is the buzzword of our time, thanks in large part to travel being more affordable and the world being more accessible than ever. And it shows no sign of abating.

Last year international tourist arrivals worldwide reached 1.4 billion, two years ahead of schedule according to the UN World Tourism Organisation. France, the world’s most popular country, is expecting a record 100 million visitors a year by 2020; 30 million people will step aboard cruise ships this year; and destinations from Rome to Reykjavik are straining under the weight of too many tourists.

Overtourism is an existential issue for the tourism industry,” says Darrell Wade, co-founder of Intrepid Travel. “If travellers and the travel industry don’t get our response right, we’ll kill the very thing that makes us all love travel.”

And it’s not just about us. By putting what’s been called an “invisible burden” on the places we visit, overtourism is the antithesis of responsible tourism, which aims to make destinations better to live in as well as to visit. Read on


Because travel stories like these involve more than just me, the writer, I'd like to thank those who helped me better understand this issue, including: Intrepid Travel, World Expeditions, Bunnik Tours, Trafalgar and The Travel Corporation, Matt Edwards from Expedition Engineering, Andrew Bain, Rasa Ahly and Silke Kerwick.

How about you: Are there places you'll never go again? Others that you'll keep secret so they're not spoiled? Do you have strategies to avoid other tourists or do you just accept that the world is different now and we've all got to get along? I'd love to know, if you feel like commenting.