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Is it time to ban world travel?

Arc Triomf Barcelona

With so many cheap airline fares and discounted holiday packages, a lot of people have access to world travel. There is no denying that the travel industry is booming and tourism marketing is on the rise. You see Ryanair adverts in almost all European cities, showcasing the happy traveller enjoying fares from as little as £10. Business entrepreneurs are opening more travel agencies than tourists altogether. A great tourism marketing technique is to release a movie with Holywood superstars, promoting destinations, making them hip. Do you remember "The secret life of Walter Mitty" which increased tourism in Iceland? Or "Eat, Pray, Love" which brought back tourism in Bali?

World travel is fantastic and it can be a way of life and a source of income for many of us. But what happens when we tip the balance and we become too much? What happens when we, as tourists, become a burden on the locals? Do we stop travelling? Do we rely on the governments to stop us from visiting? Do we allow a new movie to take tourism marketing to a new level and send us to the next best destination which needs our money? It's time to talk about overtourism and find the right solutions.

Arc Triomf Barcelona

What is the problem with world travel?

It seems rather unrealistic to hear a country complain about tourists, right? Travellers usually bring a lot of money to a country which should (at least in theory) have a positive impact on the locals, governments and businesses.

Travellers spend money on accommodation, which enables locals to make money. Travellers need to eat, which allows restaurants to make a healthy income. Travellers also pay tourists tax, spend money on attractions fees, buy local produce and bring back a truckload of souvenirs. This allows businesses to make a lot more money, which means they pay more tax to the governments, which means the governments invest the money back into better infrastructure, health care, social welfare and in general the wellbeing of its citizens. In turn, citizens have better chances, are better educated and have access to government support, to open up new businesses and make money out of tourists. Sounds pretty good, right? It's a self-perpetuating mechanism which should allow countries to thrive.

So what can go wrong with this idea? As with every ideology, there is always a loophole which people, businesses and governments exploit. It is unfortunate that those who already have money and power have access to these loopholes, which only creates a bigger divide between social classes. How? Let me tell you.

Travellers flock to a new destination and spend money uncontrollably. There is a huge demand for accommodation, restaurants and new "things to do" around the city. Wealthy people see this as an opportunity to invest, hence they buy central apartments and transform them into holiday homes. Beyond this, owners prefer short term lets as they can make more money, or increase prices beyond belief when it comes to long stay rent and target expats, foreigners and nomads. Businesses increase prices in restaurants because they can make more money and old school mamas and papas shop are now being bought up by a yet another souvenir shop in the city centre. Citizens find it difficult to eat out, rent a long-term home in the centre of the city or even use the public transportation as more often than not is now crowded with tourists. Slowly but surely, locals are being pushed aside, moved to suburbs and away from the city they once called home.

The issue doesn't stop here. Governments don't do anything to prevent non-residents from buying up houses and transforming them into AirBnBs. In fact, a lot of them are illegally run anyway, which makes matters even more complicated, as the owners pay no taxes on their income. The governments don't get the money the expected from taxes, hence no money is invested in the city's infrastructure or the wellbeing of its citizens. Locals are being left hopeless, disillusioned and faced with an invasion of tourist and higher prices which they can't afford to keep up with. Small, travel-unrelated businesses also go bankrupt and they are forced to sell and move their businesses into the suburbs.

Travellers are fussy too. They want authentic food, traditional spots, local gems. They want to feel the real vibe of the city and meander around the places locals go to. In a city where locals are being pushed outside of the city, we are left with an impossible situation. Travellers get a fake vibe of the city, created especially to fit their needs. They get what they believe they should be getting out of their holiday and not "what's real". It's what I like to call the paradox of world travel.

As fantastic as world travel is, it is unfortunate that the travel industry drove up the cost of living, so much so, that many cities have signs in English advising tourists to just go away. Can you blame them?

Tokyo Adult Guide Night Time

Should we discourage world travel?

