Saturday, February 24, 2024
Home Destinations Overtourism and the new rules of travel being introduced to control tourists

Overtourism and the new rules of travel being introduced to control tourists

by Staff

Though some destinations are open about their desire to curb visitor behaviour, others are a little more low-key. Still, any place that is experiencing overtourism will be seeking to strike a balance between allowing visitors access, and keeping the effects of that visitation to a minimum.

Below are some of those fragile though ever-popular destinations, with our guide (and theirs) to how best to conduct yourself to ensure minimum impact and maximum enjoyment for all. Think of it as a Palau Pledge – only, for every destination.

Kyoto, Japan

Refrain from bothering Maiko (also Geisha) while in Kyoto.Credit: iStock

The problem Kyoto is a classic case of overtourism, a historic and beautiful city that is also quite small with a population of about 1.5 million. Yet it attracts more than 70 million visitors a year. This has led to significant problems for locals, who are unable to move about their city, to shop, dine and indulge in their cultural heritage in the same way they used to.

They say The Kyoto City Tourism Association has released a “Kyoto Tourism Code of Conduct”, a series of recommendations for visitors to lessen their impact. These recommendations include advice on cultural education and respect, encouraging visitors to interact with locals and participate in festivals and events, and even asking that they don’t leave leftover food when dining at restaurants (which is seen as very wasteful in Japanese culture).

Loading

We say One of the ways visitors can ease the burden is to seek attractive alternative destinations, such as Kanazawa and Sakata. If you are going to visit Kyoto, refrain from photographing and hassling geiko and maiko (popularly called geisha) on the streets, and try to travel by subway instead of using the over-crowded bus system.

Essentials Visit Kyoto from January to March to avoid the bulk of the crowds (though bring warm, waterproof clothes). See kyoto.travel

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam has released rules for visitors to curb bad behaviour.

Amsterdam has released rules for visitors to curb bad behaviour.Credit: iStock

The problem Here is another classic case of an intensely popular destination that is also locked into a small area with little room for overflow. Amsterdam is home to a little under a million people, yet welcomes more than 21 million visitors a year, many of whom are drawn by the liberal, party-going reputation this city has. That means a lot of drunk, rowdy tourists in a small space.

They say Amsterdam’s tourism bureau has released a list of rules and regulations for visitors, introducing on-the-spot fines of €150 ($250) for acts of public nuisance such as littering, noise pollution and public urination, while drunkenness and the use of marijuana in the old city centre now carry a €100 fine.

We say Acting appropriately in Amsterdam isn’t difficult – if what you’re doing would be illegal or upsetting at home, there’s a good chance it will be in the Netherlands, too. Authorities want visitors to go out and have fun but to do it in a way that doesn’t negatively affect residents.

Essentials Avoid the crowds – including most of the British stag-do groups – by visiting Amsterdam in March and April, when the weather is still chilly, though the skies clear. Alternatively, try the likes of Utrecht or Rotterdam. See iamsterdam.com

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu has exploded in popularity in recent times.

Machu Picchu has exploded in popularity in recent times.Credit: iStock

The problem Not so long ago, Machu Picchu was a niche destination, considered too far off the beaten track for many travellers. Since the turn of the century, however, the Incan citadel’s popularity has exploded, with more than a million visitors tramping across this UNESCO heritage-listed site every year. These tourists have been causing permanent damage to the ruins and the surrounding landscape.

They say Peruvian authorities are clearly torn. On one hand, several sections of Machu Picchu have been closed indefinitely to tourists; those visitors must now follow marked trails, and the number of daily entrants to the site has been capped at 3800. On the other hand, that daily cap will rise next year to 4500, and a controversial new airport is under construction nearby at Chinchero.

We say To help protect Machu Picchu, it’s essential visitors follow all rules and stick to pathways on their visit. It’s also best to go in the low season, around April and May, to help spread out crowds and support local businesses. Even better, give Machu Picchu a miss in favour of less-visited historic sites such as Choquequirao, Vilcabamba and Kuelap.

Essentials June to August are the peak months for visits to Machu Picchu, but April and May are cooler and quieter, and September and October are also pleasant. See peru.travel

Southern Thailand

Koh Ha right of the shore of Ko Lanta in the Andaman Sea, South Thailand.

