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Can you avoid contributing to overtourism on your next vacation?

Numerous restrictive policies have sprung up all over Europe this summer in an attempt to limit over-tourism, a real burden for both the local population and the environment

Published: Sep 15, 2023 04:29:28 PM IST
Updated: Sep 15, 2023 04:33:02 PM IST

Can you avoid contributing to overtourism on your next vacation?Damaged by overtourism, Koh Phi Phi's famous Maya Bay beach is closed until September 30. Image: Shutterstock

It may be time to head back to school or work, but some people are already thinking ahead to their next vacation. Following a summer tourist season marked by devastating fires and intense heat waves, awareness of the urgent need for action to better preserve the planet may lead vacationers to aim for more sustainable holidays, including avoiding destinations plagued by overtourism.

Strolling tourists are forbidden from stopping in the Italian village of Portofino to prevent pedestrian bottlenecks; visitors now have to reserve their place to access certain Calanques in Marseille, France; and a visitor quota has been introduced on the island of Bréhat in Brittany and on the Mediterranean island of Porquerolles. Numerous restrictive policies have sprung up all over Europe this summer in an attempt to limit overtourism, a real burden for both the local population and the environment. Now, as Europe heads back to school or work, thoughts might turn to potential destinations for a forthcoming vacation. But with growing ecological awareness, and a desire to escape overcrowding and tourist regulation systems, it might be worth considering places in the world that aren't plagued by overtourism.

To pinpoint areas choked by tourist crowds, it could be helpful to look at the number of international arrivals (sourced by Euromonitor International) and to cross-check the data with the number of local residents. An analysis carried out by the Moneytransfers.com website does just that, and the results highlight the stifling nature of tourism in Thailand. All in all, Thailand takes the top three slots in this ranking of destinations suffering most from overtourism. In particular, the island of Phuket has 118.5 tourists per inhabitant, followed by the city of Pattaya with 98.7 tourists per inhabitant, and the island of Krabi has 72.2 tourists per inhabitant. Authorities in Thailand have taken steps to help preserve marine life in some zones by temporarily closing certain beaches or protected areas to visitors for defined periods.

Also read: We're full: Europe's fight against over-tourism

In Europe, Greece stands out as the most tourist-choked region, especially Crete's capital, Heraklion (22 tourists for every inhabitant) and Rhodes, which sadly made the news this summer due to the devastating fires that ravaged the island. Overtourism in Rhodes also earned the destination a place in the list drawn up by the booking site Holidu.fr which, for its part, was based on data for the most visited cities in the world, according to figures published by The Savvy Backpacker and AirMundo for 2019. Rhodes comes fourth in that list, behind Dubrovnik in Croatia, Venice in Italy and Bruges in Belgium.

However, as indicative as such rankings may be, these analyses have limitations, in that they fail to take into account other parameters that can help distinguish whether a destination is suffering the effects of too many visitors. According to Saskia Cousin, a sociologist specializing in tourism, mass tourism cannot be measured by the density of the tourist population. It's above all "a concentration in a certain space but also in time," she told ETX Studio. She adds that the notion of mass tourism "refers to several things, and that often results in confusion. Mass tourism is a denunciation or mockery of the vacationing practices of the working classes. But it also refers to the visible phenomenon of a concentration of vacationers or tourists in a certain space (cities, natural sites) that is not able to accommodate them."

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