"Responsible tourism aims to minimize tourism's negative impacts on the environment...and maximize the positive contributions tourism can make to local communities." - responsibletravel.org
🌍 The challenge
There is such a thing as overtourism and it affects everything within popular tourist destinations –from the environment and its wildlife, to the locals and their neighborhoods. And it even affects the travel experience for those who are actually doing the traveling.
Overtourism is an issue that's been going on for the last decade, and it's largely a result of travelers rushing to one place when it's hyped up or when the fear of missing out ("FOMO") kicks in and everyone books a trip to the same destination...at the same time. Over the years, this trend has worn down some of the world's most beautiful, remote and vital places.
These places are negatively affected in different ways.
Ecosystems are damaged
Environments are polluted
Wildlife is negatively impacted
Local communities are exploited
Gentrification displaces families
Overcrowding degrades historical sites
...and the list goes on.
Though it is an amazing thing that more people are able to learn about the world through travel, it is very important that among travelers there exists an understanding that all destinations need to be respected and cared for by everyone, but especially by tourists who are only passing through.
🌍 What You Can Do
The issue of overtourism doesn't immediately mean that everyone needs to stop traveling, but it does mean that everyone who travels – whether it be near or far, locally or internationally – can be more conscious of how they're impacting the environment that they're traveling to. And eventually, little by little, we can all make a difference.
Here are a few ways you can help to minimize the negative outcomes of traveling and avoid contributing to overtourism.
🌿 Be more environmentally responsible. Do your research ahead of time and learn about the place you're traveling to and its environment. Keep all places you visit (beaches, hiking trails, streets, neighborhoods, etc.) clean and void of trash. Avoid areas where the environment and its wildlife are endangered or at risk due to human visitation.
🌿 Be culturally respectful. Overtourism can sometimes create a barrier of understanding for tourists, leading them to believe that certain actions are OK in certain cultures, when they're actually not. Wherever you travel to, remember that you are only a visitor to a place that someone else calls home. Always be mindful that there will be things within that culture that you won't understand and it's up to you to learn and respect the local norms.
🌿 Embrace "slow travel." Make your dollars count. Staying in one place for a longer period of time ensures that your dollars spent in the region reach the locals (ie, support local businesses and families). Support local restaurants, coffee shops and artisans. Slow travel also makes for a better travel experience, as you're more likely to get a real feel for the region.
🌿 Travel during off season. If you travel during off season, you're minimizing the congestion that comes with overtourism and minimizing the stress that is put onto locals and local resources.
🌿 Travel beyond the bucket list. Though the idea of traveling to iconic places is enticing, a good travel experience is rarely the result of seeing something that everyone else and their mother's have. Think outside the box and travel to a city or town that isn't hyped on the Internet and you'll still be exposed to the culture and beauty of a country, while being one less person congesting a "touristy" place.
🌿 Donate to a local cause whose mission resonates with you. If a local organization or group is working toward a mission that resonates with you, consider donating. Do some research and perhaps you'll find that your donation could help to replenish a vital aspect of that community's identity.
Traveling in today's world is so easy and the very possibility has the potential to connect us all a little more. If we each do our part, we can still travel and explore the world while ensuring that our planet remains healthy and beautiful, and all the world's cultures remain intact for years to come.