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8 beautiful places around the world that are being ruined by tourism

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Despite the challenges faced during the pandemic, 2023 has brought a resurgence in global travel, with tourists flocking to hotspots like never before.

Traveling the world is a cherished dream for many, but sometimes our collective wanderlust comes at a cost. As globetrotters flock to popular destinations, a delicate balance is often disrupted, leaving behind the bitter aftertaste of over-tourism. While tourism undeniably brings economic benefits, it can also exact a toll on the very places we hold dear. Join us on a journey to 10 beautiful locations where the surge of visitors is both a blessing and a curse. We delved into travel websites, local tourism agencies, and regional sources to compile this list of 10 places around the world that are being ruined by over-tourism.

1. Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.

Machu Picchu, Peru Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.

Annual Tourists: ~1.5 million

The ancient Inca village of Machu Picchu, a timeless symbol of human ingenuity, is under threat from the very admiration it inspires. Thousands flock to this heritage site every day, exceeding the daily limit of 2,500 visitors set by Peru and UNESCO in 2011. This overwhelming number of tourists is inadvertently contributing to the decay of this majestic site, leading to irreversible harm.

This overwhelming surge is causing irreversible damage to the archaeological marvel, jeopardizing the site’s delicate balance, and straining its fragile infrastructure. The small settlement of Aguas Calientes, the access point to Machu Picchu, is particularly under strain. In the face of this, the surrounding cloud forest ecosystem is bearing the brunt of environmental degradation.

In an effort to combat over-tourism, Peru’s Machu Picchu introduced a new visiting system in 2021. As of 2023, visitors are directed through one of four designated circuits to protect this UNESCO World Heritage Site’s ancient structures and environment. This initiative, part of the “Regulation on Sustainable Use and Tourist Visits for the Conservation of Llacta of Machu Picchu”, aims to balance the preservation of this iconic site with a memorable visitor experience. Additional measures include capping daily visitor numbers, mandatory local guides, and specific visiting hours to further promote sustainable tourism.

2. Venice, Italy

San MarcoVENICE, ITALY - Photo Credit: DepositPhotos

San Marco- Photo Credit: DepositPhotos

Annual Tourists: ~20 million

The “Floating City,” constantly grapples with the paradox of its appeal – the very waterways that charm millions of tourists are contributing to the city’s gradual sinking. The inundation of about 25-30 million tourists each year has accelerated this process, exacerbating environmental and infrastructural damage. Moreover, the surge of tourism is also altering Venice’s cultural fabric. To preserve this UNESCO World Heritage Site, authorities are resorting to measures like restricting large cruise ships, curbing Airbnb rentals, and contemplating an entrance fee. By managing tourism more sustainably, Venice hopes to navigate the delicate balance between its economic lifeline and the rising tides of change.

3. The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China Photo Credit: DepositPhotos

The Great Wall of China Photo Credit: DepositPhotos

Annual Tourists: ~10 million

The Great Wall of China, a breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage Site, is increasingly grappling with the effects of overtourism. The Badaling section, the most popular part, sees a significant influx of local and international visitors, especially during holidays and weekends. In 2018, this section welcomed a staggering 10 million tourists, peaking at 100,000 in a single day. This overcrowding not only deteriorates the monument but also affects visitor experiences.

In response, from June 1, 2019, authorities implemented a daily visitor cap of 65,000 to alleviate the crowd pressure. Visitors are now required to book tickets under their names seven days in advance. To manage crowds effectively, a three-level warning system has been established: a yellow warning is issued when visitor numbers reach 39,000, orange for 52,000, and red for a maximum 65,000. These measures aim to disperse tourism throughout the year, preserving the iconic landmark and ensuring a more enjoyable visit for all.

4. Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

galápagos islands Image Credit: DC_Colombia / iStock.

Annual Tourists: ~275,000

In the words of a young Charles Darwin, who marveled at the Galápagos Islands in 1835, this archipelago truly was a “little world within itself.” However, the passage of time has transformed this pristine paradise into a magnet for global visitors, drawn by the allure of witnessing its unique wildlife firsthand. No longer the exclusive domain of the privileged few, the Galápagos Islands have opened their doors to a surge of land-based tourism.

