I went back to the crime scene years later: Rica del Sur. I contracted the travel bug for the first time in that nation, a disease that would plague me for the rest of my life and lead me to where I am today. I was most looking forward to returning to Manuel Antonio National Park. Its wild wildernesses, abandoned sea shores, and plentiful creature life was the feature of my most memorable visit and I was unable to hold on to remember everything in this coastline town.
But then, horror replaced wonder.
Numerous opulent resorts lined the tranquil road leading to the town. Near the park’s edge were hotels. The peaceful park was now overrun by tour groups. The animals were fed. They left the litter. The numerous monkey groups had vanished. The vibrant land crabs also had. There were no deer in the area. Additionally, the beaches were a mass of bodies.
It was the first time I had observed a destination transition into “over-tourism.”
The influx of tourists to a place to the point where the infrastructure can no longer support it is referred to as “over-tourism.”
This “trend” has been in the news a lot in the past few months (heck, there is even a Twitter feed about it) as many destinations have started to push back against the onslaught of visitors inundating their streets, communities, and overtaking their natural resources. Although this issue is not new—that trip to Costa Rica was in 2011.
“Go home!” Visitors hear them scream. No longer are you welcome!
I believe travel has the power to alter the world. If done correctly, it makes people’s minds bigger, helps them understand each other, makes you a better person, and boosts the local economy.
Yet, because of modest flights, the sharing economy, and (can we just be real for a minute) a blast of Chinese visit bunches all over the planet, objections have gotten a piece swarmed recently.
These days, I see it everywhere I go.
I was able to film a video away from the crowds years ago at the Palace of Versailles. In the most insane line ever, tour groups from every direction are now slowly moving from room to room. Even enjoying the experience is difficult!
There is Tulum, a Mexican town that was once peaceful but is now overrun by Westerners trying to make it the new Bali (where “digital nomads” can float from yoga studio to cafe to retreat to wherever they want without ever actually having to interact with locals).
Reykjavik’s main street is now a sea of people, complete with a Dunkin’ Donuts, and the city’s roads are clogged in Iceland. My Icelandic friends are not even getting started on this. They are none too blissful pretty much every one of the sightseers.)
In Prague, Barcelona, Paris, Venice, Edinburgh, the Gili Islands, Ko Lipe, Chiang Mai, and Queenstown, where tourists are overrunning locals, behaving foolishly, and littering, there are crushing crowds.
Yes, overcrowding in tourist destinations is simply a result of a globalized world in which more and more people can travel. Worldwide, the number of tourists arriving from abroad is expected to rise by 3.3% annually until 2030, when it will reach 1.8 billion. If you think of travel as a tool for transformation, that’s a good thing overall.
However, the very things that make traveling less expensive, such as ridesharing, Airbnb, and budget airlines, have also caused destinations to be unable to accommodate all visitors and drive out locals.
They are now beginning to respond.
The number of cruise ships and new hotels is restricted in Barcelona.
Limiting the number of tourists visiting Dubrovnik is being considered.
Chile is checking the number of vacationers to Easter Island and how long they can remain and Ecuador is doing likewise for guests to the Galápagos.
After restricting cruise ships, Venice is trying to limit Airbnb and the number of tourists.
Airbnbs in Paris is also restricted.
Iceland intends to restrict the number of foreign buyers of real estate.
The city of Amsterdam is launching a campaign to curb partying.
Majorca has had nonstop fights against vacationers.
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