Telling Tourists To Stay Away

Tourism is the #1 industry in Hawai’i. We love having tourists come to the islands to relax and experience the beauty and culture here, and spend their money even if they do make traffic a bit more congested at times, or cause other problems. Still, it’s often unsettling to discover damage, or unwanted changes caused by increased tourism, no matter how much income it brings.

There are no plans to curtail tourists coming to Hawai’i. Other locations around the world though have become or are becoming victims of their own outreach or desirability. Tourism, or the number of tourists invading these places has gotten bad enough, or is causing so many problems, that some popular travel destinations have placed restrictions on visitors or are thinking about it.

According to Condé Nast Traveler, here are a few popular tourist destinations around the world that are either already limiting the effects of too much tourism or trying to, including actively encouraging people not to come. Some of them may surprise you!

  • Norway: Not only because of the number of tourists showing up at popular spots, but because of the rising cost of tourist rescues, accidents and injuries, Norway is considering limiting the number of visitors at popular spots, like Pulpit Rock (seen above) and other  natural sites.
  • Zion National Park, Utah: Zion saw over four million visitors in 2015. This huge amount of visitors has caused land erosion and overwhelmed facilities throughout the park, and the numbers haven’t dropped since then. In order to mitigate the damage that’s happening, the National Park Service is considering a cap on the number of visitors allowed into the park. A strategy for this has been put in place and is still accepting public comments. A plan is expected to be released in 2019.
  • Barcelona, Spain: This Spanish city is nearing its “saturation limit” of tourists, and wants to limit the number of visitors before that limit is breached. The plan includes freezing hotel development and putting a new tourist tax in place, one geared for day trippers and cruise visitors.
  • Iceland: This island country has become a victim of its own success in drawing visitors. From May 2014 to May 2015, the number of visitors increased by 75% over the same period of time from 2013-2014. There is now believed to be more American tourists coming each year than there are residents in the country. Currently research is being done on how “full” sites can get before the experience is degraded, and based on that research limits may be set.
  • The Galápagos Islands: The number of tourists coming to these special islands over the years put a huge burden on the nearly 9,000 different species that reside there. In 2007 The Galápagos were named an endangered heritage site. These days nearly 97% of the islands is a national park, and tourism is carefully monitored. Strict rules limit visitors to particular places, and they must travel with a licensed guide. These changes meant that The Galápagos were able to be removed from the endangered list in 2010.
  • Santorini, Greece: One of the most picturesque and popular spots in Greece, last year this small town hosted an average of 10,000 tourists per day during the peak season (Santorini’s population is only 15,500). Visitors from cruise ships have now been limited to 8,000 per day which has helped some. (There are no restrictions on the number of visitors who fly in, as they are considerably less than those from cruise ships.)
  • Venice, Italy: The rising water levels are not the only thing having an impact on La Serenissima. There have been so many tourists in recent years that it’s predicted the native population will be reduced to zero by 2030, primarily because of rising rents as more space is needed to house visitors. Many residents want cruise ships banned from the harbor, and also want large tourist groups to have to book ahead of time. There are no official plans yet, but apparently strolling around the city visitors can find posters letting them know how sick the residents are of tourists.
  • Machu Pichu, Peru: The number of visitors to this site high in the Andes is now limited by UNESCO. Foreign visitors must have a guide, follow one of three designated routes through the site, and have time limits on their visit so groups don’t become backed up. Still, even with these steps Machu Pichu was placed on the Endangered Heritage Site list in 2016. Approximately 1.2 million visitors arrive every year (average of 3300 per day), but officials want to limit the number of visitors to 2500 per day.
  • The Cinque Terre, Italy: This collection of five villages on the Ligurian coast of Italy has already had the number of visitors allowed capped by the Italian government. In 2015, the Cinque Terre hosted 2.5 million visitors; in 2016 the number allowed was reduced to 1.5 million (much of the area lies in a national park, so numbers can be monitored).
  • Antarctica: Several restrictions have been placed on visitors to this pristine area: No cruise ship with more than 500 passengers can go to a landing site, and only one ship at a time can dock. Only 100 visitors at a time are allowed onshore. In order to visit this frozen continent tourists much use a designated operator, and visitors are carefully monitored while they are ashore.
  • Mt. Everest: In order to curb more ecological danger to the area, Tibet has already started placing restrictions on who can climb the world’s highest mountain. Among the changes are an increased fee for foreign climbers (now $11,000), novice climbers are banned, and there are both minimum and maximum age restrictions for all climbers. Also, only small climbing teams are allowed now in order to protect against bottlenecks or logjams on the mountain.
  • Other popular tourist destinations either already limiting or considering limits on tourism are The Seychelles, the country of Bhutan, Lord Howe Island off of Australia, or Koh Tachai island in Thailand.

