While we all love to travel, the unfortunate truth is that this makes us tourists. Tourists are known to be bothersome to many locals because they increase population density, congest the streets, and have even been known to disrespect historic landmarks. While tourists can improve the economy of many places, unfortunately, some consequences come along with too much popularity.
Here are six destinations that have been damaged by tourism.
1. Venice, Italy
This idyllic renaissance city known for its beautiful architecture and canals has become so overcrowded with tourists that many historical landmarks have become inaccessible. Venice receives upwards of 80,000 tourists per year, and residents are not happy about it. About 2,000 Venice residents leave the city per year, and if they continue to move, then there is a chance tourists could entirely run the area. Part of the issue is the troubling number of cruise ships that sail in and out of the Giudecca canal four or five times a day, producing large quantities of noise and emissions that are bothersome to residents. It is also impossible for the city to house a large number of visitors alongside the native population. With more and more bed and breakfasts popping up throughout town, many locals can’t even find a place to live.
2. The Great Pyramids, Egypt
While visiting one of the seven wonders of the world is an understandable bucket list item, the sad truth is that The Great Pyramids might not be around for much longer. Due to decades of foot traffic, the pyramids and the Sphinx have suffered irreversible erosion damage. The pyramids are so ancient that any attempt to fix the destruction only seems to make the situation worse.
3. Phi Phi Islands, Thailand
The picturesque cove and beaches of the Phi Phi Islands attract as many as 5,000 people every day, arriving by shuttle boats from mainland resorts in Krabi and Phuket. The constant boat traffic threatens to destroy the coral reefs surrounding the islands. Thai authorities announced this year that they will be shutting down the Maya Bay from July to September to give the reefs a chance to heal from the damages. Twenty years ago, not many people knew about the islands, and it was truly a remote paradise. Now the Phi Phi Islands have become a selfie-taking free for all, much to the detriment of the ecosystem.
4. Machu Picchu, Peru
The ancient site of Machu Picchu has also been threatened, not only by tourists, but also by natural disasters such as landslides and fires. The trouble is that officials do not have the resources to predict when a landslide or fire will occur, putting visitors at risk. Like any other ancient side, uncontrolled tourism threatens the integrity of the ruins. According to Luis Lumbreras, an independent archeologist who has studied the ruins for more than 40 years, “Machu Picchu was never made for lots of people… If we put tourists with boots that are jumping, running, climbing the walls, et cetera, that’s the danger.”
5. Santorini, Greece
Santorini attracts more than two million visitors per year, which is more than 130 times its population of only 15,550 people. They come to take in its pristine beaches and beautiful Greek architecture. But the massive number of tourists drain the island of its natural resources such as water. Santorini lacks the infrastructure and services to keep up with the demand of tourists. The cost of living has also increased, making it harder for workers to find an affordable place to live. This is partly due to homeowners renting out their properties to Airbnb, making property rentals more lucrative and inaccessible to permanent residents. With over 70,000 people arriving per day to the island during peak tourist season, locals are finding it hard to host such an overwhelming mob of people all at once.
6. Big Major Cay Islands, Bahamas
You may have heard of “Pig Island,” officially known as Big Major Cay Island, one of the over 365 islands in Exuma, a district of the Bahamas. Big Major Cay has attracted many tourists who want to visit a unique tropical paradise where pigs roam free. Swimming and petting the friendly pigs is all great fun — until they begin to die due from tourists overfeeding them. It is said that there are only 15 pigs left on the island. The island pigs have a special diet, which does not include beer and rum. Tourists have been known to try to feed the pigs alcohol, and even attempt to ride them.
Why have these countries been so overwhelmed by tourists in recent years? It could be due to more affordable airfare, influence from social media, popular TV shows, or access to affordable accommodations through the rise of Airbnb. As tourists, it’s our responsibility to help preserve the natural wonders of the world, so others can enjoy them too. When we travel, we should make sure to understand the rules of the city we’re visiting, and make sure we’re traveling in a sustainable way that’s fair to those who live in our destination year round, and future generations.