Over-Tourism and Tourists Behaving Badly- What You Can Do to Help

It seems like there is no end to sight to the stories about travelers behaving badly around the world. Recently, fed-up residents and business owners in Kyoto, Japan’s Gion-Shinbashi district joined together to form a “scenery preservation” committee to combat issues such “half-naked hikers, trespassing travellers and prolonged photo shoots.” Tourists have been caught kicking and destroying parts of caves all over the world including Thailand and the Caribbean that took thousands of years to form. An English family touring New Zealand behaved so badly they were eventually deported. Sadly, these are just a few examples but there are many more.

Hobbiton in New Zealand. I found New Zealand to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I can’t imagine behaving so badly I got deported like the English family recently did.

Every summer there are news reports of tourists getting injured by animals at national parks in the United States. In Yellowstone National Park, officials say bison have injured more people in Yellowstone than any other animal. Wanting to get that “perfect” selfie with a wild animal, some people think nothing of standing beside a bison or even a bear, then they seem to be bewildered when the animal actually charges at them. So much trash and debris (like coins) has been thrown into some of the natural pools at Yellowstone National Park that they may never fully recover.

All of this really shouldn’t be too surprising. With lower airfares and easier access to countries comes more and more tourists, which increases the likelihood of improper behavior and over-tourism. Many places including Japan have recently implemented exit taxes to help with tourist infrastructure. Venice already has a tourist tax on hotels but recently started charging 11 Euros for day visitors to help with things like waste management. Tourist taxes are nothing new. Countries all over Europe, the Ukraine, and Asia have been charging extra fees to tourists for quite some time.

Beyond charging tourists extra fees, some places have started limiting the number of tourists per day. Beijing, the Galapagos Islands, the Seychelles, and Barcelona are among the growing list of places with limits on the number of visitors allowed per day. Not only are cities and islands limiting visitors, though. The Taj Mahal began limiting the number of visitors per day after a stampede occurred there in 2017.

At overcrowded Machu Picchu, the Peruvian government is actually increasing the number of daily maximum visitors to 5,940 people, which is more than double the number recommended by UNESCO. However, with the new system, people will be spread throughout the day by having timed visits either during the morning or afternoon. Previously, people could stay all day and weren’t required to have a guide the entire time. Now it is thought that it will be easier for guards to monitor visitors’ behavior.

Machu Picchu in Peru

Cruise ships are often a huge part of the problem. This is especially a problem in Venice, Dubrovnik, and Santorini when these relatively small areas get flooded with hundreds or thousands of visitors at once coming from cruise ships. These areas have begun putting caps on the number of cruise ships that are allowed to dock per day and/or the number of visitors from cruise ships that are allowed to enter. They have also begun to move or limit places like souvenir shops and restaurants aimed specifically at tourists.

Some United States national parks are also over-crowded at the more popular destinations (like the Grand Canyon National Park and Zion National Park for example, two of the most-visited parks). There has been talk of timed entries into some of the parks but not much has been implemented so far. Parking and traffic congestion is just one of many problems in places like Yosemite National Park and Arches National Park.

Bryce Canyon in March is absolutely stunning (with far less crowds too)!

What can you do to help?

Respect the land and people where you are visiting. Don’t litter, don’t write on anything not meant to be written on, don’t talk loudly at a religious site or take photos where it’s not appropriate, don’t take anything that you didn’t carry in when you came, and keep a safe distance from all animals in nature. In other words, respect other people’s property and the land, structures, animals, and nature you are lucky enough to be visiting.

Avoid the high season. I can’t emphasize this enough. A big part of the over-crowding problem is people traveling during the summer months. However, many places are cheaper, less crowded, and can even be more beautiful during the shoulder season or off-season. I fully understand that some people can only travel during the busy summer months due to family and/or work schedules. We do what we can.

Shop and eat at local establishments. This benefits local residents and helps the local economy. The food is often better too (compared to large chain restaurants, in my opinion).

Often large groups traveling together seem to cause concern and problems for locals, so the remedy for this is simply to limit the number of people you travel with, especially in heavily-touristed areas.

Go off the beaten path so instead of going to the packed beaches in the Philippines and Thailand, go to lesser-known beaches. Instead of going to Dubrovnik, go to Zadar or the island of Vis. Instead of going to Italy, go to Malta. Sure, many people still want to visit iconic places like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but if you also visit some lesser-known places instead of spending all of your time in that one over-touristed place, you may find you prefer them to the more popular touristy places.

