Be a more considerate tourist

Rewon Shimray | Cartoonist

Countries around the world are having to make some serious adjustments to compensate for excessive tourism, including a loss of locals and implementations of marketing procedures to ensure their cities stay beautiful.

In Amsterdam, visitor numbers have shot up more than 60 percent in the past decade, bolstered by low-cost flights, cheap accommodation and the ease of traveling across open European borders, according to the New York Times. The city is having to come up with marketing campaigns to get tourists to respect the city and its rules and is implementing fines as high as 140 euros for public urination, drunkenness or excessive noise (enforcement agents will be equipped with hand-held devices to take card payments).

While these measures may help address some issues, as tourists we need to change the way we travel to be more respectful rather than forcing cities changing the way they operate all together.

Other destinations have struggled under the sheer weight of visitors: The Galápagos Islands, Dubrovnik, Croatia and Venice have all expressed concern about “over-tourism,” with technology, including apps like Airbnb, often cited as a driver of the problem. The Galápagos Islands are looking to implement a plan to manage how many land-based tourists can stay on the island within a certain time frame. This year, the city has limited the number of people who can disembark from the cruise ships at a given time. Next summer, for the first time since they started pulling into port nearly two decades ago, cruise ships will face restrictions on when they will be allowed to dock, the New York Times reported. Italian government officials, lamenting what they call “low-quality tourism,” are considering limiting the numbers of tourists who can enter Venice or its landmark piazzas, the Times reported. Locals are so overwhelmed by the amount of tourists that they’re beginning to move elsewhere.

Thailand’s Maya Bay, made famous in 1999 by Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie “The Beach” is now closed indefinitely due to extensive environmental damage in recent years, receiving up to 5,000 tourists and 200 boats a day. Thanks to pollution from litter, boats and sun screen, it is estimated that more than 80 percent of the coral around Maya Bay has been destroyed, The Guardian reported.

If we’re not careful, we’re likely going to end up ruining some of the most beautiful places in the world. Many people dream of checking European destinations and beaches off their bucket list, but if travelers aren’t careful, they might not be around to enjoy for much longer. If we want to be able to visit some of these places 20 years from now, we need to make an extra effort to be respectful of cities we’re visiting, foreign or domestic, and make sure we’re following rules and contributing to their economies in positive ways.

Here in the United States, college kids are known for trashing beaches over spring break, which contributes to pollution and ruins beaches even after students return home. National parks face a tourism influx, dramatically affecting the untouched landscapes they were intended to protect. During the past year, some parks considered reservation systems and other measures to address visitor growth.

Sometimes tourists can legitimately forget there are locals living in their vacation destination who are affected by the way we treat their city. Real people live in cities like London and Paris, too, who notice the way tourists act and may even despise tourists for their loudness or rudeness. The next time you travel somewhere, make a conscientious effort to think about how you can help the locals in the area by supporting local businesses or going the extra mile to be thankful that they’re sharing the beauty of their home with you.

Use this as encouragement to be creative when planning travel destinations, too. Instead of just looking at the list of the top 10 travel destinations for the year or jetting off to Milan, do some investigating to find a lower key vacation spot that still has the qualities you’re searching for, but that millions of other people might not know about. It would likely be more enjoyable with less crowds populating the area. Wherever you travel next, think about how your actions affect others and stick to the golden rule — treat others and their hometowns the way you’d like yours to be treated.