Come to think of it, we are more than responsible in bringing about a lot of damage on the planet by travelling.
In this age of everybody wanting to travel someplace, overcrowding is inevitable. And it hits you the moment you reach the airport which seems packed to the brim. Mass tourism affects popular cities that are being overrun with short-term visitors, or beautiful sites that are becoming polluted, or when the pristine landscape of a hill station is being cleared of its natural fauna to find land for hotels, or even when ancient ruins are being pounded by never ending footfalls. You realize then that somewhere we need to stand up and say NO!
What shocked me more than all of these reasons was the fact that even the Mt Everest was not spared. When you imagine the summit of Mount Everest, you picture a quiet, snowy peak far from civilisation. But a striking photo, taken by mountaineer Nirmal Purja, in May’19 shows how the reality is a lot more crowded.
Experts say crowds at Everest have also increased in recent years because expeditions have become more popular. Many “traffic jams” are caused by unprepared climbers who “do not have the physical condition” for the journey which risks not only their lives, but the lives of the Sherpa’s taking them up the mountain.
But regardless of how often we tell ourselves that we’re “travellers” and not tourists, good intentions don’t change the fact, that we’re all just a part of the huge number. And we are destroying the world by loving it to death.
The question is though: what can you do? I mean I love to travel I gain too much from seeing the world, as I’m sure so many other travellers do. So how do we find a balance of loving the world without destroying it?
The crowded beach of Maya Bay,Thailand
The government is doing its fair share in controlling overcrowding by implementing entry and exit timings with managing footfalls around the world heritage sites and some more listed below;
- In Italy’s hugely popular Cinque Terre, a phone app is being trialed that shows visitors real time congestion on the trails, and points them in the direction of alternatives.
- For some places though, like Maya Bay in Thailand, and Boracay Island in the Philippines, the strain of overwhelming visitation has led to the extreme measure of closing the destinations to tourist’s altogether: an enforced time out for clean-up and recovery.
- In one of the world’s most remote destinations, Easter Island, has recently changed the length of stay for tourist visas from 90 days to 30; an effort to curb the impacts of rising tourism on the tiny Pacific isle.
- Even though there’s stringent management that includes a pollution-free perimeter zone, and capping the number of tourists visiting the Taj Mahal, there’s no improvement outside the tourist attraction itself. With an enormous number of tourists visiting the monument on a daily basis it is slowly falling to the victim of pollution.
However as an individual, the choices you make about where you go and what you do as a responsible traveller, can actually go a long way to helping ease the pressures of over tourism.
1. Search out Regional Alternatives
How about getting off the tourist trail and visiting destinations with lesser known sights and experiences?
Take the island of Bali. With attracting close to 6 million tourists in 2018, visitors tend to congregate around the island’s south, in heaving tourist centers like Seminyak and Kuta. But outside of Bali’s places such as Munduk, Padang Padang, Amed with some eco lodges in Munduk and Amed is where you can still find paradise, mingle with locals, and experience Bali’s distinctive island culture.
2. Visit during Off-Peak Periods
When you visit a popular place outside of peak times, you’ll be contending with fewer tourists, and you’ll often be able to take advantage of cheaper flights, accommodation and experiences. For instance, in Croatia, Dubrovnik’s Old Town turns into a tourist crush during the hot daylight hours of the cruise ship season. But a morning stroll along the city walls before the crowds arrive, or an evening wander through its lantern-lit streets after they’ve shipped out? Magic.
3. Support the Local Community with Your Time and Money
While tourism can bring a much-needed boost to a local community, by staying longer, sleeping in locally owned accommodations, eating at smaller, locally owned restaurants, and joining tours or experiences run by responsible local operators, you can feel more confident that your valuable dollar is going directly into that community.
4. Explore Beyond the Hotspots with a Local Guide
For many of our over-loved destinations, crowds are often concentrated around a handful of hotspots. Exploring a destination with a responsible local guide who will often take you to places most tourists never get to see, can reveal an entirely different side to the place you’re visiting, and get you away from the over-touristed mainstream.
5. Be an Eco-friendly, Responsible Traveller
‘Leave no trace’ that’s all there is to it!
By taking steps to minimise the waste you produce on your travels, and encouraging others to do the same, you can do your bit in helping to ease the pressures on this front. A cloth shopping bag, or a reusable water bottle, will immediately reduce your environmental footprint as you travel.
What we need to do is to develop the idea of conscious travel and start to imagine a better alternative. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand or silver bullet; change will need to occur at the grassroots level, one destination at a time.
What about you? Have you ever attempted to give back to the places you visit? Post a comment below.