- How it all began
- Defining the problem
- Outcome of mass tourism
- Why we travel
- Current System Solutions
- Core Solution
Many people love to travel, whether for a holiday vacation, a backpacking adventure, a self organized weekend trip or through an all inclusive package. But in recent years, such practices appeared to have created a lot of problems for some places. This is due to how our society is structured relying entirely on jobs. Jobs are something people may not enjoy very much, especially when they have to work pretty much all of their life, so when people get a break (holiday) they want to make the most of it. Another important fact about holidays is that they are pretty much at the same period of time for most workers. Combine those two factors with the fact that in our trade-based society, everyone is pretty much a trader and wants to make a business, and what you will get is on one hand, people who flock in masses to travel, and on the other hand, many other people trying to find customers within this flock. Traveling is influenced by these factors (the structure of our society) as well as by the purchasing power of these “clients”, the culture they are brought into that shapes their likes and dislikes, and the availability of places and offers they can get a hold of. Popular destinations may have benefited economically from this wave of tourism, but today we are starting to see the unpleasant outcome of such enormous mass migrations.
For most of us, our decision about where to travel will be determined by our purchasing power (the amount of money we can spend), and/or the availability of free time; therefore, in most cases, the question is not where we want to go, but where we can afford to go.
Let’s look at some of the problems mass tourism creates, like: air pollution from airplanes, animal abuse for entertainment purposes, huge amount of waste produced by people, coral reef extinction, destruction of beaches and natural sights, the damaging of architecture, noise and light pollution, damage of vegetation, destruction of natural habitats from building massive infrastructures with many hotels, shops & restaurants, etc.; increased price of living for local communities, and much more.
Because of such a massive flow of people, the rent of property in popular destinations is increased and local people are forced to move out of their cities because they can’t afford to pay rent anymore. Also, many local shops are replaced with souvenir shops or similar tourist-targeted shops and restaurants. Since these shops provide little to no benefit (other than selling expensive ornaments), and their focus is “seasonal” rather than “year-round”, this makes the lives of local residents very complicated and expensive. Tourism might bring new jobs to the region, but most of these jobs are low skilled positions and based only around the tourism sector. Also, most of these jobs are scarce and temporary. Since most tourism-based jobs are only in high demand during the holiday period, and many shops and restaurants are closed during low-season, local residents tend to struggle to find work year round.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
In the early days, traveling was a privilege for only a few very rich people. Later on, a new wave of pilgrimaging made people travel to new places to seek “health and spiritual improvements” and that was available for lower classes too, not only for the rich. However, the usual travel distance was short in the early days, because there were no good roads or means of transportation readily available. Traveling started to rapidly increase when the industrial revolution began, with the invention of trains and later, of cruise ships. Traveling wasn’t only for leisure but for studying as well, with students taking trains to university campuses in various city centers. (source)
And then came the “mass tourism” wave (people traveling in large groups or through pre-scheduled tours). Travel agencies started to boom, offering short 1-2 day trips that include transportation, food, accommodation, and excursions, all for a price that could be lower than the standard price of traveling to such places. Tourism agencies have managed to bundle all of these different services at such a low cost by buying tickets in large quantities, booking many rooms at once, and so forth; and that has allowed them to make very attractive offers.
With the development of new modes of transportation, like personal automobiles, buses and airplanes, traveling became even more popular, allowing people to go to many different destinations. People started to travel much longer distances and much more frequently. Over the last few decades, tourism started booming. Low cost international airlines that offer cheap flights for short holidays became very common.
Here is a very interesting statistic of the number of airplane arrivals. We can see that almost each country in the world has rapidly increased the amount of tourists since 1995.
Around 3.7 billion people are transported by airplane each year, that’s about 10 million people a day, with 633.000 airplane passengers in the air at any given time. We know that about 3.5 million tourists travel each day. 55% of them travel by air, so that means that 1.9 million tourists travel by airplane every single day. That’s like the whole population of Latvia traveling around the world by plane EVERY SINGLE DAY!
Also, low-price overnight stays in hostels, along with services like CouchSurfing and Airbnb (that offer a new kind of low price or hosting service) have stimulated more affordable travel, thus increasing OverTourism even more.
Defining the Problem
The problem is not in traveling, but in mass tourism, when a large group of people constantly go to one place for a short period of time and all at the same time of the year! Mass tourism is the most popular form of tourism and one of the cheapest, because it’s sold as a package deal as I mentioned before.