In Romanian we have this saying "Rãu cu rãu, dar mai rãu fãrã rãu" which sort of translates to: "Bad is bad, but it's worse without the bad". Let's take all tourists away for a second. Let's banish them from all lands of beauty. You now have an empty city where businesses go bust. Restaurants are forced to close down, souvenir shops are transformed back into small markets and locally owned shops. Owners are forced to drop prices for accommodation and encourage long-term rental yet again. The subway is not crowded. You can finally take your children for a Sunday walk right down the main boulevard. There is no rude tourist taking a million photos right in front of you. Sounds idyllic, doesn't it?

But is it idyllic? It won't be just your city who will go through this transformation. Sooner or later, every city will follow lead. Or worse, it will become a quid pro quo. Barcelona cracks down on tourist numbers and because of this Italian tourists can't visit this city any longer. In return, Venice also limits tourist numbers. Then it continues with Iceland and Croatia. Bali is struggling with the number of visitors, Paris is overly crowded with tourists and Portugal is now facing serious rental increases. Sooner than later, countries reject tourists and close up again. As opposed to liberating people, opening up all our borders and become more cohesive, we reject one another and created stronger borders and build bigger walls. What seems logical on a short term, might not be on a long-term. Do you want your children to be kept from visiting new countries? Do we really want to begin a world revolution where we say no to the travel industry?

I was in Porto the other day, looking for a long-term rental. In fact, truth be told, I want to live in the Algarve, but since it's the summer season, everyone is focused on renting for the summer holidays. Prices for long-term rental are unrealistic (think £1000 per month for a bad looking flat) and locals are clearly disturbed by this movement. I went into an estate agent office to ask for help. The woman told us that there are not enough houses for rental. Not even to buy anymore. She said too many people want to live in Portugal short term. She also said, "I hope not everyone comes to Portugal, we cannot afford to keep up with the demand".

Nikko Weather by the Lake Japan

Negative effects of the travel industry

Visitor behaviour can have a detrimental effect on the quality of life of the host country. Crowding and congestion can be a serious issue. Erosion of traditional cultures and values. Increased levels of crime can occur too. Tourism also poses a threat to a region's natural and cultural resources, including heritage sites, coral reef. Because of tourism, businesses learn to exploit increasing pollution, savaging and noise. The jobs created due to increased tourism, are more often than not seasonal, and badly paid. Income generated from tourism doesn't always benefit the locals, but international hotel chains for example. Destinations which depend solely on tourism can be seriously affected by events such as recessions or disasters.

Should we change the travel industry?

Despite the issues, I believe banning travellers is simply not a solution. Just a short-term patch to a much bigger wound. People shouldn't graffiti "I hate tourists" on the walls. These are, at the end of the day, people who come to your country and spend a lot of money. This should be seen as an opportunity. Locals should focus their energy on putting pressure on the local governments instead. A good government regulates tourism and uses tourism economics to the country's advantage.

The governments should start by imposing serious measures to avoid illegally rented houses for short term. Governments should only allow hotels or registered properties to conduct such businesses. Regular checks should be conducted and any breaches should be severely punished. First tackle the supply, then tackle the demand.

The money from tourism should be reinvested into the city's infrastructure to accommodate more people, be it citizens or tourists. New housing should be built for young professionals. Souvenir shops should be regulated or abolished and replaced by tourist information spots through which locally sourced souvenirs could be sold. Any other commercial space should be rented out to locals conducting business which propels the local economy (think butchers, fruit shops, local produce etc).

You Could Travel Mahe Vegetation Sunset Seychelles

Positive effects of the travel industry

Ultimately, tourism creates jobs and if properly regulated, employees can benefit from new opportunities. With help from governments, there are opportunities for small-scale businesses to begin an entrepreneurial journey. Providing the money generated from tourism is invested back into the local communities, cities can benefit greatly from improved infrastructure and new amenities. Good tourism also encourages the preservation of culture and heritage. By opening up to visitors, interchanges can help local communities get the truth out about serious issues such as poverty and human rights. Involved travellers can help raise global awareness. Ultimately, tourists want safety, which can lead to the reduction of serious crime and further involvement from police forces and local governments. Tourism can also help promote conservation and wildlife. This can lead to the creation of jobs specifically tailored to help promote environmentalism.

