e are all responsible for overtourism. We all need to own it
It’s a big word, ‘responsible’. So big that many people advised us against using it when we came up with the name of our company, Responsible Travel. But the reason we chose it is because it highlights the fundamental principle that we aim to adhere to. We are all responsible for the world we travel in. From grassroots to government, airlines to cruise lines, skiers to sailors, we all have a responsibility to travel in a way that benefits the places we visit. This is a flag we have been flying for a long time, and we can’t help but be struck by the fact that the R-word is now becoming common place when it comes to tourism. Except this time it is being used to find someone to blame for the ever growing issue of overtourism. Who is responsible? Whom can we blame? Tourists are trash, say the protestors in Barcelona. Airlines are evil, says the green movement. Governments don’t get it, say local communities. In debating this issue further, we want to take you back to basics. Which is to say, we are all responsible for overtourism. Think of the R-word as the OUR word. We all need to own it.
So, in no particular order, let’s look at the major players in tourism who have contributed to overtourism:
At Responsible Travel we work hard to avoid overtourism but have to accept that we too can be part of the problem. However, we believe that we offer holidays that support local people, we take people off the beaten path and we strive to leave as little impact on the local culture or environment as possible. We endeavour to keep the other R-word, ‘respect’, at the core of what we do. In our travel guides we always highlight the peak times in certain destinations, warning about massive cruise ship crowds and so on. But we could do better. Should we be sending tourists to problem areas such as Dubrovnik or Reykjavik during peak season at all, for example? That is something that is undoubtedly worthy of debate, although it is often difficult to avoid overtourism hotspots when trying to access the quieter ones. And of course, we also feel for some families who have no choice but to travel in peak time due to school holidays, but we try to recommend itineraries that minimise time spent in the busiest places when we can.
The free loaders
Harsh, we know, but sometimes we need to wake people up to reality: tourism is one big freeloading industry. Travel companies (and we have already put our hands up to this one) have profited from creating pretty packages of culture and coast, lifestyles and landscapes. We don’t pay for the sight of a French farmer selling his garlic at the local market; we often don’t even buy from him. Instead, we like to take photos and feel satisfied by the fact that we have had an ‘authentic experience’. For free. Meanwhile, Monsieur has to pay more for his market stall, parking and local tax.