Not only does such an approach devastate the environment while creating many problems, but it is often not the best experience for the tourists themselves, because they constantly see masses of people around them everywhere they go (so it is very crowded), and they may not have the time and “luxury” to properly enjoy the place they visit, or experience the local culture, because everyone around them is also a tourist.
Let’s look at some aspects of mass tourism:
- Package Deals
- One day trips / Short trips
- Cruise ships
- Low Cost Airlines
- Specific Destinations
Package Deals - because of the cheap prices and straight forward services provided by the tourism companies, you just have to pay your money and they will take care of everything else. This makes your “life easier”, of course, for their own benefit. Travel agencies always have these “special prices” and “hot deal” offers that are hard to refuse for people who work most of the year and want to relax for a few days away from work, with their travel needs being taken care of by tourism companies.
One day/short trips - Brief vacations of 1-2 days (or several) are usually part of “package deals” or are similar to that. The trip is organized in a way that the tourists don’t have to do much: a bus, boat, or train will pick them up at a certain location and drop them off at their destination; there, the activities are scheduled and prepared for them and the tourists only have to follow the tour guide or go to the places that were rented/scheduled for them; come here, do this and that, and go back. That’s pretty much it. A quick fire of events that the tourists only have to “take in” as these events are prepared in advance by the tourism company. You don’t really explore those places, nor do you support local cultures, and you provide no benefit to the city/place you visit. And when it comes to your experience, such short trips are so quick that you can’t get much out of them except for maybe a few photos.
Density - Due to the rush of visiting specific destinations at specific times and for a brief period of time, many tourists will pack into such places all at the same time. This creates a huge density of people in one single place. You won’t be able to change the route, the hour or the day of your visit to these places since everything is organized and paid for in advance. Also, if you are traveling on your own, and want to go for a tour (pay for it yourself), then almost all of the tourism companies will give you the same tour in the same locations, because that’s how everything is organized.
As an example, the massive concentrations of tourists in Barcelona is spread in only 3 districts (out of 10), where 8 out of 10 people are tourists. And 70% of hotels are concentrated only in 2 districts.
Cruise Ships - You can travel all around the world on a huge boat with thousands of other people, and with just a 4 (or so) hour “break” to different locations for shopping purposes. The largest cruise ships can accommodate almost 9.000 people. Cruise ships are one of the main contributors to the mass tourism problem. Not only do they create serious water pollution and a huge amount of waste, but they are also emitting harmful gases that contribute to climate change and/or may be detrimental to human health. (source)
Low Cost Airlines - You can find tickets as cheap as €5 for 1.500 km trips (source). Of course, these companies are tricky and will charge you a lot of money for luggage, they have hidden fees and taxes, and so forth, but they are still providing affordable tickets that people can take advantage of! This encourages even more mass tourism when you organize your own trip. Airplanes are also large contributors to climate change, have a look at the impact of aviation on air pollution.
Specific Destinations- Why do most of us want to go to the same places? I mean if you book a “package deal” you won’t have much of a choice; in the best case scenario, you’ll be able to choose between a few top spots (tourist destinations). People’s desires are shaped by mass media adverts, marketing, and “cultural brainwashing”, making the masses want to travel to just a few specific and popular places. Meanwhile, tourism companies leech on that notion by mainly offering packages for those popular destinations. In Europe, there is a popular saying: “Christmas in Prague”, because many people choose Prague for the Christmas holidays. Do you know the famous picture holding the “Tower of Pisa”? That’s in Europe too, and that also brings people to the same location. “One more photo please!”
Another example showcasing how media brings people to the same location for holidays, are movies: “The Beach”, which was shot in Thailand, “Lord Of the Rings”, shot in New Zealand, or “Game of Thrones”, shot in Dubrovnik. This creates the urge in masses of people to visit those very specific places and for companies to “satisfy” their clients’ desires. The outcome of this results in a devastating effect on the environment, as I will exemplify.
The environment and culture determine our choices and values, and the trade system that we live in narrows our already limited choices. For many people, there are not many options left except for the “package deal”, as they do not have much money to spend, they are forced to work most of the year, or perhaps they do not have enough time, resources or knowledge to arrange a travel plan on their own. It seems like the “package deal” or “cruise ship” is a great offer for these people, since everything is included, more or less affordable, and they will see all of the sights they “must” see! EASY.