The travel industry and tourism marketing: YAY or NAY?

As with everything in life, there is a good and bad side to everything. The art is finding the right balance, and I believe a country without tourism will miss out, whilst a country with too much needs the necessary help to accommodate both locals and travellers.

Should we ban world travel? Should we say no to tourism marketing or should we adapt and try to find new ways for the travel industry to become helpful rather than detrimental? Join my debate and write your opinion in the comments section below.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. By purchasing something through these links, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps me keep this blog fun and free for all.

Responses

A
Agness of aTukTuk
31 May 2017

This post was a great read, Cory! I've never thought about this aspects but you gave some food for thought!

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Cory
02 Jun 2017

Thank you very much Agness.

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Faith Coates
03 Jun 2017

Interesting and thought provoking. After experiencing what the expat population has done to several small fishing villages in Mexico I have some real issues with this tourism thing as well. In Mexico the prices for rentals set by the expats are ridiculous well over the average at $1000 US a month plus utilities, which is quite extortionate I think. The expats have opened us restaurants and coffee shops charging US pricing and gouging both expats and tourists. But as long as someone is willing to believe they are paying a fair price (based on their own conception and country ideals) these prices will continue to go up affecting locals dramatically. I have seen tourism do amazing things for some communities and I have seen the damage done by tourists as well. I don't know what the answer is but it is time some thought went into it.

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Cory
03 Jun 2017

Thank you, Faith! It's easy to mislead, isn't it? Coming from the UK and wanting to settle in Portugal, I have lots of people throwing prices at us. We thought those rent prices are great (in comparison to the UK) but one closer look and you realise they are doubling if not tripling the prices because we are foreigners. We don't blame them, people want to make money and there is no regulation to encourage fairness.
I think there is a balance to it all, and we need to put pressure on the local governments to make the right change. Restricting tourists won't help. Regulating the way we welcome tourists though, that's a different matter.

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Alina
03 Jun 2017

I'd say that the problem begins when everyone is going to one place only, such as Bali or Paris or whatever is the hype place of the year, and there people suffer, as rent is too high and eating out becomes expensive. Yet, there are many other places to visit, and the more people go to various places, the better. We, as travel bloggers, can shed some light to other destinations, and bring more people to various locations and not just one popular place of the year.

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Cory
03 Jun 2017

Thank you for your comment, Alina. I agree I think media needs to understand that they can harm more than help sometimes. Of course, travel journalists can shed some light, but this must be exercised with caution too. Sometimes, they too, can tip the balance.

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Penny
03 Jun 2017

You have a good deal of points which I find to be really true. I come from a small state called Goa that lies on the Western coast. Over time it became a popular tourist destination. From the hippies to the Russians and not to mention the Indians. I say Indians because sometimes I feel that my country men do not know how to behave both with the locals and with the foreigners. The prices have shot through the sky. Living is becoming difficult for the locals. Our once clean beaches are littered. Heck! There are even places where the locals are not allowed into. I resent it! I really do! At the same time conscientious people is what the world needs. Both as travelers and as locals. Then again it is human nature to destroy a perfectly good thing isn't it!

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Cory
03 Jun 2017

About 10 years ago, I had a fun little conversation with a colleague from work. I had no money and I remember telling him that my dream is to travel the world and soak up the sun. He told me to go to Goa. Goa was meant to be this paradise, where everyone is cool, chilled and free. He said it was dirt cheap. Intrigued, I went home and looked into Goa. What?! This was amazing...cheap and beautiful.
This was 10 years ago. About a year ago I checked Goa again. Prices were way higher and the "actual" pictures showed a conglomeration of people as opposed to pristine beaches. I guess, the times are changing...

