It seems as if the whole world is teeming with tourists now and the changing face of travel frightens me. I live in Noosa, one of Australia’s hottest beach resort destinations, so I constantly experience the pressure tourism puts on our favourite places.
Here in Noosa, that includes crowded beaches, traffic or parking problems and packed trails in Noosa National Park heaving with families, surfers, prams and irate joggers who’d really rather not slow down. These experiences used to be confined to the peak tourist seasons, especially summer and the school holidays, but now it seems to be busy here all year-round.
I’m just using Noosa as an example because I’m a Noosa local but this reflection certainly isn’t a dig at our local tourism boards who do an amazing job and who I love working with.
It’s just a fact of life and the same is true in popular tourist destinations worldwide. The cities of Paris, Barcelona and Amsterdam are all so overrun with tourists that their tourism boards are now focusing on how they can draw those tourists out to less visited, less crowded areas.
In Barcelona, local residents are so overwhelmed by the 32 million tourists who flock to their city each year they feel as if they’re “under occupation“.
There’s no one to blame for this; as the world becomes more populated and affluent, people travel more and they tend to flock to the same popular places. I get that.
If you’ve always dreamed of seeing the Eiffel Tower, visiting the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona or exploring Kyoto in Japan then you should do that.
What does concern me and annoy me is seeing teeny weeny insignificant places, like the Fairy Pools in Noosa National Park, or Booloumba Creek in the Noosa Hinterland, being shared repeatedly on Instagram.
I’m not sure about Boolumba, which is our regular family camping spot, but hopefully, it’s far enough from Noosa that it won’t get overrun, however it seems that the Fairy Pools have been ruined.
Noosa locals don’t go there any more because these rock pools are now crowded with people, besmirched with graffiti and adorned by rubbish that’s been left behind. It’s very sad.
So when I saw a headline that read The Next Trend In Travel Is… Don’t, I understand the reason behind it. Like me, the writer is devastated by the negative impacts of tourism, citing Bali, Cambodia and Georgetown as examples and listing places like the Galapagos Island, the Great Wall of China, and Venice which Fodor Travel Guides urges tourists NOT to visit because tourism is endangering these destinations.
However, recommending people stop travelling altogether is unrealistic. As a die-hard travel lover, I still want to explore new places and experience diverse cultures without annoying the locals (human and animal), being part of a mindless herd of tourists or endangering these very special places.
In 47 Travel Tips Everyone Needs to Know, one of my tips, perhaps the best one, is to stay longer. Not only does this make your trip more cost effective and give you more time to explore the whole area properly (not just the tourist hot spots) it also minimises the impact of tourism.
I’m so crowd-averse I break out in a cold sweat just imagining the crowds at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Pyramids of Mexico or the Empire State Building. But there are other ways to avoid the crowds and take the pressure off yourself and your dream destination:
- Visit out of season – February is always good almost anywhere;
- Get up early – You can have the place to yourself and get unsullied photos if you arrive well before the crowds.
And don’t forget to stay longer wherever you go. That way you can minimize the impact of your stay, travel for less and get more out of the experience too. Win, win.