And even if you travel on your own, you will most likely find yourself in the same “touristy” spots, and will likely get pushed towards the same sights and attractions as the people who had arranged those “package deals”. Again, it is the culture and the environment you are exposed to that drives you to these destinations.
Outcome of mass tourism:
Venice, Italy - A town with 55.000 people which is visited by 60.000 tourists every day. That’s between 22 to 30 million tourists a year!
In Venice, there are too many people in one place, and most of them only come there for few hours or just for one day. Huge cruise ships arrive every day, staying only for several hours, bringing massive amounts of people into the city. The ships are way too big for Venice’s ports. They create a quick rise in water levels, which rapidly destroys the foundation of buildings. For more information watch this video.
Local people are starting to become more and more aggressive towards this situation, protesting against tourists, blocking ships, and protesting on the streets. Another problem is the fact that lot of citizens are forced to move out of the city because of increasing rent. (video)
With a population of 1.6 million people, Barcelona “hosts” 19 million tourists every year, with an additional 12 million tourists that only visit the city for one day. That’s 31 million visitors a year! 19 times more than the local population. (video, source) The rent prices in Barcelona have increased dramatically because of tourism, forcing locals to move out of the city (similar to Venice). Here too, locals are frequently protesting the situation they have to face: it is hard to move around the city due to overcrowding, there is a lot of noise inside the city, excessive pollution, and the architecture is being damaged due to the massive flow of tourists in and out of the city.
A huge problem in Thailand is the damage done to the islands, beaches, and coral reefs. What once were quiet islands, are now not only overcrowded with tourists but also completely overbuilt with hotels. Many tourists come to Thailand by boat, anchoring anywhere they please, scuba diving in masses, and contributing to excessive waste and pollution. This, in combination with the sewage from hotels leaking straight into the ocean, is resulting in coral reef destruction. (video) Needless to say, there are many tourists that come to Thailand for one day, as they do for all the other locations, and here too they produce a lot of garbage, waste, and pollution of all sorts.
Thailand is now closing several such islands and beaches due to the problems brought by OverTourism. There is an interesting story with the Maya Bay Island: this island became popular after the movie “The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio. The irony is that in the movie (see trailer), the island is presented as a “paradise beach on a hidden island that no one can get to”, but if you look at the island today, you will see that it has been greatly damaged due to over-tourism (source). So much so that they have to close tourism access indefinitely to try to fix some of the damage that has been done to it. And just to point out how crazy our society is, they normally close down such beaches only for the “off season” period, when there are not many tourists around. During this time they try to restore these islands just to open them up again for few months of devastation during the “peak season”. A number of other islands had to be shut down in other parts of the world due to the same problem with tourism (see Philippines as an example). And here are 7 examples of tourists damaging the places they visited. Here you can read about another 30 places that suffer from mass tourism.
At the moment, the most visited countries in the world are : France, USA, Spain, China, Italy, UK, Germany, Mexico, Thailand.
The most overcrowded cities because of tourism are: Venice, Barcelona, Paris, Dubrovnik, London, New York City, Prague, Amsterdam.
And the top visited islands are: Bermuda, Hawaii, Mallorca, Easter Islands, and many islands in Thailand.
WHY DO WE TRAVEL ?
Some of the reasons for traveling are: curiosity, relaxation, exploring new and unknown places and cultures, escaping from routine, trying something new, getting more likes and attention on social networks, and because people are influenced by tourism marketing. Of course, there is work related travel as well, and a lot of other reasons to travel, like culinary, learning, extreme sports, architecture travel and so on. Some may like to travel to meet new people, to live crazy adventures, or even just to eat different foods.
Today, some people travel to take advantage of other countries. People from rich countries can travel to economically poor ones, where they can buy and use services that are much cheaper than in their own countries. Leisure, sex, medicaments, alcohol and so on. Or, for example, people may travel to places where they can use certain drugs or substances that are illegal in their home country; or get surgery or medical treatments that (again) are not allowed or available in their own countries. There might be a lot of scenarios, but the root cause of traveling is the same: take advantage of another country, of something that is not available, possible or perhaps too expensive in your country.
