Responsible Travel says it’s time to take over-tourism seriously

As the UN’s Year of Sustainable Tourism draws to a close, 2017 has been dominated by stories of ‘over-tourism’. If we are to do better in 2018, Responsible Travel believes we need to empty our ‘bucket lists’, move on from the habit of ticking off popular experiences and seek out brave, alternative adventures.

Justin Francis, CEO Responsible Travel said:

“2017 marked a turning point in tourism, with local communities and tourists complaining about the negative impacts of too many tourists. Dubbed ‘over tourism’, this irresponsible tourism has become an issue in the Orkneys, Venice and at least 20 other reported destinations.


“It is up to all of us as travellers, travel companies, destination managers, writers and travel lovers worldwide to help carve out a new destiny for tourism by listening to local people.


“This is about a total change of mindset for all of us. We need to free ourselves from the restraints of crowd-following and bravely seek out our own alternative adventures. We have seen an increase in this type of travel at Responsible Travel. Ultimately, this is where the magic of travel really lies.


“I hope the holiday stories we hear next summer are not riddled with incensed locals, intrusive tourists and indifferent governments but instead, stories of local people feeling a genuine sense of benefit and of travellers feeling enriched and inspired by the adventures and encounters they’ve had.”


Responsible Travel encourages travellers to seek alternatives to the usual hot spots and instead consider different destinations and activities, away from the crowds. Ideas include:

1. Small ship cruising

tackle over-tourism with small ship cruisingGiant cruise ships glide across the world’s oceans leaving destruction in their wake at sea, on land and even on board. Often over tourism in Venice and Croatia is blamed on the huge cruise ships that dock here, so make 2018 the year of the small cruise ship holiday. Instead of sharing your holiday with thousands of tourists, share it with just a few travellers.

The smaller size of these vessels means you can sail to elusive atolls or through complex archipelagos. Year-on-year, Responsible Travel has seen a 39% rise in small ship cruises suggesting travellers are searching for a low-key and quieter way to enjoy the sea.

2. Genuine tribal encounters

India Hill Tribes, credit Folk Tales

India Hill Tribes, credit Folk Tales

Responsible Travel is all for genuine cultural encounters, but culture can soon become a commodity and this is degrading for communities. Exploitative tourism and staged experiences can be uncomfortable for travellers, becoming little more than a human safari.

Fortunately, travellers are wising up to fake “Maasai encounters” or “pygmy experiences”. Responsible Travel believes there is no shortage of cultural experiences that benefit communities. 2018 will be the year for meaningful and rewarding holidays visiting hill tribes in destinations like Thailand, India or Vietnam.

3. Alternative winter holidays

Snow-shoeing, Overtourism

Pic by Hannu Huttu

On comparison to last year, Responsible Travel has seen a 29% rise in alternative winter holidays including snow shoeing, cross-country skiing and ski touring holidays.

Unpredictable snowfall, particularly at lower altitudes, means that resorts are increasingly dependent on artificial snow to lengthen the ski season. Making fake snow is a huge undertaking, requiring vast amounts of water, taken from and degrading local watercourses, or drawn from specially built reservoirs which damage the mountain landscape. In addition, snow cannons eat up masses of energy. Manufactured snow also means that, rather than being in a natural environment, the skier is essentially in a manmade one.

Responsible Travel’s focus has always been on wilderness winter activities that – where possible – make the most of natural snow. This is why Responsible Travel has chosen to take a stand against fake snow.

4. Watch dolphins and whales in the wild

Over-tourism, watch dolphins in the wildThe ‘Black Fish’ effect will continue into 2018. People are moving away from the Sea World experience and heading for the wild oceans. Sea World’s attendance dropped by 350,000 in the first half of 2017 compared to 2016. This year, Responsible Travel has seen a 20% increase in wild whale watching holidays in destinations like the Azores.

5. Take a walking safari

Responsible Travel Botswana Ghanzi San walk (Ruan Mey)

Sunway Botswana Ghanzi San walk (Ruan Mey)

Walking safaris bring you up close to Africa on its own terms. Often using a local guide, you will track wildlife discovering the savannah without other noisy jeeps. These trips command a serious amount of respect and you will find all your senses are heightened. Small things like spotting a print or unusual plant take on a huge importance and your guide will help you see the bush from a different perspective. Instead of visiting captive lion cubs lined up for the canned hunting industry you can contribute to their conservation on a walking safari.

For further alternative travel experiences, rethink your bucket list with these 11 ideas.


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