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Ellie Cleary
03 Jun 2017

Great read Cory, this is really one of the big questions which personally I have pondered for a long time. Thank you for writing this.

Particularly - as you mention - the volumes of tourism facilitated by cheap flights (it is cheaper to fly than take the train even within Europe often, which given the carbon emissions difference is disgraceful if we really care about our planet. No governments are willing to get involved and take a stand against it however. Cities in Europe are getting flooded (not just Venice) by tourism. Most islands in Asia & elsewhere are just destroyed by the rich wanting a slice of the tourism pie who don't care about the environmental or other impacts of their poorly planned and constructed mega resorts which pump raw sewage straight into the ocean.

The irony that the more we travel perhaps the more we wonder if tourism really is a good thing is not lost on me.

Personally, I've decided to advocate responsible & ethical travel which tries to cut through the "greenwashing" because of this: tourism if done well allows us to learn about each others cultures, connect to people from completely different walks of live, and most of all travel allows us to grow as individuals like few other things i've come across. Travel can be the driver for the peace that we need so badly in this world; but that's not the mass tourism that we're talking about here. There are wonderful projects and places out there that are giving back through tourism, but they aren't at always easy to find.

It's also amazing how much beauty there is around us closer to home too.

thanks again for writing this well thought out and thought-provoking piece! Ellie

C
Clazz - An Orca...
03 Jun 2017

This is a really interesting post! Sustainable travel needs to become more prevalent for sure. I'm from a Scottish island that is actually pretty underrated, but it's becoming increasingly popular as a destination and some of the main sites are struggling with the impact. It's a really interesting issue and one that needs to be treated with consideration. I'm actually helping out with some market research here right now, tracking the economic value of cruise ship tourists to our island. You think that in a population of 20,000, we sometimes get 4,500 tourists (not including the independent travellers) who trample all over 5,000-year-old sites for a day and then leave? That to me is not sustainable, and that's just one of many, many, many issues that destinations all over the world face. Look at Angkor Wat for a huge example of an attraction buckling under unsustainable tourism.

Your points highlight exactly WHY it's important to, for example, haggle in Asia, because even though it might only save you a dollar, accepting hiked prices means you're pushing up prices for locals, too. I definitely think it's still possible to find authentic experiences in most places, but the world is definitely heading that way, the more accessible it becomes.

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Naomi
03 Jun 2017

As you pointed out: the problems begin when illigal or uncontrolled practices happen. I am aware of this and use airbnb less than before when it can be avoided. I feel some places have brought problems to themselves by bad practices and now they need to step up and change things before it is too late. I hope your post makes more people aware.

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Rhiannon
03 Jun 2017

I can totally see your point with this, though I've never really thought about it before. I'm not sure whether it's the same sort of thing you're talking about, but I'm currently living in Alice Springs, Australia. Which is home to a lot of indigenous people, but there are also a LOT of tourists also flying through the town. Since Alice Springs is very close the the famous Uluru, we see a lot of travelers and backpackers visiting. This is great for tourism, but can also be negative when it comes to the indigenous people, as there is a lot more alcohol consumption in town, leading to issues with many locals being banned. Again, I don't know if this is considered the same as what you meant, but it's what came to mind when I read your post.
Such a great read. I love that you voiced your opinion. Definitely gives us travelers something to think about and consider, next time we travel to different places around the world.

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Diana
03 Jun 2017

I agree, I can see how people become greedy and everyone is looking to make a buck. It skyrockets rent for locals and sometimes they can't even find housing because it is all for Airbnb. Toronto has become a lot like this, a lot of condos sitting empty being used for AirBnb yet local are having trouble finding rentals.

