“More people are travelling – which is great! – but there are no hidden gems anymore.”
That’s a comment I overheard waiting in an immigration queue in Dublin last month. The travellers were talking about Dubrovnik, and how crowded all destinations seem lately. The idea struck me in a weird way. Sure, more people are travelling than ever – which is good. People are broadening their horizons. But reducing destinations to an ever-shrinking collection of “hidden gems” to be ticked off a bucket list is the kind of attitude that’s fuelling over-tourism.
Over-tourism is a worldwide issue: Peru’s Machu Picchu. Scotland’s scenic Isle of Skye. Gion, Kyoto’s geisha district. Amsterdam’s Red Light district. The canals of Venice. California’s “super-blooming” poppy fields. The Louvre, which reopened late last month after a brief closure when employees walked out because of overwhelming crowds. Thailand’s Maya Bay, now closed to tourists indefinitely.
All these places have been inundated by more tourists than they can handle, both domestic and foreign. Visitors are overcrowding, littering, acting drunk and lewd, causing environmental damage, failing to respect local culture, inappropriately touching or taking things and driving up rents.
At the same time, no one should be discouraged from travelling. So how can you be a better tourist?