Back in 2011, the United Nations World Tourism Organization estimated that 1.8 billion people would travel internationally every year. Eleven years before that deadline, that figure is already at 1.4 billion.
That is a staggering number as it sits right now, equating to approximately 1 in 5 people on the planet. While tourism has done wonders for many economies, nationally and locally, it has negative effects on many levels, from the way towns and cities function through to the effects global travel patterns have on the climate crisis. This boom in tourism has led to what we now call ‘overtourism’.
The concept of overtourism has been a slow burner, but only recently has it become a topic of importance among travel advocates.
Places like Barcelona, Venice and Machu Picchu are struggling to deal with the number of tourists that pass through each year. With a current population of 636,244 people, Venice sees an estimated 20,000,000 tourists every year, and this figure is growing.
Travel and adventure are the ultimate educators, bringing cultures and countries closer together. But as travelers, it is important for us to think about how we can minimise our impact when we explore our planet.
Travel off the beaten path
The world’s most popular tourist destinations are popular for a reason. They often have remarkable sights, unique history and mesmerising landscapes that everybody wants to see. Unfortunately, these are usually the places that receive the largest impact from overtourism.
If you want to minimise your own impact, choose somewhere lesser-known to explore. Instead of going to Bali because it’s cheap and easy, consider traveling to one of the other 17,000+ islands that make up Indonesia. Not only will you help inject money straight into different communities, but chances are you’ll be one of only a handful of travelers there.
Just because somewhere doesn’t have millions of visitor numbers every year, doesn’t make it any less worth visiting. If you want to go trekking in the mountains but don’t like the idea of overcrowding on the trails of Nepal, research Kyrgyzstan here and get packing!
Get out of your comfort zone and embrace local experiences
Did you know that one-third of Aussies and Kiwis actively avoid authentic local experiences when traveling overseas? This is a staggering statistic when you consider that almost half of Kiwis and a third of Aussies think of themselves as the planet’s best travelers. The Helpful or Harmful video series with Jan Frank dove deeper into this curious phenomenon via a look at Bali, Nepal and in Australia itself.
Lots of people love the idea of travel, but don’t like to get out of their comfort zone. They’ll stay in the confines of a resort, eat food they know from back home and don’t try to learn about new cultures or experiences.
By refusing to embrace these local interactions on the road, it actually contributes to the negative effects of tourism. It essentially treats the hosts of a country as though they aren’t worthy of our time.
Be open to trying things that you can’t do back home. Visit a temple, chat to locals on public transport, sample a meal that you’ve never seen before. You’ll learn so much more about yourself if you do, while opening your heart and mind at the same time.