In recent years, the number of visitors flocking to the islands has soared. According to the Observatorio de Turismo de Galápagos, in 2017 alone, 241,800 people explored these awe-inspiring shores, a significant increase from the 173,419 visitors a decade prior. The growth in tourism, particularly in land-based visits, has been staggering. More than 90 percent of the growth from 2007 to 2016 came from those who choose to fly into airports on Baltra and San Cristóbal islands, opting for affordable accommodations and à la carte tours instead of the traditionally expensive cruises.

5. The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Annual Tourists: ~2 million

The Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s most spectacular natural wonders, grapples with the repercussions of overtourism. This magnificent reef system, stretching over 2,300 kilometers off the coast of Australia, attracts a staggering number of visitors. However, the increasing influx of tourists poses significant threats to the reef’s delicate ecosystem. The sheer volume of visitors, combined with inadequate infrastructure and improper practices, puts immense pressure on the reef’s fragile coral formations and marine life. Pollution from vessels, physical damage, and the introduction of invasive species further exacerbate the challenges faced by this remarkable ecosystem. Efforts have been made to manage the impact of overtourism. Conservation initiatives, stricter regulations, and educational campaigns aim to promote responsible tourism practices and raise awareness about the reef’s vulnerability. However, the magnitude of the challenge requires continued commitment and cooperation from all stakeholders involved.

6. Boracay Island, Philippines

Boracay, Philippines

Boracay, Philippines

Annual Tourists: ~2 million (pre-pandemic)

Boracay Island, a pristine gem in the Philippines, finds itself grappling with the consequences of over-tourism. Known for its stunning white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters, this once idyllic paradise has faced an overwhelming surge in visitors, posing significant challenges to its natural and cultural integrity. The island, which spans a mere 10.32 square kilometers, received over two million visitors in 2017 alone. Such a high influx of tourists has taken a toll on the island’s carrying capacity and its ability to maintain its allure as a sustainable tourism destination.

Recognizing the urgency of the situation, the Philippine government took decisive action in 2018. Boracay underwent a six-month rehabilitation period, during which time the island was temporarily closed to tourists. This move aimed to address environmental concerns, upgrade infrastructure, and implement stricter regulations to ensure the island’s long-term sustainability.

7. Santorini, Greece

Santorini

Annual Tourists: ~2 million

Santorini, the stunning Greek island, radiates beauty but often finds itself teeming with tourists, especially during the summer months. The island’s popularity has led to the implementation of measures to manage the influx of visitors. To strike a balance between preserving the island’s charm and ensuring a sustainable tourism experience, Santorini imposed a daily cap of 8,000 visitors from cruise ships.

The staggering numbers highlight the immense impact of cruise ship tourism on this small island. In 2015 alone, Santorini welcomed a staggering 790,000 visitors from 636 cruise ships, as reported by Conde Nast Traveler. Considering that the island’s permanent population stands at just over 15,000, the influx of tourists is a dramatic contrast.

8. Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona

Annual Tourists: ~30 million

“Tourists, go home!” is a sentiment often encountered by visitors in the form of graffiti and signs throughout this popular Spanish destination. Barcelona locals make no secret of their frustration with tourists, as evident in many protests against tourism in the city.  Millions are lured by the city’s vibrant culture, the architectural wonders like the Sagrada Familia, and the beautiful beaches. The impact of tourist activity has prompted popular attractions to adapt their rules. In 2015, La Boqueria, a bustling public market, implemented a ban on tourist groups exceeding 15 people. The decision was a response to the inconvenience caused by large groups of vacationers, who would obstruct foot traffic while capturing photographs, causing disruptions for vendors and regular customers, as reported by The Telegraph.

Barcelona’s complex dynamic between tourists and locals continues to shape the city’s policies and interactions. The incidents and restrictions serve as a reminder of the ongoing challenges in maintaining a balance between preserving the city’s cultural heritage and ensuring a positive experience for both residents and visitors.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

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