Malta, a cheaper, less-crowded alternative to Italy has beautiful beaches, amazing ruins, and delicious food!

Book a tour with a reputable eco-conscious company that will show you off-the-beaten path places that are equally if not more beautiful than the popular places.

Full disclaimer- I’m going to visit Machu Picchu later this year but will be doing so with a tour company that came highly recommended for their involvement with the community and treatment of their workers among other things. Also, I’ll be taking one of the lesser-known routes to get to the ruins. My point in bringing this up is to say you can still visit these places and not add to the problem if you do so in an ecologically-aware way. And have some respect. Respecting others and the environment around us is something we should always be doing, not just when we’re traveling.

What are your thoughts on tourists behaving badly and/or over-tourism? Any good stories you have to share? Any tips you have to pass along?

Happy travels!





Author: runningtotravel

I'm a long distance runner with a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states in the US. I also love to travel so I travel to other places when I'm not running races. Half the fun is planning where I'm going to go next!

12 thoughts on “Over-Tourism and Tourists Behaving Badly- What You Can Do to Help”

  1. Never understood why people need to deface places they visit. Most national parks Don’t have trash cans to encourage people to carry out. I think some people just leave their trash on the ground.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really don’t understand defacing property or throwing trash on the ground either. A friend of my husband’s was recently telling me how bad Bali had gotten with trash. Apparently people think nothing of throwing their trash on the ground instead of putting it in trash cans when they’re out. I guess it’s part of some people’s culture.


  2. This is part of what drove me crazy during the shutdown- not going political here- but all the people who behaved like heathens and trashed things. Just because there is no one there guarding or patrolling doesn’t give you license to behave like an idiot. We want these treasures to be around for as long as possible. Sorry that may have been a little ranty.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No need to be sorry because you’re right and you bring up a good point about national parks and the shutdown. The rangers have a hard enough time patrolling some of the parks, which are enormous, and when the shutdown happened, it gave some people license to just go crazy and act like they had no sense at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. When I found that people break off stalagmites and stalactites, which as you point out take millions of years to form, so that they can have a souvenir to take home, I was pretty upset. Shocked, angry, disgusted, sickened, and more! It didn’t even occur to me that people could be so selfish.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Many years ago, my wife and I went to England for several weeks with her uncle Albert. One evening we had dinner at a hotel where we noticed a placard that said, “…dressing in a smart manner is expected.” I made an off-the-cuff remark about, “as opposed to dressing in a stupid manner,” which got a nice laugh. The dining room was formal, with professional waitstaff. Albert and I were in jacket and tie, and my wife in a proper dress. Lo and behold, in comes an American family straight from the pool – shorts, loud shirts, etc. – who wanted dinner. They were seated nonetheless, but we wanted to crawl under the table. The “Americans who dressed stupid” has become a family story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a great story and one that shows perfectly how badly Americans often behave in other countries. It also drives me crazy how Americans just expect the world to speak English just because we do and to cater to us just because we’re Americans. It’s embarrassing. I tell my daughter to try not to dress and act like an American when we’re abroad because I don’t want to call attention to the fact that we’re Americans. How sad is that?


  5. When we went on our New England/Canada cruise Sept. 2017 it surprised me when I saw 2 other cruise ships besides ours docked in St. John, New Brunswick, and several others in Halifax, Nova Scotia. St. John especially is a small town to be flooded with that many people at once. Granted it seemed most people chose to do shore excursions and spent the day driving around on a bus, so it wasn’t overly crowded in most places we explored. In fact the restaurant we ate lunch in, Taste of Egypt, had hardly anyone there! Halifax was a large enough city that it didn’t seem to be an issue. I saw a news clip regarding Venice though and how packed it gets from cruises. They really need to make the companies work together on itineraries to limit everyone arriving at the same city on the same day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good example and this isn’t even a part of the world that people are talking about (like Venice and Croatia), but it proves the point how much cruise ships can overload cities all over the world. From what I’ve read and seen, people in charge of entry into cities by cruise ships often get greedy and don’t really care how it effects the infrastructure or the locals who live around the ports. Only when it becomes a huge issue do they start to limit the number of ships allowed per day or per week.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome. I was hesitant about posting it, to be completely honest, because I didn’t want to come across as too pushy. I do think it’s an important issue that needs addressing, however. I have high hopes for Machu Picchu and will definitely be sure to include what I thought of the company in my post!

      Liked by 1 person

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