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Hannah
03 Jun 2017

YES! I went to Iceland in 2012- absolutely loved it. I was there end of September and there were very few tourists, the locals were awesome, and it was amazing. I went again this year... completely different experience. So busy, dirty, and crowded. I spoke to some locals and they said it's just becoming impossible to keep up. I think many places seriously need to start considering capping tourism.

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Sandra
03 Jun 2017

As an Azores-born person, I grew up with foreigners coming and going all the time (starting with my American and Canadian cousins, to the "freakishly" tall German engineer who moved to the island when I was 3 and never left, to the Italian lady down the street from us who taught me a few things in Italian, to the French kids I went to kindergarten with and who were the children of the French military officials stationed there). The thing about the Azores is that tourism is strictly regulated (so far, at least) and seasonal. The thing that pisses me off the most in Lisbon (and I write about Lisbon a lot) are the businesses created solely to cater to tourists. As you can tell, I don't look Portuguese, so when I go to a cafe and they talk to me in English but I reply in Portuguese, their smile fades and service turns to crap 99% of the times (especially in Baixa, Chiado, and Alfama). During high season, Lisbon has been unbearable for the last 5 years with the worst kind of tourists - rude, obnoxious, full of themselves, regardless of nationality. They're usually the ones who come in a pre-packaged tour deal (which they pay a lot of money for but the impact on the local economy is close to zero) and think Lisbon is on display as part of the package. I don't blame them, I blame the people who organize the tours, whose sole purpose is profit (and I have a very good example of how they scam travelers that I'd rather not disclose). I love the tourists from October to February with all my heart - those are the ones who come for the city, the people, the food, the culture; not to check one more country off their lists.

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Alissa
03 Jun 2017

Hey there. I think that this article is super important and a good start to this absolutely necessary discussion. Thanks for writing this and for doing the research into these issues. I truly believe that travel has become incredibly commodified and that most travelers don't stop to consider the impacts of their tourism in other communities, especially vulnerable communities with sensitive resources.

I want to expand on a few points, because because! One thing that I think is important to note in this discussion is the impact of tourist dollars and how our tourism can easily NOT go into the hands of locals or local businesses. How many resorts in Mexico, Bali, etc. are owned by foreigners? How many restaurants in XYZ destination are foreign chains? Because there are so many tourists who will go abroad and support foreign-owned businesses, so I think that an important aspect of this discussion is the intentionality of one's dollars when traveling. I.e. supporting local business, not haggling (which is generally exploitative of locals, etc.).

Also, I think it's interesting to note everything that you mentioned about housing prices/locals being forced out... why not just call it gentrification? Gentrification is a serious problem in so many places (here in the United States especially) but I think it's easy to forget that as travelers we can also be gentrifiers, which goes back (in part) to the demands that we place on a local economy when we travel. Anyway, just thought I would point that out.

These aren't necessarily contradictions to anything that you mentioned, but just some expansion of ideas. Would love to get your thoughts! Keep talking about this stuff, especially with other travelers/travel writers - it's an important discussion and we should all be conscientious of our impacts as travelers.

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Karin
03 Jun 2017

To get back to the original discussion, I think you should definitely write about these topics. They are your best pieces in my opinion. Secondly, you have a point when you say the tourists gets what he thinks he should get - in fact, tourists rarely experience "local culture" in this kind of oversaturated places because it requires getting further from the downtown and actually breaking through the barrier to be in touch with actual locals who might be too tired to want to speak with more foreigners...

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Helen
03 Jun 2017

Very interesting piece. I grew up in an area which is trying to raise its tourism profile to replace the jobs which have been lost in heavy industry and give the young people something to stay for. But at the same time those young people find it difficult to rent or buy a place because there are an increasing number of second homes and holiday lets. I was just in Vilnius, Lithuania, where food and beer were cheap by UK standards but unaffordable for many residents.
I don't know what the answer is, because I do believe in the power of travel to open people's minds and make us all more accepting, but I think we do need to all try to travel more consciously. Personally, I'm avoiding AirBnB "whole place" rentals in favour of hotels, it just sits better with me.

