What is destroying the world’s most popular destinations? People, I’d say.
Komodo Island, a popular destination in Indonesia, has been temporarily closed after “nine men were arrested on suspicion of selling more than 40 Komodo dragons for about $35,000 each” recently reported in the Washington Post. Komodo dragons, which have been around for thousands of years, are now listed as a vulnerable population. Until the Indonesian government sets up proper protections and laws, not only prohibiting contact with the closely endangered species, the island will remain closed.
It is not ok to encroach upon a wildlife’s territory and habitat for personal, professional, or monetary gain. Like taking selfies and photos of a baby dolphin, separated from its mother, without regard to whether it can breathe above water for more than 15 minutes. Yes, it’s ok to interact with nature, but that doesn’t mean you can damage or intrude on its way of life. Just stop it!
But wait, there’s more.
These are valid questions as a result of humans burning carbon-based materials and fossil fuels, or worse, the US government skepticism of climate change. This isn’t the burden of one government or one people-group, but rather us all. All 7.7 billion of us, and especially those with the privilege and opportunity to make laws, create policies, travel, and create awareness around the world.
With Earth Day around the corner, on Monday, April 22nd, frequent travelers remind us of how overtourism, climate change, pollution and more will cause many destinations to no longer to exist in 10, 20, 50 years or more.
Let’s take a look at the world’s dying destinations according to frequent travelers. They’ll examine places they’ve seen and traveled to AND provide recommendations on how we can combat the negative impacts of mass tourism, pollution, and climate change.
The Effects of Overtourism in…
Tourism in North Holland has resulted in over 30 million overnight stays in 2017 alone, an increase of over 9% from the previous year. That’s an average of 82,191 overstays per night of the year. (Source: Provincie Noord Holland)
I lived in Amsterdam and many of the older houses still have single-frame windows. It can be really disruptive to have a crowd of tourists on a segway talking loudly outside your home on an early morning. Similarly, many tourists would go up and down my street, which was made of cobblestone, with a suitcase en route to an Airbnb on my block. The noise (in addition to the tourists who would yell on my street late at night) bothered all the neighbors, so much so that they put up a sign banning tourists (as a joke) on the street.
In general, the overtourism
Amsterdam needs to regulate things better. Amsterdam is finally stepping in to regulate shops opening up in the City Centre and Airbnbs. I worry that it’s a bit too little too late. The city of Amsterdam has imposed some fees on cheaper accommodation that go back directly to the city of Amsterdam, however, it might not be enough to account for the impact of tourism.
Regulations regarding preventing shops from being turned into tourist-focused shops should be expanded outside of the center to prevent more neighborhoods from turning into Amsterdam Centre, which lacks many of the smaller stores that people need to go to on a daily basis. At this point, this is regulated in the City Center, but not outside of it.
Forcing illegal tourist housing onto the main housing market would be a great start for improving the housing crisis in Amsterdam. The housing market is too tight and the financial incentive to turn it into a guesthouse is higher than it is to allow tenants inside. I believe that rethinking hotel regulations might be in the interest of the city long-term.
Karen Turner, WanderlustingK
Spain is a popular European destination in general, but Barcelona in specific is severely suffering from overtourism. I understand why everybody wants to visit it because it is such a beautiful city that offers so much to do and see, but the overly high amount of visitors is slowly keeling it.
During high season, you can see millions of tourists all around the city, and you can feel how overcrowded it is. Using the Metro to get around is unbearable, visiting iconic landmarks like Park Güell is not enjoyable as it should be, and even doing something simple as strolling around can be frustrating.
It’s a problem for both travelers who are trying to enjoy their trip and locals who want to live a normal life in their hometown. Locals are so annoyed by this situation that you can see a lot of signs in the city that say “Tourists, go away!”
Unfortunately, the overtourism in Barcelona is not an issue that only occurs during summer. It has become a problem all year round that’s getting out of control.
Both travel bloggers and Instagrammers can make a huge difference when it comes to overtourism. Foremost, we all should be more diverse with the photos we post to Instagram. People are inspired by them, and seeing the exact same photo of a popular location taken by multiple successful Instagrammers causes people to want to hop on a plane just for the sake of taking that same photo too.
Apart from that, our photos should be real. It’s easy to show only the glitz and glamor side of the city, but if people saw photos and videos of all the crowds, I bet they wouldn’t be so tempted to book a trip to Barcelona.
