You need a break from work, the weather is too cold or too hot. Maybe you want to go to the beach or take a trip elsewhere! In 2018 alone, there were over 1.4 billion trips all across the globe! Annually, world tourism generates more than $1.3 trillion USD (Forbes) and is an essential source of revenue for many communities worldwide. In addition, the tourism industry provides jobs, priceless promotion of smaller communities, while also furthering the spread of cultures and ideas. Any family vacation or “weekend trip” means so much more to those in the areas you travel to.
Unfortunately, there are many hidden costs to tourism! An overwhelming amount of tourists can put a considerable strain on infrastructure and local environments. Bumper-to-bumper traffic, litter everywhere, and a never-ending sense of hustle and bustle are just a few problems that can be caused by tourists. While maybe not apparent to tourists themselves, these “invisible burdens” can significantly affect the lives of people and animals living in the places we love to visit. In addition, tourism accounts for a large percentage of global carbon emissions. Our methods of lessening or completely eliminating these invisible burdens are vital to protecting the places we love and ensuring that they keep the same charm that makes them great places to visit in the first place. Failing to do so puts ecosystems, cultural wonders, and precious communities at risk. You can learn more about the invisible burden of tourism here.
Countries around the world are beginning to understand how the growth of tourism affects local health and well-being. Nations are combating the problem through increased monitoring of the effects of tourism on local environments and wildlife.
Overtourism is the specific term used to describe when too many tourists put a negative strain on local environments and communities. This is easily visible at places like crowded beaches or extremely famous but small cities like Venice, Italy that struggle with accommodating the hordes of tourists they get daily. Overtourism can not only lead to destruction but active conflict. Barcelona, Spain has been home to notable disputes between local officials and the hospitality service Airbnb. Dubrovnik, Croatia has recently had to put considerable effort in controlling crowds due to the city being a popular filming location of the hit TV show Game of Thrones. These cities are being forced to redirect large amounts of municipal funds towards visitors instead of things that benefit taxpaying locals such as education or safety. At a certain point, this obviously becomes extremely unfair to locals.
One controversial solution to overtourism is to diversify attractions in order to disperse crowds or even place strict limits on tourists. In Japan, tourists have even banned from visiting specific sites and people have been known to even encourage travelers to go to other places altogether. With better planning by governments and visitors, measures can be implemented to reasonably control tourists while also allowing for manageable growth. The travel industry will inevitably grow as time goes on, we just need to ensure that this growth is sustainable so those in the future can take the same trips that we’re enjoying now.
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