The advancement in technology, where one can easily book a one way ticket with one click, from something as convenient as a smart phone has led to a very prominent problem: overtourism, the effects of which have been lately seen in Europe. With increasing population and several travel apps making their way to the market like Airbnb, Uber, OpenTable, Expedia etc, travel has no doubt become easier and cheaper, but not without its fair share of problems. As authentic as the experience can be , the scores of tourists who outnumber locals every year results in sweaty clogged towns as people constantly raise their selfie sticks for numerous pictures. The problem might sound petite, but don’t get me wrong, it most certainly is a global threat.
What I have actually come to realize is this: numerous people out there now think of travelling as a shared pastime, so much so that it’s hard to differentiate people who are genuinely passionate about it and others who just do it to show off on instagram. Factors like low cost airlines and bigger cruise ships have helped in aiding tourism to the extent of making international trips go up by 6% in the first half of the year, according to the U.N World Tourism Organization.
This growth, which might have been perceived as good news a couple of years back, cannot be seen the same way anymore. Here’s why: the world’s most popular destinations cannot seamlessly expand in order to accommodate the constant flood of visitors. The increasing numbers of tourists seem to alter the ancient characteristics of traditional tourist sites, in turn making travel pretty pathetic too.
This not only ruins the residents experience but the tourists experience as well. After all, no one likes waiting in endless queues; it ruins the whole notion of travel and makes it feel like an arduous task that requires instant completion.
Perhaps the influence of social media and the onset of technology is to blame. Online booking, home sharing, mapping on phones, you name it , you have it. With travel made easier in every step of the way, people are motivated to explore more. That being said, at one point in time, travel was all about immersing yourself in a new culture completely, sharing thoughts with fellow travellers and interacting with locals. But with apps like Instagram, people are now more concerned about getting the ‘perfect’ shot. About choosing a place that they deem to be ‘Instagram worthy.’ About building their very own personal brand. Social media is fine, as long as one doesn’t go overboard. But what’s startling today is that many are just so concerned about the pictures they take, and spend hours deciding which photo to put up; the experience slowly fades into the background and is completely overlooked.
This brings me to another vital point- AirBnb. With home sharing, people are bound to spend numerous nights in a place depending on their liking. More often than not, they get mesmerized and spend and extra couple of nights. Besides, there isn’t anything to lose right? Take for instance Amsterdam; the authorities are imposing stringent rules about the number of nights one can spend in a home, bringing it down from 60 to 30. The same is happening in London and Spain as well.
While this represents Airbnb’s drastic growth over the years, we can’t ignore the fact that it’s a main cause in contributing to overtourism. While there is no definite way to cater to this eminent problem, we can just hope that tourists will be responsible and thoughtful enough while visiting a town or city and do all that they can to maintain the natural heritage. No one wants to witness devastating consequences, even on the environment.