We should also inspire people to explore other destinations. With a beautiful photo or blog post about another city that is both interesting and easy to get to, we can convince people to choose an alternative destination. Since summer is the most problematic time in Barcelona, we can also encourage people to visit the city off-season.
Or Amir, My Path In The World
Instagram: My Path In The World
I visited the Great Wall of China last year in 2018. Stretching for thousands of kilometers, China’s mighty wall was built to defend the onslaught of attacking armies, but it’s the hordes of tourists that occupy it these days.
Some sections are still intact, other sections of the wall are sprayed with graffiti, theft has taken their toll, bricks that have historic engravings on them are sold, and according to the local guides, 35% of the fortification has disappeared due to natural erosion and human damage.
The guide mentioned that only about 6% of the Great Wall is in good condition. Can you imagine, a local heritage with over 20,000 kilometers is in danger. Local governments should provide subsidies and education to encourage local residents to get involved in their protection.
Jolien of My Bucket List Project
Instagram: My Bucket List Project
Because of its popularity, Geena Truman and Nadia Crowe, both provided their personal observations from time spent in Bali. From 2000, tourism in Bali has spiked at 5 million tourists a year. Is tourism destroying the environment?
The massive spike
Bali was once a tropical paradise filled with rich cultural practices, pristine beaches, and lush green rice fields. Today, with the massive spike in tourism, Bali is at best-overcrowded and westernized. At its worst, its beaches are littered with garbage and its coral reefs suffering from pollution.
Authentic attractions in Bali have been replaced by Instagram Cafe’s and lines of tourists all waiting to snap the same photo. Most markets now sell overpriced versions of the same goods and a lot of the cultural practices have simply become a show for the tourists. The tourism economy swallowed Bali and took away all the authenticity of the island.
The best way to combat this is to get off-the-beaten-path. North Bali is still relatively untouched. More difficult to access and much more rural you’ll find some semblance of what life in Bali used to be like. Gushing waterfalls surrounded by luscious jungle and small communities of Indonesians who have kept the rich cultural traditions alive.
A visit to Menjangan island (off NW Bali) will give you the private white sand beaches you were dreaming of. The best way to change the negative impact we have had on Bali is to seek the unexplored and leave the beaten tourist track behind.
Geena Truman, Bartender Abroad
Instagram: Bartender Abroad
Growing up in Bali
I have family in Bali, my dad lives there and has lived there for over 12 years. That means that I’ve been going to Bali since 2007, it seems like a lifetime ago, and it certainly looks like it. I still go to Bali fairly often, and I love it there, it’s my second home. But when I look back on how things were when I first started going there, and I see things now, it makes me so sad.
Droves of tourists come to Bali every year, and it’s understandable because Bali is gorgeous. But there’s a complete lack of respect from tourists of local traditions, the land, and the people. I feel like often people come to Bali either to party, or to beef up their instagram, and as a result, it’s now completely polluted by plastic, food waste, light pollution, noise pollution, air pollution. It’s an entirely different place, if I’m being honest, and whilst I love it there because it’s where I grew up, I get so annoyed hearing people trying to move/go there. Bali can’t handle it.
Thankfully, the government, the locals, and a select few expats who’ve made Bali their home, have started to realise that Bali is crying out for help. A lot of the local businesses are moving away from single-use plastic, and are trying to move towards more sustainable business models. As a tourist, I can completely understand the allure of Bali, the waterfalls, the beaches, the lifestyle, but honestly? Give it a miss, Indonesia is filled with incredible hidden gems, we haven’t even begun to touch the surface on how spectacular other parts of Indonesia are.
Yes, Bali is a great place, but be the better person and avoid it. Try Lombok, Lake Toba, Jogja, or Sumatra instead. I guarantee you aren’t missing out on much, and you’re likely to find very similar, untouched settings elsewhere. Give Bali a couple of years to recover, to be able to revert its declaration that they’re in a state of garbage emergency. Give it time.
Nadia Crowe, Eco Wanderland
Instagram: Eco Wanderland
The Effects of Climate Change in…
The Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon Rainforest is the most important tool to reduce carbon dioxide of our polluted world. Due to big industries (oil, palm oil, cattle, soy, wood, …), the growing demand of food (due to overpopulation and overconsumption) and capitalism, the Amazon Rainforest is highly endangered. If the deforestation continues in the same speed as it did so far, we may have 30 to 50 years left until it is completely gone, and with it thousands of animals, plants, unique ecosystems and indigenous tribes.
