When Tourism is a Blessing and a Curse

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This. I spent the entirety of this article nodding vigorously.

https://www.economist.com/international/2018/10/27/the-backlash-against-overtourism

The rise of cheap travel, Instagram envy and (although the article doesn’t mention it) the emergence of the global middle class have made the world’s most popular places too popular.

I’ve had the privilege of visiting many, many places, and this article is so right on. What’s the point of visiting Trevi Fountain if there are three thousand other people there? Then again, what’s the point of going all the way to Rome and not seeing such an incredible statue?

I was there in May 2016. These are the pictures I shared with my friends:

So tranquil! So clean! Look how happy my mom is to be there!

And this is what it actually looked like:

Ugh.

The place was a zoo. Pushing, glaring, people straight moving you out of the way. But we saw it? Was my experience serene as I sat silently and contemplated the incredible, thrilling sculpture? Of course not. But I saw it?

The truth is, tour buses are awful. They bring in hordes of tourists and drop them at one spot. The most terrifying stat in the article was that the average bus day-tripper spends 3 pounds in the city they visit. Three pounds! That’s not enough to cover the parking of whatever city they’re invading. But they saw it?

These places around the world are being loved to death.

The article blames rentals like AirBnB, which can lead to overcrowding, but home rentals also ensure that people are staying in your town, eating at your restaurant, buying milk from your grocer. Those aren’t the tourists you should rail against.

We can all agree we hate bachelor parties, but Amsterdam and Prague aren’t in any position to complain. They’re the ones offering and profiting from the legal prostitution and wild-nightlife offerings. You can’t say you’ll only offer hotel rooms to people who can handle their liquor.

There’s still hope. I think that the rise of companies like Viator, AirBnB, Expedia, and Trip Advisor are making it so much easier to travel independently. With these apps, I can quickly explore—and book—where I want to stay, want I want to do, and how I want to get there. Tour buses be damned!

There isn’t an easy solution, although I think caps on cruise ship and bus sizes is a good start. Tourism taxes (often imposed via hotel, or bed tax) that go back to repairing the infrastructure they use is also a good idea. In the meantime, it’s up to you and me to be good travelers, respectful of where we go and willing to get off the beaten path. Why would you want some dumb, beaten path, anyway?

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