A couple of these places are on my bucket list. But, living in a place that welcomes loads of tourists, and sometimes seeing the not-always-positive impact of so many visitors, I completely understand why action has been taken, or is at least being considered, in the above locations. Reading about the issues these places face and their desire to allow tourism but not let it overtake them or change their ways too much should make all of us think more about being a better visitor when and wherever we travel.

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18 thoughts on “Telling Tourists To Stay Away

  1. Tamara/My Retirement Project says:

    This is a most interesting post. We’ve been to five of the locations listed, and have our eyes on another two (Iceland and the Galapagos) so now I’m thinking we better hurry!

    Kidding aside, whatever measures each of these countries/locations needs to put into place in order to preserve them is A-OK with me. I’d rather have to stand in line and wait my turn then see them literally loved to death.

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    • Laura says:

      I’m with you – I’d rather it take longer for me to get to visit a place than see them overrun or permanently changed because of too many visitors who couldn’t wait. None of the measures that have already been put in place, or are being considered seem all the draconian to me anyway.

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  2. Barbara Bomberger says:

    I can personally attest to the destruction in Venice, having been there more than one time over the many years. I can also attest to the cost increases. t’s been a few years since my last visit, but at that time every single person we met lived far away and had to commute-of the workers and tour guides and restaurant folks. The story I always tell is that we spent a week in Venice and then a week in Florence and spent the same amount. In Florence we got a two bedroom, two bath studio with hot tub and the works at a major hotel, and in Venice that got us a single room with a double bed and a pull out couch at about the tenth of the size. As far as I know, Mesa Verde has both limited visitors and only allowed escorted tours for awhile now.

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    • Laura says:

      I did not know about Mesa Verde, but it makes perfect sense because of all the hiking and climbing visitors have to do to access the park.

      The number of tourists descending on Venice has been an issue for a long, long time, even before these giant cruise ships were stopping there. Read any of Donna Leon’s Inspector Brunetti mysteries and there have been complaints about tourists from the beginning of the series.

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  3. Barbara Bomberger says:

    I should add that I don’t want to pick on cruise folks (although it is so not my thing, mainly because I need more than a day in a single place, and hopping off a boat for only eight hours in Rome would kill me-I need days). But my daughter spent seven years on Grand Cayman, and her perspective (right or wrong) is that many cruisers (not all) tend to be grazers-taking what they can off the surface and neither immersing themselves in the culture nor the people who live where they are going. Again this is her perspective from years of experience.

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    • Laura says:

      It’s interesting though that the number of cruise visitors/day trippers seems to be a common theme in the increased number of visitors to these overwhelmed sites, and that limiting those seems to be among the first steps taken.

      BIG cruise ships stop here on Kaua’i twice a week. They are HUGE – as a reference, my husband served on aircraft carriers for 22 years, and these ships are as big or bigger, and as my husband likes to say, full of people versus airplanes. I still have no idea how they get those giant ships into our tiny harbor, but they do. They are massive.