I live in the Amazon Basin of Ecuador and can see the impact of deforestation, driven by industries, every day in my neighborhood. Reading news of more and more species on the endangered lists is breaking my heart. Nothing should destroy this beautiful, peaceful natural heritage, the rainforest is the most important and beautiful place on earth!
We can make a change in our everyday behavior of consumption. Means less processed and convenience food (it is full of palm oil), less meet (which requires big amounts of land for cattle farming plus cattle food, as well as the production of CO2 by the cattle itself, eat regional and seasonal (to reduce the amount of fuel needed to ship goods from one place to another) AND support local small eco-tourism projects.
These projects are a sustainable way to protect big areas of land from deforestation, illegal logging and selling to any industry. Further, these projects should involve indigenous communities and local people and provide work, education, transportation
The agency respect-travel made it their subject to protect the rainforest and carry out the message to people all over the world. Their approach is, that people care more about things they have seen and been to, rather than “only” seeing pictures of destroyed places. see it – love it – care for it is what they follow.
Judith Wuestner, Respect Travel
Facebook: Respect Travel
New Zealand’s Glaciers
New Zealand is home to over 3,150 glaciers – an impressive number for such a small country. Most of those are on the South Island, including the two largest and best-known, Franz Josef and Fox Glacier. I was lucky enough to get to visit Fox Glacier in person. It was my first time on a glacier and while it was an awesome experience, it was also bittersweet. “Last-chance tourism,” they call it.
It’s one thing to know that the glaciers are melting; it’s another entirely to see it with your own eyes. As we hiked across Fox Glacier, our guide pointed out a stunning waterfall thundering down into the valley. “That’s glacial melt,” he said. “There used to be a hanging glacier up there, but it’s retreated so far that you can’t see it anymore.”
Advancing and retreating is a natural cycle for all glaciers, but recently that balance is shifting. Man-made climate change has been causing rapid melting of glaciers globally. In the face of this dire news, some researchers implied that New Zealand’s glaciers weren’t in danger.
Unfortunately, long-term data from Franz Josef and Fox glaciers show that the recent advances are still part of an overall downward trend (see
Already, the glacier tourism industry in New Zealand has had to make changes. Back when they first started giving glacier tours, a guide could lead tourists right up onto the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers from the valley floor.
When I took my tour, the only way to approach the glacier was in a helicopter. Tour companies who work with the nearby Tasman Glacier are starting to push cruises, taking advantage of the lake that has formed from meltwater at the glacier’s terminal face.
Thanks to its urgent, “last-chance” nature, glacier-related tourism in New Zealand has been growing almost as rapidly as the glaciers have been shrinking. It’s a bit of a gamble, though, since if the glaciers retreat too far, all that tourism will grind to a halt.
So, what can we do to stop the glaciers from disappearing altogether? Focus on greener, cleaner energy. We need to reduce emissions so that we can keep the earth from getting any warmer. Unless we’re able to reverse the global warming trend of today’s climate change, there’s not much hope for the glaciers.
Meghan Crawford, Expedition Limitless
Great Ocean Road, Australia
Arguably the most visited stop on the Great Ocean Road is the Twelve Apostles. These striking rock formations – some towering up to 50m high – are a result of rising sea levels and tidal erosion with the irony being that this inevitably will also be the death of them.
Unfortunately, many people do not see the issue as they brush it off as nature taking its course. In many ways, this is true however with over 2.5 million visitors also driving the Great Ocean Road a year, it can be argued that without proper tourist infrastructure to this area humans are also contributing to this problem and the blame does not purely lie with nature.
With only 8 of the 12 Apostles now still standing and the ice caps melting at an alarming rate, it can only be expected that the tide will creep closer to the Great Ocean Road, eroding it’s already exhausted structure as well as these natural landmarks on route. Having driven the road last month, at numerous points the road is only metres from the shore.
Aesthetically, this is incredibly beautiful and an unforgettable experience to drive with ocean alongside. Yet logically, it will be a handful of years before the ocean reaches this road resulting in local access cut off and future generations unable to witness this beautiful scenery.
