Is “overtourism” killing popular travel destinations?

We like to think we’re helping folks when we travel the world. Often we are, especially in some developing countries or places that rely on tourism, or when there have been recent incidents that scared people off and have hurt the local economy.

Other times, though, we travel types are a bloody menance; trampling over flower beds and stomping along in church squares with a million other Instagrammers and bucket listers and ruining what should be a great experience.

Venice Grand Canal

Venice Grand Canal

Such has been the case for quite some years with Venice. I think Moses once wrote that he was disgusted by the hordes of people chiselling on tablets and sending “look at me” messages back home on “Stoneagram.” I’m pretty sure I read that.

I know Barcelona is way too popular, and have read that polticians have been dreaming up ways of stopping folks at the border.

Here in Canada, Lake Louise was so popular this year that they only allowed folks to drive up to the lake if they had a hotel reservation.

So, yes, Virginia, there can be too much of a good thing. And now it appears that’s happening with Reykjavik and Iceland, the latest victim of overtourism disease.

A story in Travel Industry Today
points out that worldwide outbound trips are expected to increase by 4.1 per cent and that authorities in a number of popular tourist spots are worried. Very worried.

Consumer insight firm Canadean finds that overtourism “poses serious challenges for countries or cities which do not have the capacity to deal with increased visitors in terms of infrastructure and environmental strategies,” Travel Industry Today said.

“In numerous cities around the world such as Reykjavik, Amsterdam, Venice, Barcelona, and Zanzibar City, the negative consequences of increased tourism numbers have already been felt with government authorities struggling to curtail the problem while retaining their profitability,” said Gillian Kennedy, analyst at Canadean.

A natural bath soak in Iceland.

A natural bath soak in Iceland.

The problem is particularly acute in Iceland, which has witnessed a growth of 163 percent for inbound tourism between 2010 and 2015. While this has been a positive feature for Iceland’s economy, problems such as overcrowding and pollution of major tourism sites represent serious challenges for the Icelandic government, Travel Industry Today reported.

I’ve never been to Iceland, but everyone I talk to tells me it’s a great place; full of stark beauty and lovely people. And way too many tourists by the sound of it.

The Travel Industry Today report quoted Kennedy as saying that Iceland’s government might soon end the policy of free entry to the country and may introduce entrance fees for tourists that would be used to invest in infrastructure and hotel capacity.

Not a bad idea.

In the meantime, I think I’ll take my mid-January trip to Miami instead of Iceland. Florida only has to worry about global warming and rising ocean levels.

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