While many popular destinations for travelers around the world welcome as many visitors as possible, certain tourist attractions are cutting back or holding the line due to overpopulating. This will affect cruise lines and tour operators from scheduling as many trips as they would like to these “in demand attractions” to comply with their government’s policies.
Tourism can provide an incredible economic boost, sure, but some locales say it can also be harmful to the environment and negatively impact local populations. With such considerations in mind, several destinations around the world have proposed—or put into place—measures restricting the annual number of visitors.
Cinque Terre, Italy
In 2011, following a torrential rainfall that battered the area, Cinque Terre received 400,000 visitors. That number rebounded to 2.5 million last year, thanks in large part to docking cruise ships which offload hundreds of thousands of day-tripping visitors in one go. The aim of the new initiative is to limit the number of tourists from 2.5 million a year, to 1.5 million.
U.S. National Parks
To protect one of America’s most beautiful national treasures, the US National Park Service announced measures to cap visitor numbers to 18,710 a day, and 21,000 visitors a day during peak seasons back in 2014. Yosemite was the fourth most visited national park in the US in 2015, and is best known for its waterfalls, valleys, meadows, ancient sequoias, and vast wilderness. To ease congestion and reduce car-related pollution, park officials also added buses to shuttle large numbers of visitors at once.
Described as a “living museum and showcase of evolution,” the collection of 19 islands which make up the Galapagos Islands groaned under the pressure of unsustainable tourism numbers over the years, putting it on the United Nations’ list of endangered heritage sites. Today, a conservation program has successfully helped it make a solid recovery. To visit, tourists must now be accompanied by a licensed Galapagos National Park Guide, and must abide by strict rules when visiting the area. Camping is also allowed in only a handful of authorized areas, and require a permit from park officials.
Last summer, Barcelona’s newly elected mayor Ada Colau made international headlines after announcing plans to curb explosive tourism numbers by imposing a freeze on the development of new hotels and tourist apartments, and creating a preventative policy pre-empting saturation problems before they occur.
High on the Himalayas’ eastern edge, the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan prides itself on “low volume, high-value” tourism. All foreign visitors—except those holding Indian, Maldivian, or Bangladeshi passports—must get a visa and book their holiday through a licensed Bhutanese tour operator. Visitors must also pay, in advance, the “minimum daily package” (either $200 or $250 a day, depending on the month) set by the Royal Government of Bhutan, via money transfer to the Tourism Council of Bhutan. This fee covers your accommodation, all meals, guides, internal transport, and a sustainable tourism royalty that goes toward free education, health care, and poverty alleviation. Only 133,480 international and regional tourists visited Bhutan in 2014.
Roughly 970,000 people visited Iceland in 2014—three times the country’s population, and a 24 percent increase over 2013. The trend continues: As of May 2015, the number of visitors had increased 76 percent over the same period in 2014. Currently, the Icelandic Tourist Board and the Icelandic Tourism Research Centre are researching how “full” a site can get before detracting from the experience. “We have to realize that we can’t just build up natural sites endlessly,” Ólöf Ýrr Atladóttir, director general of the Icelandic Tourist Board, said in 2014. “We can’t just endlessly receive more and more people at any particular tourist site and live under the assumption that we are offering the type of experience that people have paid for.”
Although visitors were once allowed to wander this 15th-century site freely, new measures encouraged by UNESCO are intended to clamp down on the number of tourists visiting one of Peru’s premier destinations. For years experts warned that the UNESCO World Heritage Site was at risk of irreversible damage and degradation from the unsustainable number of visiting tourists.As part of a $43.7-million reconceptualization expected to be completed by 2019, all foreign visitors will have to hire a guide, follow one of three designated routes through the complex, and be subjected to time limits in order to prevent bottlenecking. In 2014, some 1.2 million tourists visited the 12-acre Incan citadel, surpassing the daily limit of 2,500 agreed to by Peru and UNESCO. The ancient site was added to UNESCO’s “endangered” list in January 2016.
By 2009, a surge in visits led to a ratification of the Antarctic Treaty. Among other things, signatories agreed to barring cruise ships with more than 500 passengers from landing sites; restricting landings to one vessel at a time (per site); and limiting passengers on shore to 100 at a time. Today, visitors to the pristine environment must travel through operators and organizers who have been approved by their appropriate national authorities, and can expect that their time—whether on shore or simply sailing by—will be strictly monitored.
An archipelago of 115 islands off the East African coast, the Seychelles have become massively popular for both “regular” tourists and royalty—yes, this is where William and Kate spent their honeymoon. Though tourism is the Seychelles’ biggest industry, its minister of tourism and culture, Alain St. Ange, said in April 2015 that work is underway to curb the number of annual visitors in order to protect its future. “We don’t want to demean the value of the Seychelles. We’re reaching 250,000 people, six times the number of people who live there.”
Information provided by Conde Nast Traveller