Some people travel just to impress others. To take a picture or a video of themselves in some cool looking places; to get more attention, “shares” and “likes”, pretending to have a super interesting and exciting life. This is something that’s greatly influenced by our competitive and materialistic society. But if you had a truly exciting life, why would you waste so much of your time trying to prove this to others? Nevertheless, traveling can have a very positive impact on people. When we travel, or after we travel, we may become more happy, more satisfied with our lives, more relaxed, even if that only lasts for a short period of time. Traveling can lead to new discoveries about the world and ourselves, to seeing the world from a new perspective, and if we spent some time in nature, our wellbeing could benefit quite a lot.
Let’s take football as an example: Football World Cups and similar tournaments push people to travel, bringing massive amounts of people into one single place. But why do we care so much about football? First of all, sport is good for personal health and muscle stimulation. In other words, it’s more beneficial for our health to play a football game than to watch one. But what’s happening now in the world of sport is insane. As many as 100.000 people come to see how 22 humans run after a ball on a grass field. You have to remember that these 100.000 people cheer for rival teams and this often leads to violent conflicts. The EURO 2016 Football Cup showcased this in true color. In football, there are many different leagues and divisions, but they are all basically about the same thing (watching 22 people running after a ball), in the same way and with basically the same speed and “quality”, but almost no one cares to watch the “inferior” teams. Some of the teams play worse, some play better, but there are many of them who can play as good as the main league teams. So why is it that these teams do not attract as many supporters? Compare these two videos, video1 , video2 can you see the difference in terms of the game? One is watched by around 70.000 spectators and other by maybe about 300. But why this difference?
This “weird” thing happens with every kind of sport, where small teams and inferior leagues get only a handful of supporters, while big teams in premier leagues gather tens of thousands at once.
I was once visiting a small city and unknowingly parked my car near a local hockey hall where there was a game going on (it was a regional hockey team tournament). So I went there to have a look since the entrance was free, and I noticed around 20 spectators watching the game. I watched it and had a better experience watching that game than I did when I accidentally (again) went to a “popular” hockey game in a huge arena with 14.500 seats. I was curious to see the difference between the match of the inferior league vs the popular one. At the popular game, there was a lot of noise in the arena, people were very aggressive and they were taking the game perhaps too seriously; plus, I was sitting so far away from the game that eventually I ended up watching the game on a TV screen. I left after about 20 minutes.
The inferior league game was a better experience: it was very silent so you could hear how the players scratch the ice; you were standing so close that you could feel their energy, and I didn’t care about who won or lost since I was there to enjoy the moment, to experience it.
Similar situations happen in music concerts or any other type of entertainment. In big concerts where popular artists play, the experience is similar to that of a sports game in a big arena. Many people pay a lot of money to sit in crowded spaces, very far away from the stage, often enjoying the concert through the massive TV screens that are there to help make sense of the huge distance between the stage and most of the spectators. These “huge” TV screens look quite tiny from such a big distance. If you want to sit closer to the stage you would have to pay a lot more money and come there hours in advance. At the same time, there are thousands of other quality music bands out there for every possible genre of music, who constantly perform for empty crowds. Compare these two videos: video1 , video2 - is there any big difference between the quality of the show or the artists? The smaller concert had around 30 spectators and the big one over 20.000. Both bands are playing very similar music with the same level of professionalism.
In fact, one of the coolest gigs I’ve ever been to, was held in a small club with just a handful of people present, like this example where only 8 people showed up to see this amazing band.
These examples are to showcase that this is very similar to what happens in terms of traveling: there are so many similar places in this world and some get overcrowded while others are barely visited.
Have a look at these examples.
- Two islands in Thailand: the overcrowded Ko Lipe (pic), and the much larger and empty island only 35 km away, Ko Tarutao (pic).
- The super popular Giza pyramids (pic) in Egypt and pretty unknown Nubian Pyramids (pic) in Sudan. In fact, there are over 350 pyramids in Sudan.
- Very touristy Amsterdam (pic), and not so popular among tourists, just 50 km away, Utrecht (pic).
- The Statue of Liberty in New York (pic), The Statue of Liberty in Paris (pic). Actually, there are hundreds of them all around the world!
- Jurmala (pic) is a popular and very overcrowded beach in Latvia in the summer period, and Ragaciems (pic) is a beach that is just several km down the road and is always empty.
