Having recently updated our complete guide to eco travel, we really wanted to share an excerpt and expand on a really important issue that the travel industry not only faces, but is actually responsible for... We believe that when we travel, we should be as responsible and sustainable as possible to have a more positive impact on local communities, preserve the natural environment and protect the welfare of wildlife and animals. However, this is seldom what we see and is sometimes even the opposite. So, how can we have a more positive impact on the communities we visit and fight the effects of over tourism?
The Problem With Over Tourism!
Since travel has become more widely accessible, flights more affordable and package holidays more popular than ever, places all around the world have been struggling with the effects of mass tourism... It's more than just crowded streets and an increased number of cars on the roads... It's a strain on essential resources for locals, an abundance of boat propellers scaring off and harming wildlife, corals unable to sustain themselves due to snorkelers wearing chemical based suncreams, Macchu Pichu itself crumbling under the weight of thousands of tourists, rent hikes pushing locals out of their home city of Barcelona, an inability to cope with the increased waste on the island of Bali, or levels of pollution forcing The Philippines to close Boracay island to tourists... Likewise for Maya Bay in Thailand. Even Mount Everest, the tallest peak on Earth, had to be cleared of over 6,500 lbs of discarded rubbish and mostly single use items in 2019.
The Benefits Of Eco-Travel!
When done right, travel can massively benefit local economies, preserve the local culture and help to protect nature. It can mean fewer crowds and a more enjoyable travel experience for everyone, better air quality and healthier eco systems, an increase in funding for conservation and education programmes and a greater love for the planet!
Travel is a powerful tool that makes people more aware, open minded and even empathic through experiencing different cultures and exploring distant destinations! When done wrong... well... It's the opposite... It's unsustainable. It can only continue for so long, until the impact actually outweighs the benefits, sometimes even forcing a country to close it's borders and cut off a major source of income... Sustainable travel can be income security and job longevity for people too.
11 Quick Tips To Tackle Over Tourism!
Travel off the beaten track! Instead of visiting the bucket list hot spots, seek out the hidden gems and visit somewhere without the hype.
Plan around peak travel times! Travel in the off season or shoulder months.
Start travelling slower! Immerse yourself in the culture and live like a local.
Become a more responsible traveller! Reduce your environmental impact, carbon footprint, consumption of animal products and use of single use plastics.
Stay at eco-friendly accommodation! Use GreenGlobe.com to find them and avoid Airbnb because of housing shortages and rent hikes for locals.
Seek out eco-conscious countries! Visit countries with eco conscious tourism policies such as eco taxes, limits on visitors and protected areas.
Really research your tour operators! Only use ethical tour companies and stay clear of 'hands on' wildlife experiences.
Vote with your money! Support small business, shop local, research social enterprises and donate to conservation and education programmes.
Use technology and social media for good! Show support for those businesses with best practises, inspire and encourage better practises in others, and raise awareness of social and environment issues that some places face.
The dark side of technology - use more general geotags instead of specific spots.
Travel for yourself, not for Instagram and likes
Travel Off The Beaten Track!
Crowds are one of those big travel dilemmas that we travellers all face at some point... They can completely ruin the experience and take away from the majesty, wonder and awe of a place that's been at the top of our bucket list for years! The locations that we've been dreaming of visiting for so long, but don't live up to the hype when we arrive - again, all because we have to battle with an untamed crowd... But aren't we only adding to the crowd ourselves and creating the same issues in other people's eyes?
Instead of visiting the bucket list hot spots, seek out the hidden gems and visit somewhere without all of the hype. There's a whole world out there and countless incredibly underrated places to see! It can be a more secret spot within an otherwise popular country or the country itself that's less visited! Think Flores, Lombok or the Nusa islands instead of Bali, or a trip to Turkey instead of Italy, Greece or Cyprus!
Plan Around Peak Times!
Don't worry if you do still want to tick off those bucket list destinations though! There is a way for you to do just that without contributing to over tourism too much! Why not plan a trip in the off-season or shoulder months instead? That way, you can have a more authentic travel experience, and most likely save money in the process, whilst still helping the local economy through it's slower months.
Start Travelling Slower!
One of the worst things for over tourism is the amount of huge cruise ships docking into places for less than a day, letting thousands of tourists loose on the hotspots without a second to truly have an authentic travel experience. Again, you can take the time to visit lesser known spots when you travel slow, immerse yourself in the culture and even live like a local! You can also do your research on where to stay, what to do and how to spend your money in the most beneficial, sustainable and ethical way.
Become A Responsible Traveller!
Responsible travel is all about being more mindful of your actions whilst travelling and trying to make your impact more positive... You're probably already on route to being a more responsible traveller if you're reading this! You can reduce your environmental impact and carbon footprint whilst travelling by saving electricity, conserving water opting for public transport, and walking or cycling more. You can try limiting your consumption of animal products and single use plastics too!
