Social media has transformed our entire world—including the travel industry. Sharing of pictures and memories has allowed people to learn about so many new places, but there are downsides to all of those same people wanting to travel to the same place. Overtourism has been a problem in the past and it continues to grow as social media does. Before you book your vacation around places to snap pictures for the ‘Gram, think about these common, negative impacts:
The wildlife has delicate ecosystems that should be observed from a distance, but that’s not always the case. One of the best examples of environmental damage caused by overtourism is Iceland, where in 2018 there were over 2.5 million visitors and an estimated 359,000 residents. The otherwise breathtaking country has had to close a number of famous attractions for different periods of time because of overtourism. One of the most notable being Fjadrárgljúfur Canyon, where Justin Beiber shot his “I’ll Show You” music video. The increase of foot traffic after the video was released caused intensive damage to the vegetation and pathways, and closed the area from March through June 1, 2019. Similarly, Machu Picchu has experienced far more tourists in recent years and conservatives have taken extreme measures to secure space between visitors and the Inca civilization remains with barriers and requiring professional tour guides.
Less populated cities aren’t built to handle these influxes of visitors. This includes roadways, parking, accommodations, restaurants, and more. Just recently, Sacramento’s own McLaughlin’s Daffodil Hill, which is well known for its yellow and white flowers, has been indefinitely closed due to overtourism. The family that manages the property determined with the help of the city that the area was not equipped to handle the crowds. Their parking areas and local roads were not designed to handle the volume, which led to a number of liability and safety concerns for both residents and vacationers. Other flower fields have suffered from similar problems including Antelope Valley’s “super bloom” where some visitors even illegally landed a helicopter on one of the fields to avoid traffic and take photos.
Like with many things on social media, the photos you see on your phone don’t always equate to the same experience you receive in real life. Many cities known as overcrowded tourist destinations have been impacted by the demand of tourist-friendly, watered-down attractions and amenities. Cities like Santorini have dealt with mass crowds like cruise ships drop-offs. In 2015, there were nearly 800,000 tourists brought in by ship, which led to an 8,000 visitor cap being set by local government to avoid more permanent destruction. The views of the beautiful blue and white cliff-side buildings are difficult to see over the other tourists trying to snap a picture, and the markets are now tourist-focused with less authentic dining and shopping options. Though the photos will look lovely, there’s something to be said about the magic that’s lost in these cities when they are catered to travelers over locals.
It’s enticing to visit these places that so many others have, but being a responsible traveler is important! Protecting natural landscapes and the authenticity of these overcrowded cities is essential for future generations to also experience them. Fortunately, there are hundreds—if not thousands—of other Instagram-worthy destinations around the world with accommodations and amenities to match. All you have to do is a little research to find them!