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  4. Laurel says:

    Venice is our first stop next week and I have read this, too. It’s something I want to see, but honestly, it’s insanely pricey as others have noted.

    Not to pile on cruise ships, but we have also seen them disembark crowds into cities we were visiting (Bar Harbor comes to mind) and it’s a day trip where the cruisers are racing around trying to get it all in within not-so-many hours. We try to get out before they are lifted ashore and wait until about 4PM when they all go back for most of our activities in a given city. Probably going to be tough in Venice, though.

    Some of the National Parks are definitely an issue, and I’m surprised Yosemite isn’t included. We’ve been there several times (it’s probably my favorite) and I’ve read that the traffic & pollution in the valley is getting crazy. We love to go in the off season if possible…of course, once that entailed buying chains on the way in. 🙂

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    • Barbara Bomberger says:

      Laurel, I would say that it’s something you absolutely must see, and for years it was one of my favorite places to go. But do consider things like the fact that you don’t HAVE to go into St Mark’s. The wait is often three hours and while it’s beautiful there are a million beautiful small churches in Venice. Just as an example. Having said that, that Gondola ride was always a must for us, no matter how touristy, and we always go to Harry’s bar.

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    • Laura says:

      We have the same issues here with “cruisers” that stop for the day in Kaua’i (see my reply to Barbara above about the size of these ships).

      I’m surprised as well about Yosemite. Didn’t they try to limit the number of cars coming into the park a while ago to cut back on the pollution? Maybe it didn’t go over so well.

      A friend is visiting Venice right now – no comments about the number of tourists, but she and her husband seem to be looking at more out-of-the way places versus the more famous ones. Her pictures have been gorgeous.

      We’re off-season people too.

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  5. Bob says:

    I have travel a lot over the years mostly as a single person or couple. A lot of time as part of a business trip. Loved going on our own. I really disliked going to laces where the cruise ships would dump people into the locations. (Although I found out in Istanbul that if you went to the front of a line a acted like you were with a tour group you could avoid waiting in long lines.)
    In Barcelona near Parc Guell there was a hand painted sign on a nearby building that said “If it is tourist season why can’t we shoot them”. Guess that about sums it up.
    The crowds have about ruined a lot of travel places as far as I have seen. Not just crowded but a lot of rudeness as well.

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    • Laura says:

      I’m with you Bob – I don’t really want to go where the cruise ships go (for reference, I went on a cruise long, long ago, and it’s not my preferred way to travel). I detest crowds too, although some times they can’t be avoided (like in Japan, but their crowds are always polite).

      Your Barcelona sign seems pretty similar to the ones popping up around Venice. I’d love to see Venice and Barcelona one of these days, but am going to research the best way to go and leave a small footprint.

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  6. vivian says:

    I wish Florida could limit the number of tourists. Until Disney World, Orlando was one of the most beautiful cities I had ever seen. Now its a concrete jungle with massive traffic jams, cheap tourist shops and hundreds of hotels. More and more roads are now 4 lane, 6 lane and even some eight lanes with concrete replacing the green paradise that people used to love. It is literally being loved to death.

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    • Laura says:

      I love your phrase, “It is literally being loved to death.” That’s so true of so many places – they are loved to death, and often with no thought to the people that are from there. It’s the same for Kaua’i. They want progress, but they don’t want everything that was to be wiped away.

      People who come to Orlando now probably think that’s how it’s always been, and have no idea that once it was a “green paradise.” I was in Orlando in January 1977 for navy boot camp, and when our family went back in 2000 to go to Disney World I couldn’t believe it was the same place (in 1977 there was only the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Sea World).

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      • JJ says:

        I went to Orlando for the first time when I was a kid in 1977 and remember how it was not nearly as densely populated as it is now.

        I’ve been to Iceland and Venice. Iceland is an amazing place, but when I was there last year, there definitely seemed to be more tourists than locals everywhere we went.

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