What Is Overtourism and Why Is It Bad?

Tourism has almost always been considered as a beneficial activity for other communities. The profits generated from tourists coming into new location can be used for the conservation of endangered species and restoration of historical places, while it can also help local businesses thrive. However, recently overcrowding at some of the most popular destinations in the world has caused more negative impacts than ever before. “Overtourism” became a term in 2015, when professors and environmentalists started to notice some of the problems that cropped up because places were becoming more and more crowded.

Since then, it has become a movement toward how travelers can lessen their impact on the environment, local communities, and more. In the coming years, overtourism is slated to be one of the biggest challenges that the industry faces.

When the term overtourism is used?

For years, tourism was linked with financial gain for the places that travelers were visiting. While there might have been some trade-offs for how the environment was treated or the problems faced culturally, at least the local economies were growing and leading to better lives. Tourism boards jumped onto the web, social, magazines, and used other marketing strategies in order to make their location more visible.

It’s only recently that many places are starting to see some of the averse effects of having too many people in one place, and too many people who were not aware of cultural differences or how they should act in a new location. This also contributed to waste–many times in countries that were not equipped to handle the influx of plastic, sewage, and trash.

The term “overtourism” is used for these kind of situations and travelers and the travel industry have been starting to think about to approach how to visit areas with a new mindset. This relates to how tourists get around, where they stay, and which kinds of businesses they might frequent.

How do you determine if a place is experiencing overtourism?

Overtourism can be determined in a number of different ways, and most organizations look at a few factors when determining whether or not a destination needs to approached in a new way. Here are some things that are considered by local tourism boards and professionals when looking at long-term solutions.

Tourism intensity 

Tourism density can be calculated by the number of visitors who book accommodations within a certain area. This is highly connected to the experience locals have when tourists arrive. The term “alienated local residents” stands for the negative impact of tourist’s accommodation on the life of local people, and how their lives are affected by others coming in. Amsterdam, Dubrovnik, Rome, Venice, and Warsaw are examples of places where tourism has changed how locals live their daily lives.

Degraded tourist experience 

How travelers experience these places also goes into deciding whether or not a place is experiencing overtourism. Bali is an example of this, since the beaches have now been taken over by plastic and has affected whether or not tourists want to visit. This means travel experts spend a lot of time looking into the overall reaction travelers have when heading to a favorite spot.

Concentration and seasonal crowding 

This is calculated during peak tourist season. Most areas experience certain periods where more travelers come in than others, such as Venice for Carnevale or the cherry blossom season for Japan. This additional crowding can make problems with the current infrastructure worse than it might be at another time.

Damage to nature

It’s not just people that are affected by places being overrun. Crowds on beaches become a threat to the aquatic life, and litter in this area goes back into the ocean and is later eaten by fish and other sea life. Cairo, Mecca, Lima and the Amazon are some of the areas where this presents the highest risk. This damage also tends to cause problems with natural stability in a region, and can be one of the main causes of extinction of local species.

Historic monuments

Of course, a main reason why tourists head to certain locations is to visit some of the historic monuments located there–it’s often the best window into a culture and its past. Many places have been destroyed by excessive tourism, damaging the very reason people head to that spot to begin with. Some of the main cities dealing with this currently include Rome, Venice, Paris and Prague, though this is a problem almost all destinations are facing.


Causes of overtourism 

There are different causes which can be counted as the main reasons for the overtourism. Some of these might include:

  • Low-cost flights are a common way that a place might be more crowded than usual. This can also include events such as festivals, events, and other times where there is an influx of people. In general, air travel has become much cheaper than it was in the past, meaning more people can afford to leave their homes.
  • The sharing economy can affect a destination, as well. Airbnb has helped travelers in a number of ways, but it has also contributed to higher rents and problems in neighborhoods.
  • The web has changed the way we view booking hotels, flights, and more. Many choose a cheaper option in order to save money while not thinking about it can impact a destination.
  • Social media is one of the biggest causes of increasing tourism. It’s now possible to share information about a place and how to save money than ever before–and it now causing more people to head to places that they wouldn’t have known about in the past.  

What is being done about overtourism?

Now that travelers are more aware of the damage they are doing, many are wondering how destinations are working to preserve their assets. Companies and corporations are also starting to realize that it is difficult to sell tours and encourage people to visit locations when their natural resources and locals can’t support them.

Locations themselves are now setting new boundaries when it comes to overtourism. Many are choosing to tax tourists and companies more for arriving, including cruise ships are airlines. Sites like Machu Picchu are currently limiting how many people can visit a day, or they might choose to close off indefinitely for restoring the area like Maya Bay in Thailand.

How can I avoid contributing to overtourism?

While corporations and destinations themselves need to set examples for travelers, there are still things we can do in order to help preserve these as areas to visit for the future. Here are some actions you can take in order to mitigate the effects of overtourism:

  • Choose to go to popular locations during shoulder seasons or times that aren’t busy.
  • Recycle if possible, and be careful where you throw away trash.
  • Choose locations that are less popular than some of the more-visited areas.
  • Choose tours and airlines that are dealing with overtourism as an issue.

There might never be a perfect solution when it comes to overtourism, but there are some things we can do in order to make the act of travel a positive experience for everyone.

How do you approach dealing with overtourism?

Keep wandering,

Alex Signature Wander

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7 thoughts on “What Is Overtourism and Why Is It Bad?

    1. Alex Schnee says:

      It’s true. I always say, if you can’t imagine not seeing a certain destination, then you should go. If you can, then skip it. Thanks for stopping by!


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