The Environmental Impact Of Mass Tourism And How To Help Manage It

Mass tourism is a somewhat recent social phenomenon, with its numbers rising dramatically in current years. This negative side of tourism saw its first growth boost in the 1930s, and nowadays, people making over a billion international trips a year, so this phenomenon still affects certain destinations, making them unsustainable.

The rise of mobile apps such as Airbnb and budget-friendly package tours, artificially low flights fares, all-inclusive resorts, cruises; have made it way more easy and financially friendly for a wide variety of social groups to go to famous international locations. As affordable group travel tours are on the rise, over-tourism now affects different destinations worldwide. 

How it generates 

In older times, touring used to be a trip for a privileged few, however, tourism has now grown to be available to a larger component of the population, which really isn’t bad, however, there’s a downside to this. Even if the industry has added massive revenues to increasingly visited countries, the consistent affluence of hundreds of thousands of tourists has mostly turned unsustainable.

Mass tourism allows vast numbers of travelers to descend on a given destination in a relatively short time, usually during peak season. The positive side of this phenomenon is that the extreme influx of tourists can help to generate jobs, therefore, stimulating the economy and developing much-needed infrastructure.

The bad side of this very popular form of tourism is that many of the jobs generated aren’t precisely given to locals, the majority of these earnings are kept by international investors. The surprisingly high number of traveler crowds often keep the local community from enjoying such infrastructure benefits.

There are many contributing elements to over-tourism, and of course, these will differ according to each different area. As I mentioned earlier, Airbnb could be a significant contributor (but, not necessarily the leading player) as its made hundreds of beds available and accessible in towns and cities globally, this process is made even easier by them because there’s no need of advanced planning or – in many cases – paying taxes. 

Additionally, cheap flights have saturated different places, and particularly in recent years, Europe. Lastly, cruise ships not only burn a particularly cheap and polluting type of fuel (which keeps costs low) but also transport thousands of tourists into port cities. Wait… this could sound beneficial, right? Well, not exactly, passengers often spend very little in these ports, however, local historic spots, monuments, shops, and cafes are saturated with people.

For a long time, more has been better to local and national governments, as well as travel boards. A “prosperous” reporting year in the travel industry is normally considered to be one in which numbers have improved substantially. The number is all that matters, there’s no importance whether these numbers are of cruise ship passengers, duty-free shoppers, hotel or resorts guests, backpackers or visitors with luxurious preferences. 

The negative impact of mass tourism

Responsible travel experts consider it a shallow, exploitative, and, most importantly, unsustainable form or travel. The main reason for this is that it consumes huge amounts of resources while the local people get very little benefits, this is inarguably hard to deal with and plagues destinations.

It’s important to point out that over-tourism can take many forms; on one side, it could be a million additional vacationers arriving in a capital city, on the other, it could be seen as 20 extra tourists in a small, rural community. In present times, this isn’t simply a large city issue, it has been documented in great wilderness destinations, natural parks, and more.

The travel industry, like many others, focuses almost solely on growth, with little to no space for concern about the consequences. After a long time of uncontrolled expansion, it has crossed a threshold: In numerous destinations all over the globe, tourism now demonstrably creates more troubles than benefits. 

This isn’t a new problem, but with visitor numbers steadily rising, local people from popular tourist areas have started attesting. Destinations around the world are taking action to limit the harmful impacts of over-tourism, making it possible to travel responsibly to popular places struggling with over-tourism and contributing positively to the local environment, people, animals, and historical monuments. 

What tourism operators can do to avoid it

There are a handful of very easy adjustments you can make and values you can promote in order to decrease the influence of your customers on the local communities and the vacation spots that they visit, ensuring that it’s available for future travelers too:

  • Respectful tourism: The number one rule for any traveler is to be respectful and staying within boundaries while abroad. Avoiding littering, and even going the extra mile by picking up any pieces of trash along the way could help make a difference. Making customers understand the local customs to adhere to.
  • Off-season tours: If a place is crowded, the easy suggestion would be visiting somewhere else, the same thing would apply here. However, I understand that it isn’t as easy as it sounds, as some destinations are simply unique and offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The solution to this? Visiting when there is less demand, customers will save a few bucks and have a move enjoyable experiences thanks to less crowding.
  • Not-so-popular places: It’s as simple as it sounds, while certain areas are saturated with travelers, there are many other places around the planet that need, and want, more tourists. This, combined with a positive behavior from visitors could help the travel industry to have a positive effect on these places, making local communities grow financially because of it.
  • Ensure money gets spent locally: Make sure that any of the tours that you partner with ensure that as much of the cash spent by tourists stays as local as possible. This way, travelers can influence local residents positively, and even benefit habitats and animals by supporting well-managed wildlife-based tourism
  • Offer authenticity: Groups with a smaller number of people can significantly avoid over-tourism. It will also give your customers a stronger connection with local communities, their culture, and day-to-day routine. You can easily offer unique ethical adventures to the right audience on the world’s largest travel marketplaces with the right tour operator software.

Tackling this challenge

Over-tourism is negatively affecting many of the most popular countries, cities and regions around the world. Luckily, several websites are imposing rules and limiting the range of tourists to combat overcrowding. 

As tour operators, we can lessen these harmful consequences by choosing the right businesses to partner with, promoting off-peak seasons and, in a few words, standing by responsible and respectful tourism to any areas and the local people that reside in it. 

Back to you, how does your business help tackle this phenomenon? See you in the comments!

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