We’re citizens of our own place of residency, but when we go on vacations, we dress up as travelers and leave our routines behind to visit a tourist destination, where time doesn’t stop for us and life goes on for the people who live there. And what usually happens? When tourist activity grows, peaceful coexistence becomes more difficult. Do you think it’s possible that some day we’ll have this division in the world’s most touristic cities?
Even though it’s only a simple affirming act in New York’s Fifth Av, it symbolizes a true reality: Mass tourism is damaging the cities. I’ll show you through some examples.
Venice has become a city-museum. In the city’s historic center the amount of tourist apartments has made Venetians leave to other cities in search for better living conditions and cheaper prices. On top of that, you can no longer find the native artisans and artists that used to be there all the time, and they have been replaced by souvenir shops with products that aren’t exactly made in Italy.
Another example, and one that I hold very close, is Barcelona. Slowly, it has been transforming into a city that’s perfect for travelers, but not for its inhabitants. A few days ago, the people from Ens Plantem organized a protest to shed some light in the lack of regulation regarding tourist apartments in the Poblenou neighborhood, which makes prices go up and means that young people can’t afford to live there, and this is called gentrification. This same reality can be transferred to other neighborhoods in the city, where finding a place for a reasonable price is like an odyssey. The wages in Spain have dropped thanks to the famous crisis that started back in 2008, and now only a lucky few young people can afford to live in the center of Barcelona. Another example is restaurants; for someone like me who lives in the city, it’s increasingly difficult to find a restaurant that’s not destined for tourists and where the price-quality ratio is not completely off balance.
A far as I’m concerned, governments need to properly regulate a city’s tourism, so it can be integrated into society, and not the other way around. As part of this regulation, it’s also important to promote a type of tourism that’s not based on seasonality, so peak seasons for tourism can be spaced out. This way, the city is not affected as much, and it’s also good for the economy, since there’s always need to hire people year round. During high season, a huge amount of people are hired, but it’s mostly under terrible conditions, both economic and job-wise. So it’s a very important task that will award tourism the professionalism it deserves.
Aside from the problems that mass tourism brings to a city’s society and economy, the environment it’s also affected, since the large amount of people in a particular destination increases the need for water and also the quantity of waste produced. If the destination doesn’t have the proper infrastructure, water can get easily contaminated, and biodiversity might suffer losses. Looking at it this way, the benefits of a good touristic management can be invested in the improvement of the destination’s infrastructure.
The basis for making people understand the importance of the preservation of the environment is environmental education. That would help in avoiding scenarios like the one in this video, where you can see how tourists in the Ostional beach in Costa Rica barged in the middle of the turtle’s egg laying just so they could get a picture for their social media. I think it’s time to reflect in our behavior as humans.
These are just some examples of how mass tourism affect its destinations, and as a citizen and a traveler it’s important to be familiar with them. So on your next vacation, you can be a temporary citizen instead of just another bystander.
I wouldn’t like to leave you with a bad taste in your mouth, so in this article you can find out how to be a sustainable and responsible tourist!
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