Tourism is something that seems like it has always been a key part of life. We live in a world where we work thinking of the weekend ahead and even more so that one sweet holiday each year. This wasn’t always the case as traveling, particularly flying, used to be far more expensive. The advent of budget airlines has caused prices to plummet and flying is now often as cheap as a quick car journey. People are not even taking one holiday a year anymore they are going to European cities for the weekend to party, flying to stadiums for sports events or concerts, and visiting beaches numerous times a year. Tourism has become a frequent part of life.
This sounds great. People have more money and are spending it in exciting ways. Locals in tourist areas are getting more visitors and economies there are thriving too. However, there is a very real downside. Over tourism. Over tourism is the idea that every place has a limit to how many visitors it can take and when it exceeds this number there are huge costs for the environment, the economy, and the local community.
Consider a city like Barcelona. This is a large city that for years never even thought it had a limit. It created attraction after attraction and now it is one of the most interesting places to visit in Europe. However, the city is struggling to cope with the number of visitors. The environmental impact is huge. Many people only visit cities like Barcelona for a short trip, they leave their environmental impact but don’t spend a lot. Backpackers and cruise ships are seen as the worst type of visitor to attract as they don’t spend much but leave an impact. The only visitor that is believed to be worse is the stag party.
Many cities in Europe have become hugely attractive as wild stag party locations. Large groups descend there and get in a lot of trouble. They damage public infrastructure, get into fights, and generally cause havoc. Many cities are now saying they don’t want to host stag parties anymore.
In smaller locations like islands and beach resorts, the impact is significant too. While these places survive thanks to tourism, too much can have a strong negative effect. Locals struggle to survive in the small town that they were raised in because house prices are increasing. If you are involved in a trade that is not impacted by tourism you will soon not be able to afford your house and likely not be able to afford a meal on the main street. It is as if two economies are forming and they are colliding.
What is the solution? While we love to advise you to stop getting cheap flights that are unlikely to happen. Instead, we advise traveling in smaller groups as your environmental impact will be lower. Pay attention to local customs and culture and be as respectful as possible. It may be your weekend getaway but it is the local community’s life – treat them with respect. Finally, try and take the road less traveled. There are many other amazing small towns and villages that would love a little bit of interest from tourists and could provide an incredibly unique trip. Instead of going somewhere, everyone is going, go somewhere no one has been.
The phrase over-tourism now exists in our vocabulary even though it never did before. It is time to create a new phrase called conscious-tourism to become more prevalent so that we can combat these issues and make sustainability a key item on our holiday agenda.