Venice hosts 30 million tourists a year which flood the ancient city with massive foot traffic. The strain of so many tourists is clearly not good for a city which floats on water. I visited Venice in 2016 and it was my favourite city which I got to explore in Europe. Despite my love with the city I noticed a few terrible things happening. Overloaded trash cans spilling onto the ground and lots of tourist centred stalls which take away from the general aesthetic of the city. I also was fortunate to visit Amsterdam and Paris a few times both cities are also known for millions of tourists visiting these popular destinations. Paris has seen a surge of tourists in 2018. Forecasters estimate that Paris will see a 100 million visitors in 2020. This post will unpack the issues of over tourism and focus on how all travellers can become part of the solution to combat over tourism.
There’s an array of problems in Venice besides the over full bins. On the environmental front air pollution is drastically increasing. The city has roughly 6 cruise ships visiting it daily which brings along hordes of people. The ships themselves pollute the air. Cruise ships typically have 2 engines and although one of the engines is switched off when the ship docks, the second engine runs the entire day. This causes degradation of the buildings in Venice. Stones are literally falling apart. Many of the stones in Venice are limestone, which disintegrate due to carbon emissions from the cruise ships. Clearly this will also damage monuments which have stood the test of time. Sadly the European Union does not require cruise ships to use cleaner fuel. Other industries have to stick to a certain level of carbon emissions but, for some reason cruise ships are exempt from this rule. In Amsterdam streets are also littered with dirt and tourists have been known to pee in the canals. The city introduced a fine and extensive marketing campaign geared at educating tourists on how to behave and warning them of fines if they disrupt the peace. I smelt urine in the streets and saw the dirt which made me cringe at times.
Unfair business practices
There are insanely crowded spaces in Central Venice. This makes it difficult for locals to enjoy their city. It also makes for long waiting times for travellers. Free walking tours are often touted as an amazing way to meet fellow travellers and discover a city by me. In Venice however, illegal free tours are conducted by private individuals who aren’t licensed. This takes away important business from registered tour guides. There are also people who are now renting terrible apartments or even empty shop window spaces out to unsuspecting tourists. Check out the video at the end of this post if you don’t believe me.
Gentrification displaces local residents. As an area becomes more developed and urbanized rent increase leading to locals being unable to afford to live in their own communities. Often developers create stunning buildings which brings in upper middle class and wealthy individuals who want to stay in the area. Essentially this pushes out locals and they often times do not benefit from the developments. Approximately half of Venetians have moved elsewhere. Landlords prefer to rent to tourists instead of locals as they can charge more to tourists. This practice is popular and Spain recently curbed the amount of tourist rentals for Airbnb hosts by introducing a tourist tax. Amsterdam is also experiencing the same problem where locals can’t afford to live in the city. Sometimes landlords create crazy rules because demand for living quarters is so high. For instance a apartment in Amsterdam with a kitchen and microwave was advertised a place where no cooking or reheating of food could be done. The kitchen was therefore not to be used at all. The cost of rent has similarly skyrocketed in Venice. There are several abandoned houses which the city does not rent out to locals. Instead the houses are damaged inside, sinks, taps, toilets, baths and showers are removed making these homes unlivable. In response to this a grassroots squatting group has emerged. Members find out if there are abandoned homes from locals who don’t want to live near empty homes. They then let people know about these homes. Individuals then fix up the houses and live inside them illegally without the city’s permission. I have written about the Gentrification of the Bo Kaap in Cape Town and how locals are having to move out due to increasing costs. Homes have now become hotels and clashes are occurring because of it. You can read more about it in my previous post “The gentrification of the Bo-Kaap”
In Venice there have been noise complaints from locals. Amsterdam experiences lots of noise on it’s streets in the central part of the city. I heard quite a few people screaming in the streets near the coffeeshops in Amsterdam. Chances are they were high still it must be majorly horrible to try to fall asleep if you live in one of the noisy parts of the city. There have been reports of tourists having sex in public spaces in Venice and filming it. In Cape Town a video of a couple having sex at Signal hill made headline news as the spot is popular, public and children could have spotted the scene at any time.
