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.