Of course, some artefacts, natural and artificial phenomenon, nature and other distinctive places are quite unique to specific locations (unless they’re replicated). But think for moment, is it really true that most of the tourists really interested in architecture, cathedrals and museums? Or are those just the only options we are exposed to, when visiting a new city?
My goal was to showcase that most of the popular destinations today can be easily replaced by similar places that are virtually unknown and un-visited. In reality, we can promote any place in the world to the degree that it will be destroyed by overtourism.
If we want to get to know French culture then we don’t necessarily need to fly to Paris, visit the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre museum. We can experience French culture and the French environment in thousands of other places all around France. There are countless landmarks, local activities, hidden sites and other hidden “treasures”. The scene, mentality, and culture will be more or less the same (aside from some local differences) in such “hidden spots”, and you will be able to see “real” France, rather than the touristy spots which all have the same global-brand shops, cafes, restaurants and goods.
I wonder why somebody who has no interest in architecture wants to see the Eiffel tower in the first place? Even if you are interested in architecture, did you know that there are 50 Eiffel towers around the world? You can visit another one without experiencing overcrowding and long queues.
So you see, the problem is not a shortage of good locations, the problem is that in our trade-based society, marketing creates “popular destinations”, and pushes masses to visit those specific places. This is done specifically to make profit and, as mentioned before, results in very negative impacts on many of these locations.
Culture, and people’s wants and needs, are created and swayed by their environment. Today’s global environment is influenced (and for the most part controlled) by just a few big companies whose aim is to make profit. These big companies (media/transportation/entertainment/food & beverage/etc.) play a huge role in shaping culture. Since these companies’ main aim is simply to make profit, they try their hardest to shape mass culture into one that will allow them to make more profit; in other words, to create consumer-culture. If idealizing celebrities, athletes, or particular destinations helps to strengthen consumer-culture, this is what will be pushed.
Since you can’t make a huge profit from promoting “football” itself, our trade-based society pushes celebrity-culture to make profit off of particular games or people. This is done by selling branded merchandise, getting masses of people into stadiums, advertising brands through celebrity names, and so on. As a result, our trade-based society drives a culture in which a few people (and places) are idealized (often for nothing important) and the values of masses are twisted. What becomes important is the storyteller and not the story, the artist and not the art, the athlete and not the sport itself. All for profit.
And it’s like the masses don’t even realize that they are being manipulated…
This reflects what happens in the economic world where 1% of humans have the same wealth as the remaining 99%. By some calculations, several global corporations in any field have more than 80% of the market and the remaining 99% of companies have 20% of the market. All profit-based system are the same in any field, travel, leisure, sport, business, healthcare, etc. In this system only a few will benefit.
Speaking about visiting locations, our choices are based on promotions and adverts from mass media, direct advertising, movies, radio talks, lists of “must visit locations”, websites and social networks, and all the other marketing strategies that make us want to visit the same places. If you use an online search engine to search for a place to visit in a specific country you will find thousands of webpages, videos and blogs all suggesting to visit the same places within that country. In fact it’s really hard to find something different as an alternative today, unless you spend a lot of time searching for alternatives.
The problem with tourism from the perspective of locals and workers in the industry. by Tio
My family has worked in the tourism industry for the past 11 years. My father does odd jobs for holiday rentals (repairs a leaking sink, a door that doesn’t open, a toilet that is clogged, or helps the guests if their electricity goes out). My mother and my sister either clean up these holiday homes after the tourists leave or may book people to stay in these places. They all work for one single company here in the town we live in. My father has also spent several years working for another company in the same industry, so I can tell you a few things about “tourism” from 11 years of personal experience.
1. Corruption and breaking the law is everywhere. My family has always had to sign all kinds of illegal contracts for the benefit of the company they worked for. For example, currently my parents and sister work on a contract of only 40 hours a month but in reality, they often work over 200 hours a month. They get paid 11 Euros an hour for several months then 8 Euros an hour for other months. They are paid for the “real” workable hours, not the contracted ones though. It is a mess of a contract but it is designed with the help of the lawyer of the company they work for, to benefit the company and avoid taxes. In the summertime, when these companies make the greatest profit, they often hire 10-20 extra people, without a contract. They work on weekends most of the time and are not allowed to enter the company’s office for fear of being caught by authorities for illegal hiring. I have to mention that the owners of this company are not some “shady” business people. They are “normal” people, friendly at times, but who play the Game of Trade very well and maximize their profits at the expense of others.
