Travel with love

How to be a smarter traveller: avoid overtourism for your next destination

When we plan our next well-deserved holiday, we always dream of idyllic destinations: maybe a beautiful sand beach in Polynesia, untouched snowy fields in the Swiss Alps, or the perfect view of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. However, with more people travelling than ever, we have to get used to some drawbacks such as overcrowded beaches, long queues at the ski lift, and cities packed with people.

Read on to explore tourism's profound impact on local economies and our best tips and tricks to avoid over-tourism while still having your dream vacation.

Over-tourism: when travelling reaches the next level (in the wrong way)

Global tourism has grown incredibly in recent decades thanks to more economic-friendly options. Global travel expenditures witnessed a threefold increase between 2000 and 2018, skyrocketing from 495$ billion to 1.5$ trillion. [1]

And while tourism has the power to bring positive changes, this quick or poorly planned growth can cause various problems. Too many tourists and strained tourism facilities can harm natural and historical sites, monuments, landscapes, and public areas.

This damage can result in destinations losing their unique identity and authenticity, impacting not just the tourist experience but also harming the environment and the local communities that tourism relies on.

These effects can be seen not only in exotic destinations such as the coral reef in Australia, turning white from the impact of pollution, but also in cities like Venice, where the residents asked for a ban on cruise ships, with protest flags often draped from windows. In 2021, large cruise ships were finally banned from using the main Giudecca Canal, leaving only smaller passenger ferries and freight vessels able to dock, preserving the sea life, the picturesque historical docking, and the quality of life of Venice’s inhabitants. [2]

Alternative solutions for overtourism: yes, there are

In recent years, reports from tourism observers in European countries have brought to our attention the negative impact of mass tourism in many cities and the environmental consequences. 

One example is Barcelona, which is among the top five spontaneous destinations in Italy and France in 2023. [3] The city in 2022 doubled the number of tourists in one year, compared to 2021, with more than 23 million visitors per year, which raised noise and air pollution levels, primarily caused by aeroplanes and cruise ships. [4]

Does that mean we need to renounce picturesque European destinations? Not at all, since we can still choose lesser-known destinations with equally spectacular atmospheres.

Our tip: The Basque Country is the best-kept secret in Spain. This region offers local delicatessen, charming coastal towns like San Sebastián, and rich Basque culture.

Explore the unexpected

Tourism transcends checking off locations on a list; why not explore a less popular beach destination or try travelling out of the peak season?

Go off the beaten path and try deseasonalization

Let's kick things off with a bit of adventure, shall we? Instead of sticking to the tourist-packed landmarks, we shall consider venturing off the beaten path and exploring lesser-known gems.

Not only will we have a more intimate experience, but we’ll also be giving those crowded hotspots a breather.

Choosing the less expected option is about the destination and timing. Let’s picture this: the Eiffel Tower without the sea of selfie sticks. As often happens with travels, timing is critical! It is essential to try to visit famous attractions in the off-season to avoid the crowds and snag some cool perks like discounted rates or special events, or even check peak hours in advance to avoid them. According to our Travel Horizon report in 2024, September and October are the preferred months for deal hunters and last-minute bookings. [3]

Our tip: While some holidays are time-sensitive, there are destinations that are lovely all year long!

Respect local customs and the environment

Nothing says "cool traveller" more than respecting the local culture and environment. Let’s say we’re booking a long weekend in one European city, for example, Lisbon. We cannot wait to immerse ourselves in its vibrant atmosphere while climbing to the castle and strolling through Alfama. But how do we become responsible tourists?

We can choose sustainable transportation options like public transit, cycling, or walking. Not only does it reduce our carbon footprint, but it also eases the strain on crowded tourist hotspots that are often clogged with rental cars.

Our tip: Opting for local businesses, public transport, and off-peak destinations is the perfect way to get some fantastic insider tips on hidden gems from the locals.

Sometimes, the best experiences come from visiting unexpected places or spontaneous decisions when we are ready to adapt our plans and go with the flow. Overtourism might be trying to crash our party, but we do not have to accept it. As a community of trip enthusiasts, we can reshape the travel scene, one choice at a time: together, we're seeing the world and making it a better place.

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