Too many tourists? Rethink how you travel or risk ruining destinations

The world’s most beautiful places could be irreparably damaged unless we rethink our model of tourism, according to an expert who calls for more conscientious travel.

“Tourism now is in virtually every square metre of the planet,” said Anna Pollock, the founder of Conscious Travel, a tourism consultancy firm.

“Even Antarctica is now receiving tourists,” she added, “and it’s the smaller places that are actually in many respects more vulnerable than some of the larger cities.”

Officials in these destinations need to deploy more careful management, she told The Current’s guest host Laura Lynch, while the general public “need to understand what the consequences are of attracting more and more visitors every year.”

The UN World Tourism Organization recorded 7 per cent annual growth in internacional tourism in 2017, as 1.3 billion people crossed a border — and spent the night.

In cities like Venice, the tsunami of tourists has pushed locals to their limit, as the 55,000 full-time residents host roughly 25 million tourists a year. Those vast numbers have led to protests, with Venetians angry about issues ranging from housing shortages to navigating overcrowded canal banks.

The phenomenon has become so widespread it now has a name: overtourism. It happens because of a lack of central planning, said Rochelle Turner, research director at the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Destinations need “a vision of what they want to be, and how that vision then can be supported through planning, through consultation with the people that live and work in those destinations,” she told Lynch.

That may mean destinations have to rebuild or reimagine their infrastructure to cope with a large influx of tourists, or preemptively limit those numbers.

“All of this requires a strategic approach,” she said. “In some of the places where we see some of the greatest problems, that probably hasn’t happened because the growth has been so quick.”

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