Summer dreaming: how to avoid contributing to over-tourism in 2024

With a record-breaking year expected for bookings, the holiday industry has fully bounced back post-pandemic. But for many destinations this is a double-edged sword, with environmental pressures rising in tandem with the crowds. Guillaume Picard, Travel Expert and Co-Founder of TourScanner, imparts advice on being part of the solution. 

The World Tourism Organisation recently revealed 2024 is set to be a record year for global travel. But with even more people looking to explore the world, overtourism looks set to become much greater threat to the environment than ever before. 

The term itself refers to popular destinations being visited by an excessive number of tourists. The impact of which  not only negatively impacts the experience for travellers, but has a detrimental affect on the local population, wildlife, and ecosystems.

This has become an increasing issue over recent years, with staple destinations like Venice now visited by over 20 million people each year. Putting that into context, the lagoon city has a population of a little over 638,000.

To combat challenges, the city council has announced its intentions to ban tourist groups of more than 25 people, and last year it confirmed that a daily tourist fee of €5 will be introduced to compensate the city for its high tourist footfall.

Other destinations implementing similar fees include Spanish coastal gem Valencia, Portuguese fishing town Olhão, and Thailand. These join the likes of Austria, Belgium, Croatia, and several Caribbean islands, which already have tourist fees in place. 

Overtourism can cause a host of problems that impact locals and culture. For example, the drive of tourists in Amsterdam has caused a housing shortage and a hike in rent prices as properties are increasingly rented out to travelers. 

Similarly, idyllic Bali has experienced challenges with anti-social behaviour on the part of its visitors. And Thailand has taken steps to reduce the impact of tourism on wildlife and the environment, inflicted by large crowds.

So, what can travellers do to avoid contributing this emerging crisis? Here are some key points to consider while figuring out where to set your sights this year. 

Opt for destination dupes

With over 1.1 million views on TikTok, destination dupes are a growing trend that sees tourists finding less popular and more affordable alternatives to classic holiday spots. Looking for alternative destinations can not only make a trip much more enjoyable, but also helps you swerve oversubscribed locations.

For example, consider trade Barcelona for Salamanca, Rome for Perugia, and Paris for Toulouse. You can even avoid crowded attractions. Try visiting Montparnasse Tower instead of the Eiffel Tower, or swap the Sagrada Familia for Palau de la Música Catalana.

Visit in the off-season

If a destination really is a must-see, try avoiding peak tourist season and visit during quieter periods instead.

The summer months and major celebrations like Christmas, Easter, Ramadan, and Eid can mean huge crowds, so opt for the early months of Autumn and spring, when crowds are fewer, and, in many places, the weather slightly cooler. Avoiding peak season can distribute traffic more evenly, reducing overtourism.

Attend guided tours and experiences

Every country and city has different cultures and social norms, and it is important to respect and abide by them.

The easiest way to learn about a culture and respect local customs and laws is to attend a guided tour led by a knowledgeable local who can give you a more authentic and personalised experience.

This way you also get an insight into the culture and history of the place. A deeper understanding and appreciation of a destination can help to reduce rowdy behaviour and encourage tourists to be more respectful.

Stick to the ‘leave no trace’ principle

When visiting a new city or country, travellers should always stick to the ‘leave no trace’ principle to reduce their impact on the area.

In the simplest terms, leave all sites as you found them by removing any rubbish and waste, and disposing of it responsibly. Stick to designated trails and paths to avoid disturbing or inflicting damage on wildlife. And refrain from touching or vandalising important sites to preserve their integrity.

More on sustainable travel:

Images: Toulouse, France (top), Olhão, Portugal (bottom) via Wikipedia


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