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Over-tourism a cause for concern

The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world in Istanbul, Turkey.
The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world in Istanbul, Turkey. saiko3p

I doubt any tourist could be in the centre of a popular destination and not feel concern about over-tourism. We are slowly choking to death most of the places we love to visit.

Venice is probably the most endangered of the popular destinations.

The giant cruise ships disgorge thousands of people every day in the summer to join the thousands of others already there, clogging the alleyways, filling St Mark's Square, preventing the locals from going about their daily routines. Many Venice locals may have also been squeezed out by landlords with a greedy eye for holiday rents.

I have looked aghast at the crowds waiting to get into St Peter's Basilica in Rome.

I've tried without success to take a photo of the Trevi Fountain without the backs of a hundred heads in my frame.

Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy.
Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy. Nikada

I have stood shoulder to shoulder with people inside the Sistine Chapel and been the only person there to respect the "please don't talk” signs. It was like being at a noisy football match in that hallowed place.

In Florence I have walked the 2km of the queue waiting to get into the Uffizi, and then been forced to a standstill in a pedestrian traffic jam on the Ponte Vecchio.

I've only just avoided having a selfie stick poked in my eye near the Eiffel Tower, and I have despaired of getting into the Louvre because even an hour's wait, let alone the usual three it takes to get in, would give me an anxiety attack.

I have shuffled jowl-to-cheek with the masses in Vegas by the fountains in the Bellagio hotel and trundled along with hundreds of others flanked by rolls of carpets in Istanbul's Grand Bazaar.

Deadly terrorist attacks don't seem to deter travellers, and that is a good thing, but I do worry about over-tourism despite myself being one of the grains of sand that adds to the problem.

The fountains at Bellagio Hotel on the Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada
The fountains at Bellagio Hotel on the Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada Yobab

I have no idea what can be done about it.

There are destination management committees around the world, and much talk of sustainable tourism, but I doubt anyone has a real or immediate solution to the problem.

Putting up fences or turnstiles, or taxing visitors so outrageously they stay away, causes another set of problems.

We could find alternatives to our favourite destinations, I suppose, and eastern Europe has many an enchanting, uncrowded place, but I'm not sure I want to go to Ljubljana or Rijeka or Lithuania or Krakow or Tallinn or Bratislava - even though I'm sure they're lovely. It's just that I'd probably be alone there.

Unless you yearn for complete solitude on your holiday, being by yourself in a lovely place is not always pleasant.

In Italy's lake district on a weekday stay we found ourselves the only tourists by a beautiful lake, with all the cafes and shops shut. There was an eerie, dead silence about the place. This was before George Clooney bought a place down the road. It might be a different story now.

In Mexico once we were the only guests in a boutique hotel. It was lonely to sit by the pool and walk the gardens with only the caretaker for company.

In California's redwood tree park, we were entirely alone, and that was scary considering the number of signs warning us to look out for mountain lions.

You'd like a few others nearby should a lion decide to pounce.

I suppose we can all just do our best to be good and responsible tourists, to be patient of others, support local businesses, leave only our footprints. It is an easy and simple alternative to staying away, and nobody wants to do that.

Read more of Ann's musings at annrickard.com

Topics:  ann rickard escape over-tourism travel


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