Koh Ha right of the shore of Ko Lanta in the Andaman Sea, South Thailand.Credit: iStock

The problem The beaches and islands of southern Thailand are phenomenally popular. Though this boom was in part sparked by the movie The Beach, the truth is that the likes of Phuket – according to some measures, the most overcrowded tourist destination in the world – Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui, Pattaya and Krabi were always going to attract large crowds, and those crowds would always damage the local environment.

They say In 2018, Thai authorities took a drastic step: Maya Bay, the perfect patch of sea and sand that featured in The Beach, was closed to tourists entirely for three-and-a-half years to allow for its marine ecology to recover. The bay was closed again in 2023 for two months for similar reasons. Tourist boats can no longer land at the bay and swimming is prohibited.

We say It’s essential for visitors to any popular area in southern Thailand to respect local rules and regulations. This is a country that relies heavily on the revenue generated by tourism, so don’t stop visiting – instead, seek to reduce your impact on sensitive areas, and look to alternative islands such as Koh Lanta or Koh Yao Noi.

Essentials The weather is best in southern Thailand from November to June, though if you can put up with the odd splash of rain, the off-season in the south is still pleasant. See tourismthailand.org

Prague, Czechia

Tourists pack the Old Town Square in Prague.

Tourists pack the Old Town Square in Prague.Credit: iStock

The problem Prague has been booming as a tourist destination ever since the fall of the Iron Curtain, and that popularity has led to huge changes in the historic centre of the city, where the resident population has been halved, driven out by higher prices, short-term apartment rentals, and tourist hordes. Boozy stag party groups are an ongoing issue.

They say Prague authorities had the chance for a reset during the pandemic and introduced “Putting Prague First”, a plan to sustainably manage the tourism industry as it recovers. This means adding facilities for residents in the historic centre, more closely regulating short-term apartment rentals and appealing to visitors to travel in a way that is slower and more respectful of locals.

We say There are two key issues that visitors to Prague can help alleviate: the proliferation of short-term rentals, which visitors can manage by staying with traditional accommodation providers such as hotels, or staying outside the historic centre; and the behaviour of drunk, obnoxious tourists, which you can sort out by, you know, not being a drunk, obnoxious tourist.

Essentials High season in Prague is summer, though spring and autumn are far more comfortable, and winter – with warm clothes – is charming, and will help you avoid the crowds. See prague.eu

Bhutan

Tiger’s Nest monastery, Bhutan. A daily traveller fee proved too successful.

Tiger’s Nest monastery, Bhutan. A daily traveller fee proved too successful.Credit: iStock

The problem Bhutan as a country has always been wary of tourists – the Himalayan nation was closed entirely to the world until 1974. Since then, entrant numbers have been carefully managed. The Bhutanese view their environment and their culture as extremely fragile, and so steps are still taken to curb the already low numbers of foreign visitors entering.

Loading

They say In June, 2022, the Bhutanese government introduced a drastic measure to deter all but the wealthiest visitors: it raised its “Sustainable Development Fee” – essentially a daily tax for foreign travellers – from about $100 a day to about $300 a day, on top of a $60 visa fee. That measure was a little too successful, however, with only 14,000 visitors subject to the tax arriving in the first six months of 2023. In September last year, the government slashed that fee to about $150 a day, effective until 2027.

We say Bhutan is an incredibly beautiful, culturally rich nation that will reward those who make the effort – and pay the money – to experience it. But visitors must ensure they’re environmentally and culturally aware, behave respectfully and keep their impact as low as possible. Don’t litter, don’t steal, be polite, be unobtrusive, support local businesses and guides.

Essentials You don’t need to worry about overcrowding in Bhutan, so you can visit in the high seasons, from March to May, and September to November. Bring a reusable water bottle and pack for rapid changes in weather. See bhutan.travel

Venice, Italy

Swamped … a cruise ship in Venice.

Swamped … a cruise ship in Venice.Credit: iStock

The problem The two factors that lead to overtourism – big crowds, small spaces – clearly apply to Venice, the floating city that has been incredibly popular among visitors for decades. Venice’s resident population has shrunk from a high of 175,000 to 50,000, while up to 120,000 daily visitors put a huge strain on its infrastructure and environment.

