venice-tourist-canals

Campaigns are underway to grant “overtourism” a place in the dictionary as destinations struggle to deal with inundations of tourists.  In Amsterdam, political parties have recently called to curb the “Disneyfication” of the Dutch capital by banning beer bikes (about time); Botswana has introduced steep tourists taxes in effort to support conservation and keep the number of safari-goers to a manageable minimum; and the World Tourism Organisation launched its “Travel.Enjoy.Respect” campaign aimed at promoting responsible and sustainable tourism earlier this year. Now, destinations including Venice and the Isle of Skye have clamped down and introduced new ways to tackle growing tourists pressures.

Thailand

Plenty of people can attribute South Asian pilgrimages to a shirtless Di Caprio’s discovering of Thailand’s Maya Bay in the film “The Beach”. There’s no loss of irony that fictional character Sally (who wished to conceal this paradise from bulldozing backpackers) was somewhat right. Boat anchors have been damaging Maya Bay’s coral for years and tourists often leave rubbish, despite multiple signs and threats of repercussions. Thai authorities have since been forced to close the island to allow it a brief respite, although environmentalists warn that a June to September break is not long enough. This isn’t the first time the authorities have clamped down on deteriorating islands; three years ago they closed Koh Yoong island for similar reasons and since 2016 Similan Islands National Park has been off-limit to both visitors and divers.

Venice

The first victim of overtourism was undoubtedly Venice, with visitor numbers soaring to the same figures that some countries achieved annually – more tourists visited Venice on Easter Sunday than visited Bangladesh all year. The weight this put on residents led to marching on the streets and forced the lagoon city’s mayor to make tackling overtourism a priority. Lesser-explored parts of the city are now being heavily promoted, no new hotel licences are being granted and there is a complete ban of new fast-food outlets (with the exception of artisanal gelato). After resident population plummeted, a “local’s first” policy was introduced granting residents priority over tourists (including separate queues).

Colombia

For years, Colombia struggled with turbulent stereotypes and longed for people to see beyond the unrest. Then, a peace deal was signed and Colombia’s most dangerous (and most beautiful) destinations were finally open for exploration. One of these was Caño Cristales, a river that ripples pink, lime green and yellow thanks to aquatic plants and tricks of the light. Locals call it the “liquid rainbow” and have introduced a rule book to protect the delicate ecosystem: no plastic bottles, sunscreen or insect repellent in the water, swimming is limited, cigarettes are banned and woe betide anyone who feeds the fish.

Croatia

UNESCO threatened to take away Dubrovnik’s World Heritage status as a result of the influx of tourists besieging the medieval city due to its Game of Thrones filming credentials – it’s the location for the fictional Westeros capital of King’s Landing in the HBO hit TV show. Hollywood seems to be quite smitten with the Adriatic city; its stone walls will star in the next James Bond. The result? Starry-eyed tourists regularly flooding the city, eager to take part in novel tours. With the city’s stone walls threatening to crumble under the pressure, the Croatian city’s mayor has drastically reduced the number of cruise ships allowed to visit. The decision will cost the city over a million Euros, but will ensure that the quality of life in the city remains intact. Following suit, neighbouring Hvar (often dubbed the “new Ibiza“) has implemented strict tourist fines. Misbehaving tourists can be fined as much as £534 for walking around the historic town centre in a swimsuit and boozy brits face up to £623 fines for public drinking.

Isle of Skye

Last year, the largest Scottish isle cracked under the pressure of too many tourists as roads were blocked, traffic piled up and lanes were obstructed with camper-van travellers looking for a place to pitch up. Its idyllic fairy pools, Elgol’s iconic sunset and the rocky hills of Old Man of Storr are being blamed for the sudden surge in guests. Fed up of mounds of litter and disrespectful public behaviour, residents escalated their complaints to the local police, who then began turning people away if they didn’t have a place to stay. Ditch the car, travel on foot and take advantage of the gruelling hiking trails. Not only will you be part of the solution, but you can greedily drink in the highland views without navigating a sea of selfie sticks first.

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