2. Overworking and abusing employees. My father used to work almost 12 hours a day in the heating sun, and got paid less than the minimum that’s allowed in Spain. He was exhausted and in the first few years he lost almost half his weight, which is hard to imagine but he looked almost like he had cancer and that’s not an exaggeration. He was often called to work at 23:00 or late in the night after he finished working, because there was stuff to be “fixed” and they relied on him for that. At the current company my family works for, things are better, but they still have some of the shittiest contracts and are also overworked frequently. It is not rare to see them work 10-12 hours a day, which is illegal in Spain. On top of that, my family had to use our own car to transport people and stuff for this company when they were at work. They did that for many years and they are not the only ones doing it. They were not paid for that, of course. In the end, our car was so broken that we had to literally throw it away. 1.300 Euros completely lost.
3. Tourism is temporary. In the summer (for about 3-4 months) our city is full of people and cars. So full that you cannot park anywhere, or at times walk anywhere as cars are even parked on the sidewalks. But the rest of the year it is so empty that you barely see people in this town. I would say that around 95% of apartments and houses are empty for the rest of the year. (video) The waste is enormous. Because for only 4 months every year there is over-tourism here, my family only works for about 6 -7 months a year, then they have no jobs and have to survive with whatever money they save during this period of time. They are from Romania, working in Spain, but they are pretty much forced to go to Romania every year for the winter period because it would be very hard to live here in Spain without a job (pay bills and rent). So they migrate every year from Spain to Romania and the other way around. This is a general issue that affects all the people here, since almost no shop is open in this town when the summer ends, so most people working here are forced to find new jobs all the time. Most of them work here only for the summer period. So this city, because it relies entirely on tourism, is like a slow breathing monster. It inhales in the summer period for about 3-4 months, then exhales for 8 months when everything is dead over here. At this rate the beast exhales twice as much as it inhales so it may die eventually :D.
4. Tourists do not care. They simply don’t. Because they only come here to consume, that makes them not care about the damage they do. They leave the places they stay in in a complete disaster. Because, for sure, they know that some “poor bastards” will come to clean after they leave. They leave behind food (some is half eaten, some is not even opened), inflatables, clothes, toys, and a ton of dirt. The couches and beds are full of dog hair, dishes are left crusty, the smell can be awful, and at times, the furniture is broken. Towels and bed sheets look as if they were used to wipe the floor. It makes you wonder how these people can be comfortable living this way, even for a few days. Are their homes this dirty? When they leave they usually don’t bother turning off the lights or the air conditioning, because they are not the ones paying the electricity bill, so why would they care? The natural places over here get polluted with garbage and at night (03:00 to 06:00), you can hear the drunk zombies making noise, singing, and kicking garbage bins while migrating from one club to another. Noise pollution and property damage are notions they do not understand. What was once a very quiet town, becomes a huge mess in the summertime.
This is also a “town of dogs” since pretty much everyone who comes here has a dog or five. Combine that with the fact that it is hard to “care” when you come here to relax after slaving a job for the past year, and you’ll see the streets, beaches and green spaces sprinkled with dog poop. Illuminating polls pee themselves from the waist down, or maybe it is the dogs that pee on them? Never figured that out :D. Despite the fact that there are special places for dogs in our town (like places where they can pee or poop, even parts of beaches reserved for them), tourists rarely (very rarely) respect that. At times it gets so bad that the people who clean the city just take the poop from the green areas and throw it on the sidewalk to protest. Just look at the photos. It is disgusting.
Therefore, OverTourism is destroying a lot in our town. Jobs are scarce and temporary, beautiful places are trashed, and there is a huge amount of waste (food, products, etc); there is noise pollution and other kinds of pollution, and when the craziness is over, we are left with 8 months of unused stuff: thousands of apartments and houses, hundreds of boats, tons of other stuff that just sit there quietly waiting for the next summer.
