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Explained: Why Europe is fed up with tourists – Lifestyle News



Europe’s travel hotspots are witnessing an anti-tourist rhetoric, even as these primarily depend on tourism income. Anvitii Rai looks at the perils and possible solutions to over-tourism.

What is happening in Europe?

A RECENT REUTERS article highlighted that in the tourist hotspot of Capri, peak season days saw 16,000 visitors making the trip to the island daily, with 12,900 residents. The rush of tourists results in a housing crisis as everyone wants to let out to tourists, bringing more problems in their wake. The article quotes Teodorico Boniello, head of the local consumers’ association as saying, “More people are coming than we can cope with and families can’t set down roots because they can’t afford to stay.” Residents of the Canary Islands, Spain, yet another European island that is popular with tourists, also have called for limiting tourist arrivals. Other popular towns have seen “softer” pushbacks—Venice has become the first city to introduce an entry fee for visitors during the peak season, Florence has banned new holiday lets in the city centre, and even Capri has doubled its tourist fee from €2.5 to €5.

Perils of too many visitors

CAPRI IS HARDLY the first instance where tourists have overwhelmed a city’s capacity to host guests. The Canary Islands’ carrying capacity has been exceeded by as much as seven times. Hawaii is seeing this on a massive scale as it saw 9.5 million visitors as opposed to 1.5 million residents in 2023. Besides the obvious problem of overcrowding and interruptions in residents’ day-to-day lives, overtourism also results in problems that affect every aspect of a popular spot. To begin with, there are the ecological ramifications, which include imperiling local flora and fauna as well as excessive waste generation. Civic infrastructure is also unable to handle the rush of tourists. Economically, while the tourism boom does increase income and some economies are indeed dependent on the same, it also drives up housing prices.

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The Indian experience

ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE OF hill stations such as Manali, Shimla, Nainital, etc., being overwhelmed by the rush of visitors every summer is abundant. In recent memory, however, some cases have indeed come up, including Joshimath in Uttarakhand which witnessed wide cracks appearing on roads and buildings last year. Geologists stated this was due to Joshimath being situated in a high-risk seismic zone, unplanned constructions of residences and hotels, and overdrawing of natural resources like groundwater. Following this, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami ordered carrying capacity assessments of the state’s hill towns. The state government also set a daily cap of 47,500 pilgrims for the Char Dham Yatra following this incident, which was revoked after pressure from local people, resulting in a record-breaking 4.47 million footfall.

A high entry fee works as a filter

The most common solution for regulating the number of visitors, by and large, has been the introduction of a tourist or entry fee. The Cinque Terre Park in the Italian Riviera is now charging €15 for access to a popular coastal footpath to tackle overcrowding, and Mt Fuji authorities have imposed a fee of ¥2,000 per climber, along with installing view blockers at a popular tourist selfie spot due to disruptions to neighbouring residents and businesses.

Other measures include banning tourist entry, such as that in the famous geisha district of Gion in Kyoto. However, the most successful example of tackling over-tourism is from neighbouring Bhutan, which promoted the concept of high-value low volume tourism—tourists must pay a $100 sustainable development fee for each night. This is lower for Indian, Bangladeshi, and Maldivian nationals.

Sustainable tourism is the way forward

STRIKING A BALANCE between a tourist spot’s carrying capacity and income generation potential is essential. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation has listed one of its aims as sustainable tourism — tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social, and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities. The first step towards it would be a proper capacity assessment of the locale, which should then be adhered to by authorities. Persuading tourists to visit in the off-season and following Bhutan’s example by investing the income from fees into improving infrastructure, can also help in optimising the benefits of tourism.

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