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Susanna
03 Jun 2017

Well written article! Thanks for presenting both sides and calling government to action. To be honest I read the whole thing expecting your to mention eco-tourism, which is small scale travel to home stays with locals, only shopping at local craft stores, not mass souvenir places made for tour busses, using local transportation, not staying at a major resort etc. So, while the government should step up I do think it's the responsibility of the traveler to do their part. I avoid air bnb, especially if it's fun by a non-local. If I can and will try and do a home stay or stay at a very local bnb or boutique hotel that hires locals. I don't stay at resorts and only eat and shop at local farm to table places etc. So, doing that, encourages an economic shift in the demand for these things and that is the travelers responsibility. When the demand goes down for mass tourism and up for eco tourism the governments will respond and local economies thrive.

Thanks for sharing Cory.

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Kelly
03 Jun 2017

What an interesting topic and I can totally see the negative side of excessive tourism. It transfroms a country and pushes out many locals. It makes me sad because I love to experiemce authenticity of a place and I think many times, excessive tourism destroys this. Thats why I try and travel to places off the radar but as a traveller, I would much rather stay away than destroy a country I love and value. Thanks you.

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Alaine
04 Jun 2017

This is a double edged sword with not an easy solution. I think booking an Airbnb vs a hotel is a bit tricky as well. Its really difficult to tell whether the Airbnb apartment is legal (I.e. Rented from the owner and the country or city legislation allows it) I prefer staying in a hotel or a friend's apartment.
But... that being said, I agree with you that popular tourist spots are becoming overcrowded with not an easy solution. I'm very pro-travel and pro-expat but it shouldn't be done at the expense of residents. Price controls should be done for housing and a certain percentage set aside for residents who have lived in the country for a certain number of years so not all newcomers are investing in the building.

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Anne Dorko
04 Jun 2017

There's a lot of socio-economic discussion to be had here, which I am not qualified to weigh in on. Overall I'm not a fan of caps and restrictions, though I am in favor of protecting local ownership over foreign corporate buyouts to ensure that tourism dollars actually benefit the people who tolerate the daily life cons that come with large amounts of tourism.

In general, I think travelers should be better informed. Travel should be done in a less self-serving way. Rather than traveling being sold and seen for its entertainment value, the focus should be on education and open-mindedness. Rather than entering a space and wondering how it can benefit us, we should be learning from it, observing, and contributing in a constructive way. Not because it feels good, but because a need has been articulated and asked for – so called white knights providing unsolicited help due to uneducated misperception is not much better. In other words, the mentality should be "how can I serve those around me based on their feedback" and not "how can I be served best here and get the most entertainment for myself". At the very least, it should be standard to make an attempt to blend in and be neutral, as much as is possible given the theory that even observation affects reality. This provides better opportunity to learn from the culture and open your mind to the realities of living somewhere else and growing up in different backgrounds. Listen and learn from people, don't try to exert superiority just because it's more comfortable. This kind of openness and growth will benefit policies and civic rights all around the world.

I've spoken to lots of people who travel for holidays and "Love travel!" ...but really they love being catered to for two or three weeks before returning back to their home bubble. As soon as they experience inconvenience or really any kind of travel that isn't catered to their every need, want, and desire, they downright hate it and act as if it is the ultimate offense. The people they met and saw are still "Other" and often talked/thought about as less-than.

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Jamie
04 Jun 2017

Very well written Cory. This is a topic that should be discussed. I'm afraid of the drastic solutions cities or countries may set in motion in response to this tourist 'see the world' surge. We have found, in exploring the US National Parks, that we are forced to visit during the off seasons in order to make it affordable and enjoyable. During the busy season these parks are filled with tour buses, there are long lines of cars to enter and no parking spaces in the lots. Traveling in these circumstances is no fun for us and we try to avoid it! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Hopefully good discussion comes from this!