Stay At Eco Friendly Accommodation!
To be a more responsible traveller, you could also check your hotel for accreditation and eco-conscious policies before you even book. A great database of accredited eco-friendly businesses can be found on GreenGlobe.com, and it is advised by some to stay away from Airbnb as housing shortages and rent hikes for locals can come as a result.
Seek Out Eco Conscious Countries!
Some countries are making amazing progress in tackling over tourism, so why not plan trips to those with clear eco-conscious tourism policies? An example is Costa Rica, which is considered by some to be the "poster child" of ecotourism. It's home to a number of national parks (protecting over 25% of the land), the most diverse wildlife on the planet, and some of the best eco-lodges in the world!
The Galapagos Islands have battled with over tourism and faced it's effects, but conservation is at the heart of this small collection of Ecuadorian islands. The islands are a haven for a vast number of endangered animals, and one of few place on Earth that offer a travel experience quite like it! The Galapagos Islands have a high eco tax / national park fee to support the conservation of it's wildlife and eco systems, as well as a limit on visitor numbers and a limit on the amount of land that's even open to tourists (only 3%) with the rest all being protected and used for conservation and research purposes.
Another option is Bhutan, which is the world's only carbon negative country! It absorbs more carbon dioxide than it emits thanks to a big switch to renewable energy and a rich abundance of nature - sinking roughly three times the amount of carbon dioxide that they emits! Over 40% of the country's land mass is currently protected with national parks, sanctuaries and reserves, plus a network of nature corridors connecting them all. By law, Bhutan must always have over 60% of it's land covered by forest, and it even measures it's development as a country against Gross National Happiness, opposed to Gross National Product - choosing a more sustainable approach to development that balances economy, the environment and cultural preservation. Interestingly, Bhutan does impose a minimum daily fee of $200, but that actually includes almost everything from accommodation, meals, transport and a guide!
Really Research Your Tour Operators!
Our personal experience with some tour operators is that, if you don't do your research beforehand, then they can sometimes turn out to be a complete waste of money, and probably quite harmful as well! To save yourself the heartache, look at the reviews and go on a deep dive on their social media. Do they really care about local communities and the environment?
Some harmful practises to stay away from are 'hands on' wildlife experiences such as elephant riding or tiger petting. Other wildlife experiences such as sanctuary visits can be questionable in their practises as well, so it's better to be safe than sorry if you're unsure, and going for quality over quantity is definitely the way to go with tours.
Vote With Your Money!
When we travel, it's important to remember that, every time we hand over money to someone, we are in theory deciding what kind of practises we want to support. Every time we book a hotel, a tour or a restaurant, are we supporting ethical, responsible and eco-friendly practises, or harmful ones instead?
Not only that, but is our money actually going to support this local community, or a rich foreign investor or property developer? Ensuring that those tour companies, businesses and hotels are locally owned can help to ensure that your money really is going to make a difference and stay within the local community. You could also research social enterprises that you'd like to support, and local education and conservation charities too.
Use Technology & Social Media For Good!
Technology has had a massive impact on the tourism industry and plays a huge part in how accessible it has become. We can plan trips, book flights and navigate our way around a country with nothing more than the phone in our pocket! But how can we utilise the power of technology to combat over tourism and make travel more sustainable? Well, we can start by posting reviews for awesome eco tours, accommodation and restaurants, and support those with best practises. We can also inspire and encourage better practises in others, and raise awareness of social and environmental issues that some places face!
The Dark Side Of Technology!
On the other hand, technology has proven to have an incredibly negative impact on some destinations around the world and a driving force for over tourism. The very fact that social media can be used to inspire others can also be it's downfall - increasing the desire in people to visit already popular places, as well as increasing the popularity of lesser known places overnight without the chance for infrastructure to be put in place. This is why it can be good practise to be a lot more general when using geotags on Instagram for example and when posting about specific spots.
Travel For Yourself!
Travel has always been one of the most enriching experiences in the world - something that you should be able to get a lot out off, sometimes a life changing journey of self awakening. However, as our friends at The Green Shoestring said it, "tourism has been glamorised to a level which often strips the true value of travel" and now we know that as travellers we can actually do more harm than good. Not only are we inspired by social media to travel, but told how to do it and where to travel to... Influenced by highlight reels, chasing Instagram likes and an idea that was mis-sold to us. Travel can be so much more than just travelling for that Instagram shot, so travel for yourself, the enriching experience it can be and what you truly want to get out of it.
Are you trying to live and travel more sustainably and have a tip of your own? Leave a comment below to let us know!
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