Wednesday 18 July 2018

Are there too many tourists? Five ways to beat a less trodden path in 2018

Overtourism and sustainable travel

HAIKOU, CHINA: Aerial view of a crowded at beach in Haikou, Hainan Province of China during the Dragon Boat Festival. Photo: Getty
HAIKOU, CHINA: Aerial view of a crowded at beach in Haikou, Hainan Province of China during the Dragon Boat Festival. Photo: Getty

Justin Francis, Responsible Travel

Last summer, 'over-tourism' became the big story in travel, when, in popular destinations around the world, local residents took to the streets to protest against being deluged by tourists.

They concluded that the benefits of tourism simply weren't worth the hassle. Tourists too, 100-deep trying to see the Mona Lisa from 30m away, or unable to get into St. Mark's Square in Venice, complained they came to see the sights - not just other tourists.

Parts of the UK have experienced the same problems, with complaints from Bath residents that tourism has ruined the city and councillors proposing to introduce a tourist tax to fund public services in times of austerity.

More than 10 countries in Europe now charge a tourist tax.

So what is a traveller to do? In essence, there are a couple of options. The first is to find unfamiliar ways to see familiar places; the second is to seek out unfamiliar places. Here are some suggestions on how to do this:

1. Local guides know how to avoid the crowds

They know when the daily cruise ship excursions start and finish. They know the lulls during the day, the different viewpoints, and the inside track on how to experience things in different ways.

From these guides, you'll also learn local people's perspectives and relationship to their heritage, not just what everybody else is reading in their guidebook. Plus, you'll be helping her or him earn a living.

2. If you can, travel outside of peak season

This is not always possible, especially for families, but over-tourism is partly caused by everyone wanting to go to the same places at the same time.

In southern Europe , the winter and autumn light can be magical and more bearable than the summer heat as global warming takes hold.

3. Travelling with respect earns you respect

Travelling responsibly also means that a little more of your money reaches local hands. Think local in all that you do and avoid big international chain hotels when you can.

It makes sense that residents and workers who are treated well and who see the benefits of tourism directly, might offer you new and different ways to experience their culture and heritage to that offered to the hordes.

4. It's convenient for the tourism industry to focus its marketing and operations on a few 'big name' places

No doubt many of these places are remarkable and unique, but as any traveller will know, sometimes there are other, more off-the-beaten-track places that are just as good or better. They will also be less crowded and much more in need of visitors. You'll often get a warmer welcome there than in places fed up with tourists.

5. Local protesters have a point

Imagine your home town being overrun by tourists and how you would feel. Support those affected by feeding back ideas, or over-tourism complaints, to your holiday company, or make a point of travelling with a company that feels the same way about travel as you do.

- Justin Francis is CEO and co-founder of Responsible Travel.

Read more:

Tired of tourists: Six places that are struggling with overcrowding

Press Association

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