The number of tourists descending upon these popular places alone makes it uncomfortable to live there. It takes away from the travel experience. Paris is touted as the most visited city in the most crowded country in the world at the moment. I had a personal bad experience when a few tourists in the line to the Louvre refused to let me pass them even though they burst in front of me and separated me from my travel group. It was crowded in front of certain pieces especially the Mona lisa and I only got a photo because I’m small enough to push through a big crowd. Another crowded place was in front of the Duomo in Milan. I took photos with the crowds in them and wished that it wasn’t that crowded but, after all I was part of that crowd too.
The possible solutions
Off the beaten track
Taking a trip to a place that isn’t that popular is becoming a trend in itself. More and more tourists want to go to cities which are off the beaten track. Instead of going to Brussels check out Ghent, instead of Amsterdam admire the canals of Utrecht. I wanted to see Gravelines and Lille in France and didn’t get to go. Because I realized that there’s more to France than Paris and I ended up seeing Laval, Fougeres and Rene due to my curiosity about what France has to offer.
Close to the popular city
Travellers are also wanting to explore cities which are close to the more popular cities. So instead of staying in Cape Town throughout their trip travellers to my region are now going to smaller places such as Arniston, Hermanus, Ceres etc. This means that travellers to Pisa would also go to a less buzzing place such as Bologna for example. Exploring in this way thins out the crowds at the popular spots.
Out walk and outlast
Even in cities which are full of people walking can make a big difference. If you walk past the square at Pisa you will find other spots. Little café’s, cobblestone streets, there’s a vineyard and so much more in Pisa. Signal Hill in Cape Town is less crowded than Table Mountain even though it’s easy to drive to. This means that if you keep walking or travelling to these places you won’t be spent being caught up in a jam-packed tourist hotspot the whole time whilst travelling.
Winter is the new summer, travelling in the off season has always been done by budget travellers. This cost effective method of travelling seems to be spilling over now. If you choose to see Paris in the rain you just might get to be enthralled by the gloomy clouds and lack of lines like I was. The first time I visited Paris I only had one day to do what I wanted to and I got to see everything and more which was on my list. Chasing the sun isn’t always the way to go especially if you are going to a place known for pulling in the summer masses. I’ve heard that Venice in winter is much more emptier, so mix up your trips to include winter breaks and pack your coat, gloves, beanie and scarf.
Eco friendly travelling
Eco friendly travelling seems to be another travel trend. Thankfully this is a positive, more and more tourists are realizing that they should take care of the environment. This means not using plastic utensils when eating out, refusing straws with drinks, using biodegradable toiletries and being aware of how animals are treated at elephant parks. It may also mean booking with a tour company that is eco friendly. This one can be tricky if your budget is tight but, it doesn’t cost money to throw your trash in a bin instead of on the streets. There’s now a no eating on the street law in Florence, Italy because people were throwing food wrappers around. You have to be creative too at times carry a bag for trash with you in case of over flooded bins and dispose of your trash when you can. If there’s a will there’s a way. Each of us as travellers has a responsibility to take care of the earth even more so because we represent our respective countries when we travel.
Be a responsible traveller
Which brings me to my next point, being an eco friendly traveller is part of being a respectful traveller. I have written on “how to be a respectful traveller” before so I won’t dwell on this topic. But, to sum it up, it means that you shouldn’t be a jerk. You should research the culture of where you going. And then try to follow the conventions out of respect as much as you can. Be kind, friendly and helpful. Don’t alienate the locals and be yourself. Try to support local businesses this will help stimulate the local economy and makes you a rock star. Also don’t look down on people because they are living in less developed circumstances. I’m sounding like a hallmark card I know. I just can’t stress enough though that sending out positivity brings back positivity your way.
Connect with locals
Sometimes this can be a tough one. Getting to know people in your travel destination and again treating them with respect can lead to amazing friendships. It also has the bonus potential of showing locals that travellers are wonderful people who are interested in their city. I was blessed that I had or made local friends in France, The Netherlands and Germany.
Thank you for reading and I hope you liked this post. If you have any suggestions please do let me know. I love hearing from my readers. I have not been posting as frequently as I am changing my blogging goals to posting around once a week instead of three times. I might enrol in a new study program soon and I’m struggling to find a balance between work and my blog. Thanks for bearing with me. I hope you enjoy your weekend.
xxx Nikkidiscovers xxx