So how can you help? It was only in 2005 when the 9th apostle collapsed into the sea, with the remaining 8 deteriorating daily. On the one hand it’s a race against time to see these natural wonders before they are gone completely but on the other, we need to take responsibility for the causes of their demise. Action needs to be taken now instead of the financial and environmental burden handed to future generations.
When visiting the Great Ocean Road park in the designated spaces and do not ignore signage when areas are closed for regeneration. Keep to designated tracks to avoid further erosion of the road and destruction of the scenery surrounding it. Play your part in voicing the effects of climate change and proactively persuade those still in disbelief that it is very real and changing the world around us at an alarming rate.
Lauren Hay, Faramagan
The Effects of Pollution in…
The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders so it’s no surprise that approximately 2 million people visit the Reef each year. Obviously, this amount of tourism is putting considerable strain on the delicate ecosystem within the reef. Tourists are polluting the reef with poisonous sun cream and bodily secretions which are lethal to the coral and algae. Over half of the Great Barrier Reef has been declared ‘dead’ due to coral bleaching.
As our global problem with climate change worsens, the temperature of the ocean is rising unnaturally high causing the reefs algae to be destroyed and the coral to starve this is known as coral bleaching. Much of the inner part of the reef is just a sad skeleton of colorless coral compared to its former glory.
I, myself was disappointed to see the famous reef in such a desperate state when I went on a snorkeling trip while visiting Cairns. We were taken to the outer part of the reef which is supposed to be in much better condition but it was evident that coral bleaching had occurred there too.
Sadly, I think that some parts of the Great Barrier Reef will never recover from the intense coral bleaching. However, we can help to prevent further coral bleaching by trying to reduce our carbon footprint to reduce our impact on global warming! There are many online resources to help you cut down on Co2 emissions to help save our oceans, so there really is no excuse! In addition, we need to educate people about the threats facing the Great Barrier Reef especially tourists who wish to visit the reef.
More enforcement needs to be put in place to prevent people from wearing sunscreen while in the reef (just wear a wetsuit that covers your body) and rules put in place so people don’t touch or break the delicate coral. Finally, we need to be more conscious of single-use plastic. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans and this just isn’t good enough.
Say no to plastic bags and straws and anything plastic that can only be used once. Plastic does not simply disappear it ends up in our oceans and takes decades for it to biodegrade. If we all do our bit we can keep natural wonders like the Great Barrier Reef alive so that our future generations can enjoy them too.
Rhianne Hill, Living
Instagram: Living Wanderfully
The Effects of Government in…
Aral Sea, Uzbekistan
The Aral Sea, which is split between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in Central Asia, has been shrinking since the 1960s. The Amu Darya River has been feeding the Uzbek side; however, the river has been diverted for irrigation purposes since the Soviet Era. First, the former Soviet Union heavily produced cotton in Uzbekistan, a water-thirsty crop. In most recent years, other countries like Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan have been increasing their water consumption from the Amu Darya River for their own developments.
The overuse of the Amu Darya reduced the water flowing into the Aral Sea to almost nothing. Today, the sea has been receding to just a small stretch of water and is expected to disappear entirely in the years to come. This led to the destruction/disappearing of the fishing industry in the Aral Sea, a lakeshore now about 900 km from its former fishing pier in the city of Muynak, leaving a dried and dusty “seafloor” in its wake where abandoned and rusty ships lay as a sad reminder of the Aral Sea environmental and economic crisis.
Kazakhstan has built a dam completed in the early 2000s that separates the Aral Sea into two areas. As a result, Kazakhstan is home to the North Aral Sea, whereas Uzbekistan has the South Aral Sea in the Karakalpakstan autonomous region.
Since the completion of the Dike Kokaral concrete dam by Kazakhstan, the water coming from the Syr Darya river has helped the water rise to a healthy level. Fish has returned, as did the fishing industry. An incredible recovery that has happily surprised many scientists.
However, a similar success might be hard to replicate in Uzbekistan as the water from the Amu Darya River crosses different countries before reaching the Aral Sea. Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan had engaged into common efforts in 1984 to support an Aral Sea Basin Programme. The lack of actual commitments from these countries has so far been preventing a positive outcome.
One a smaller scale, Uzbekistan has started a project that sees the planting of bushes in the former Aral sea floor to limit the desertification and the creation of sand storms.
Patricia Pagenel, Ze Wandering Frogs
Instagram: Ze Wandering Frogs