Overtourism is the summer of our discontent
In the wake of the 2017 TSG (Travel+SocialGood) Global Summit, and continuing the topic of Overtourisming the World, I have invited three more bloggers to this Open Mic, sharing their thoughts and opinions.
From Barcelona to Paris, from Venice to Rejkyavik, everyone is spewing discontent:
- for locals, it’s too many tourists!
- for visitors, it’s not what we came here for!
So How Are Bloggers to Blame?
The chase of the perfect Insta-shot is killing the fun in travel too, and we’re all to blame. Deliberately or not, we help shape and create those popular wish lists and form opinions. Th kind of opinions that breed picture perfect expectations and leave many utterly disappointed.
Now, I’m not saying you should quit being a successful blogger, because you’re making too many people dream of following your footsteps around the world. I’m not saying to stow your cameras and phones either. Or get off Instagram altogether (although, the jury’s still debating on that).
But I do believe in cultivating a more in the moment travel mindset. And I believe in finding hidden treasures in all those popular destinations, treasures that awaken the explorer within and give travelers perspective.
Caitlin, blogger at CountryJumperBlog, weighs in on bullshitting in social media & how it’s setting us up for unrealistic expectations leading to overtourism – and a large heaping of disappointment.
Wronged by Tourists: from Overtourism to Responsible Travel
Overtourism and Bloggers: Promoting Travel of the Future
There’s a fine line we balance on as we promote travel, exploration and adventure with responsibility, respect and understanding.
Eliza, blogger at Elizaland, is our second blogger sharing thoughts on overtourism in this Open Mic. Eliza lives in one of the most touristy cities of Europe, Florence.
I realized how the tourism industry changed in the last 10 years. Italy used to be a dream destination for many tourists from overseas, but as the economy is changing and people afford to travel more and further, the impact on the daily life of the locals is quite significant. In my experience as tour guide in Florence, I’ll tell you this:
People arrive here with very high expectations and they often leave disappointed, as they uncover the real face of a city with over 16 million travelers a year: long lines to the museums, fully booked restaurants, sometimes dirty streets and many other problems that come along with the crowds.
A classic overtourism example is Venice, where authorities finally decided to deny access to the Grand Canal to cruise ships that used to ruin the magical atmosphere of the city. With Florence, limiting the number of visitors in the most popular places can be counterproductive from an economic point of view.
Instead, promoting lesser known attractions can be the key against the overcrowding of art galleries & squares.
Lesser known Attractions
Focusing on a specific target of tourists and trying to offer them alternatives to the busy areas of Florence can be another solution. Let’s take the case of a family with 2 children, who arrive in Florence and they will leave without knowing that there are actually a few very child-friendly museums. Where they can have fun together trying to keep them quiet and missing the whole point.
There is a lack of information and support for the tourists and a valid solution can come from the tour guides, like me, suggesting the travelers areas off the beaten path or lesser-known museums that are way more enjoyable and fascinating than the famous ones.
It’s also the responsibility and within the (powerful) hands of travel bloggers to uncover unusual local gems during their travels and help their readers explore lesser known countries or cities – to help promote places that are difficult to find, simply because they are not advertised by the travel companies.
Bloggers can really make the difference in a market where it seems at times the only thing that matters is checking bucket lists.
It’s our choice & responsibility whether we influence travel in a positive way or not.
Our last blogger for this Open Mic is Ha from Expatolife, who went further on the topic, sharing her views on the role of Marketing & Technologies in Overtourism and closing aptly with a note on Alternative tourism.
Marketing & Technology: Our Locks and Keys
With a ton of choice in apps & websites spurred by technology development, more and more people get to know about destinations around the world. Many bloggers choose to write about popular locations because it will lead to a high number of click-throughs, and it’s become a vicious circle. Even though it’s difficult to change this situation, there are ways to improve it.
A shout out to local travel tourism boards: host contests about alternative destinations, so that bloggers promote them more!
It’s a win-win for everyone, and more people will choose to travel differently.
I think travel buying behavior has changed significantly because of technology. Before, when the internet was not that developed, people were used to visiting each tour company to ask about the tour details and prices. While doing that, they will have more choices and suggestions about the destinations. Currently, many tourists use the website to search about tours and compare the prices between those tours. Many travel companies place their most-sold ones on the first page to attract their customers, so the tourists have tendencies to click on those tours first and may miss the following un-well-known ones. As a result, not many un-well-known trips are booked, and the travel company may cancel.
In order to deliver a different, alternative travel experience, I think travel companies should design websites differently and promote those alternative tours. They should entice more (maybe provide discounts?) or collaborate with niche travel bloggers to promote those alternative tours and get more people to know about them.
Alternative Tourism: Travel Differently
I really enjoy alternative tours, such as the street art walking tour in Berlin, that I found out about from my Couchsurfing host. Staying with a local is really useful to find these niche, original experiences. I don’t think I would have even noticed all those stunning artworks around the city, otherwise! it’s what made Berlin was so unique and interesting for me.
Here’s a bold statement: I don’t like crowded places and I love taking pictures of places without people cramping my style – Who doesn’t?!
So traveling off the beaten path & alternative travel experience are my priorities. When I was traveling in Vietnam, for instance, I visited the Kong: Skull Island Filming location in Trang An, Ninh Binh. This place was not yet popular so I could spend my time exploring in peace. After some research, I was surprised to see that no travel company offered a tour to Trang An, instead only promoting Tam Coc (ironically located in the same city).
At first, I was confused and thought “Is there something wrong with this place?”. Absolutely not! The lack of popularity was just because travel companies didn’t offer tours – yet it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen!
It’s up to tour operators to start rethinking their strategies – look beyond the common & popular.
But it’s also up to us travelers to do not be afraid to put our sleeves up and do bit more digging for all those rough diamonds awaiting.
Closing Words & Sparking More Dialogue
I’ll draw an end on our ramblings for now, by pointing you to more and perhaps less subjective ramblings from National Geographic, which further substantiates the importance of the topic. It also confirms my opinion that we should be taking a more active part in a global dialogue on sustainability & fighting overtourism.
The article does a great job of summarizing opinions on how to deal with overtourism from Skift, Responsible Travel, The Independent, The Guardian and more.
Check it out. Get informed.