Loading

They say Venetian authorities have introduced measures to curb overtourism, including banning cruise ships over 25,000 tonnes from docking in the city, and beginning later this year, the city will experiment with ticketed, timed entry (checked by QR code), plus a €5 tax on visitors who aren’t staying overnight.

We say Part of the problem in Venice is that there are too many short-term visitors, many alighting from cruise ships, who don’t stay the night, and barely spend any money, but just take up space. Visitors can help alleviate this by spending more time and money, steering clear of popular spots such as Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge, while also investigating alternative destinations such as Burano, Caorle and Udine.

Essentials Visit Venice in winter, when crowds and prices are at their lowest, though be aware some attractions close earlier, and you will need to dress for the weather. See veneziaunica.it

Bali, Indonesia

Crowded Seminyak beach, Bali.

Crowded Seminyak beach, Bali.Credit: iStock

The problem In Bali it’s not so much the number of visitors, though, of course, that exacerbates the problem. The main, well-documented issue here is the behaviour of those tourists. News has travelled around the world recently of visitors to Bali exposing themselves at sacred sites, including temples, driving recklessly, drinking to excess, becoming violent, and working without permits.

Loading

They say Last June, Balinese authorities released a list of “do’s and don’ts” for visitors. These urge visitors to dress appropriately, respect the customs and beliefs of locals, behave properly at religious sites, refrain from climbing sacred trees, and don’t litter, behave aggressively, or take inappropriate photographs.

We say Without putting too fine a point on it, the code of behaviour required for Bali is simple: don’t be an idiot. Don’t act in ways you know would be unacceptable at home, and are certainly unacceptable in a foreign, more conservative country. Take the time to learn about local culture and sensitivities and act in ways that are respectful of that.

Essentials Though Bali is at its best from June to September, a visit during the rainy season, from January to March, will help avoid the crowds and lessen your impact. Bring mozzie repellent, and don’t plan to do too much scooter riding. See indonesia.travel

Five more destinations with rules for visitors

Berlin, Germany
Issues for the German capital, which has seen a boom in visitor numbers, include short-term rentals driving out inner-city residents and local services being replaced by tourist-focused infrastructure. In response, the city has restricted short-term rentals and has also released “Sustainable Berlin” guidelines for visitors, encouraging them to stay in eco-hotels, plus shop, eat and move around the city in a sustainable way. See visitberlin.de

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Stone face Asura on causeway near South Gate of Angkor Thom in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Stone face Asura on causeway near South Gate of Angkor Thom in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Credit: iStock

The trick when visiting this tourism-dependent city and country is to do so ethically and sustainably, given previous issues with water insecurity, damage to Angkor Wat and surrounding temples, and the popularity of elephant rides and orphanage visits. Visitors are encouraged to seek out ethical organisations such as Fair Trade Village, Kulen Elephant Forest and Jaya House River Park for accommodation and to obey all rules when visiting historic sites. See tourismcambodia.org

Rome, Italy
Italian authorities have introduced a range of country-wide rules and fines (from $16,500 to $99,000) for anyone caught vandalising a monument or cultural site. Tourists can also be fined for sitting on Rome’s Spanish Steps, swimming in the Trevi Fountain, eating or drinking at famous sites around the country, organising a pub crawl in Rome, or even taking a photo of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. See italia.it

The vault and dome over the Sistine chapel of the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica.

The vault and dome over the Sistine chapel of the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica.Credit: iStock

Loading

Yellowstone National Park, US
Yellowstone has a problem: it’s really, really popular with vehicle accidents up 90 per cent, ambulance use up 60 per cent, and search and rescue efforts up 130 per cent. Staffing numbers, meanwhile, have dropped. As work on ways to deal with the influx of tourists continues, visitors can help by sticking to marked trails, disposing of all rubbish correctly, and visiting outside the busy summer period. See nps.gov

Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is a relatively small city with a huge number of visitors, many of whom are there to well and truly have a good time. In response, government authorities have introduced strict new licensing laws for properties placed on the short-term rental market, banned smoking on beaches, restricted tour group sizes and limited night-time noise levels in popular tourist districts. See barcelonaturisme.com

Leave a Comment

Copyright ©️ All rights reserved. | Tourism Trends