CURRENT SYSTEM SOLUTIONS
Solution nr.1 - Restrictions
Many of the hot spots (places tourists visit most often and in large numbers) and victims of mass tourism (like locals) try to fix this situation by enforcing restrictions: time tickets for certain spots, attempts to reduce cruise ships arrivals, limiting one day tour operators, forbidding foreigners to buy properties on the coastline, limiting the amount of bars and restaurants, installing more public toilets and garbage bins, video streaming queues (you can see the amount of people in a certain place in real time), banning new accomodation in historical places, adding more taxes for tourists, and creating different kinds of licenses for tourism-based businesses, restricting services like AirBnB and so on. (source)
As you see, such minor changes and restrictions are not able to change the situation much because this entire industry is a huge money making business. Even the advice to visit some alternative places won’t work in the long run, since eventually these alternative places become overcrowded too, so the problem just drifts into another place.
That’s when tourists and tourism businesses are advised to take more sustainable actions to benefit both the visitors, locals, nature & environment, governments and businesses.
Companies are suggested to invest more money into local areas and the community. To hire local people and give them training, and also to buy products locally. Preserve resources, manage waste, recycle, use clean energy, use less water, protect nature and so on.
As a sustainable tourist, you have to firstly travel less, try to avoid airplanes, avoid excessive waste, don’t use plastic bottles, conserve water, use less energy, respect local nature and people, don’t support animal/nature abusive attractions, take public transport, support local charity and so on. (source)
Restriction & Sustainability.
You see, all of these measures are great, and it's definitely better to follow such suggestions than not. But it won’t change much, because the very root of the problem is TRADE. Some city authorities try to apply restrictions and patch up the problem, but no major prevention act has been set in place. If they were to prevent mass tourism, they would lose money, and at the current state of our trade-based society, money’s more important for them than side effects like destroyed nature, pollution and the forced migration of local people.
Here is an additional list of different types of tourism: drug tourism, religious tourism, war tourism, sex tourism, fertility tourism and even suicide tourism. Yes, you can actually travel to Switzerland and be assisted in suicide. (source)
In Bali, local funerals have become tourist entertainment with companies arranging tours as soon as they hear that someone is dying.
Slum tourism turns poverty into entertainment. Tourists get to experience poverty to (perhaps) feel better about their personal (above poverty) situation. Something that can be experienced and then escaped. Christmas and Valentine's Day are quite popular times for slum tourism, when Westerners visit slums just to "feel better about themselves".
You see, as long as there is an opportunity to make a profit, people will go for it, no matter what. It’s our environment, inequality, and lack of resources that forces people to act in such a way. If we did not live in a world of artificial scarcity and if everyone had access to at least their basic needs, people would not need to seek profit at any given opportunity.
That leads us to 3 main questions we need to address.
How do we travel?
When do we travel?
Where do we travel?
How do we travel: In a trade free world, and in a saner society, we would manage this problem differently. Using clean energy for transportation and eliminating pollution would be our top priority. In fact, we already have many different alternatives. Efficient and clean transportation is already available today. But because we live in a trade-based society, our priorities revolve around making a profit for ourselves (our business), and this keeps us in the “fuel burning age” for as long as those sources of unclean energy will continue to provide a profit. Those in power don’t want to lose their shares in the oil industry and they will try to maintain their current status and differential advantage no matter what.
We have a book called: “How To Fix Transportation” which explains this problem with transportation in great detail. It also showcases many different clean and efficient transportation technologies that are available right now, like high-speed Maglev Trains, Hyperloops, Electric flying vehicles, Self Driving cars and buses, and so on.
We have everything to fix this problem today in terms of technology and knowledge.
When do we travel : We’ve found out that the main problem is when a large number of people travel to the same place, at the same time, often using large transport vehicles like airplanes or cruise ships. But we choose to do this only because our choices are limited by our purchasing power and influenced by advertising and marketing. We go for such options because they’re simply the only option most people can afford. Now imagine if our choices weren’t limited to the amount of money we could spend. If all of the transportation ran on renewable resources with clean energy, we could go anywhere we wanted without polluting the environment. If our basic needs were met, then we wouldn’t need to work so much, unless we wanted to. In many countries today, people work at least 11 months each year, leaving them with only 1 month for vacation (free time). On top of that, most people are obliged to take their vacation at the same period of time (given by the company they work for), usually when it’s warm in the summer and around Christmas. At the same time, prices for traveling and accommodation during popular periods go up. If we would work only say 6 months a year, then we would have another 6 months of free time to choose when we would like to travel. And if we weren’t forced to have a job at all, in order to meet our needs and wants, that would allow us to manage our free time much better, so we would be able to truly enjoy traveling without being pressured by a time-frame.
Imagine the possibilities that could exist in a trade-free world, where everything is centered around the needs of the people and the environment, rather than around profit. We could have software that analyzes all the transportation for a destination we have chosen to visit, and proposes the best time for us to travel to fit our needs, and to avoid crowds and ergonomically spread the load of travelers. Software can also be used to manage vacation time efficiently, so that we don’t end up with overcrowded places. It is very easy to create such algorithms, we just need access to the data from all transportation systems.
In other words, if there were no trade and time limitations, then our choices of how and when to travel would be completely different.
Where do we travel : If we lived in a saner society, we wouldn’t need to promote any place or location or follow suggestions and take advice from famous or authoritative persons, companies and so on. Instead, we could have a database with descriptions and information of all possible places to visit; such a database would include pictures, videos and other relevant information, similar to Wikipedia. The same software that can recommend us the best time of year to visit a place, can also recommend us what to visit for our own benefit and to avoid inconveniences and waste or destruction of the environment. It will work based on our choices, interests, and requirements. If you are interested in architecture, you could specify which historical period or style of buildings you want to see, the system (software) will list all possible options, and show you a visiting route; then you can narrow down your options with more specific details. The same goes for any other option: if you just want to spend some time near the seaside, you would be able to choose any place, with all the details and requirements you need, what area and air temperature you may prefer, sand or rocks, ocean or sea, what facilities you need and so on.
It is not complicated to create such a software, we just need a large amount of data of all possible destinations, and it can be a free open source platform where users can leave feedback about their trips, post videos or comments, photos or tags. We are already doing it today through many websites like tripadvisor, google maps and so many others, but they are all focused on making profits rather than on creating “meaningful trips”. The best example of an informative website that is full of such descriptions of places from all around the world, and is open source and voluntary based, is, of course, Wikipedia.
The choices we would be able to make in such a sane society would be more unique and based on people's preferences rather than on purchasing power or the influence of marketing. In the end, you or anyone else would benefit more from such trips. And if we had access to clean transportation, enough free time, and no economical boundaries when/where we choose to travel, together with smart apps/software that can help us along, we would never see such a “phenomenon” as “mass tourism”.
TRAVELING AS A LIFESTYLE
To give you a sense of what "travel" may mean in such a saner future, meet Sasha, a very interesting human being who has traveled around the world for the past 10+ years in a way that creates meaning to the journey and to the self, and minimal waste to the environment. Sasha works for a few months every couple of years or so, saves money, and travels around the world on her savings. She’s not tied to any particular “home base” or job, because work can be found almost anywhere in the world. She manages to travel on very little savings because she lives a minimalist lifestyle. A backpack, a tent, a few basic things, and she is ready to explore the planet. She doesn't look for touristy places, but for the adventure itself: to see beautiful natural places, to meet locals, and to learn from a new culture and perspective. In contrast to mass tourism, this type of traveling can be done without excessively destroying our environment, especially when it is geared towards learning, developing oneself, and valuing local communities and the nature. According to Sasha, real traveling is a lifestyle, and should not be confused with vacation, which is a break from your lifestyle.
This is what traveling could be about for most people in a saner world, where people are not forced to trade. People would travel to explore the world and feed their curiosity, rather than to “escape” and alleviate the stress of everyday life.
The traveling lifestyle is not a solution for mass tourism, as it does not get rid of the need for trade in our current system; plus, if millions of people took on this lifestyle today, we would see a whole new rise of problems (due to lack of infrastructure, collapse of career-dependent businesses, etc.). Nevertheless, for the few who may want to try this lifestyle, there are a number of personal benefits, such as: having to work less and thus having free time to explore the world, learning to identify with our entire planet and all of the people on it, rather than with our jobs and/or particular nation-states, and growing out of our insane consumerism culture. On her website Sasha writes a lot about this lifestyle, so you may want to check it.
In a trade-free social system, we would be able to provide the means to travel for most people: some may like hiking, some may like staying at hotel-like places, some may like to travel on foot, others by train. Automation, abundance, no borders, no jobs. People would travel to explore the world, get to know its inhabitants, creatures, and feel at home everywhere they go. If the infrastructure and the society supported such a world in a trade-free fashion, we could see billions of people taking on the traveling lifestyle.