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Too Many Tourists: Where to go when they don't want you.

When an entire city puts up a 'no vacancy' sign what's a responsible traveller to do?

I'm sure we've all been there. That awkward moment when you realise you're being tolerated, rather than welcomed. Maybe not even tolerated.

As temperatures soar this summer in Europe so have the tempers of the locals. In Spain, Italy and Croatia, resident groups have taken to the streets to protest the 10s of thousands of tourists pouring into their home towns. And while they acknowledge tourism is generally a good thing for the economy, you can have too much of a good thing.

Sustainable tourism isn't just about having an eco-friendly towel policy. It's also about managing mass tourism in a manner that works for the local community. It's not really good enough to just shrug our shoulders and say they should be grateful for the money coming in if, in the meantime, we are making the lives of locals unliveable. If we are clogging their streets, causing price hikes, lowering wages and pushing residents out. If our sheer weight of numbers or antisocial behaviour is damaging the environment, heritage or just the 'vibe' of the place.

Of course, the problem doesn't just lie with visitors. City planners and officials need to work with residents and businesses to find a way of managing mass tourism in their communities. However, there are things as travellers that we can do to make our holidays more sustainable

1. Go in the off-season

Some places are in feast or famine with tourism. You can't move for wandering foreigners one month, then there are tumble-weeds the rest of the year. And there can be good reasons for this. The off-season in some places is really off-limits due to impossible weather and next to no accommodation or activities as everyone shuts up shop. But Europe, like many other countries in the world, is a year round destination. Going out of peak season not only saves you money but you see a city in its more natural state and not as a tourist park. By not contributing to the frantic crowds you might get a better response from the locals as well as help the economy through the less lucrative months. It's also worth noting that some place's peak-season is another place's low-season. So if you really have to take your holidays at the peak season in the region where you are, it's always less busy somewhere else.

image: wix

2. Plan for your alternate

Think about why you want to go to this tourist mecca and the other places that could offer you a similar experience. Is it the beaches, the food, the museum and gallery culture or its ye olde world charm? Of course, all cities are unique and special, but if you can't get to your first choice there are many others that can fit the criteria and give just as good an experience.

3. Reverse the 'day trip' - stay at places nearby

So you're dead set on going to "that" place. Then instead of basing yourself there, why not explore the surrounding area? Places nearby are often overshadowed and almost completely miss the tourist traffic despite having good transport links and plenty to see and do in their own right. You will still be able to go into "tourist central" on a couple of days in your itinerary but with the bonus of being able to escape the tourist crowds at the end of the day and explore more elsewhere.

4. Find new adventures

There's a lot to be said for not following the tourist crowd and going down the road less travelled. For trying something new. If you're a beach person, go to the mountains in summer. If your usual holiday is tramping around city museum relics, try something more Indiana Jones and go on an archaeological dig or organised adventure. Stretch your range and you might stumble across the 'next big thing'.

image: wix

5. Go where you're wanted.

Tourism is a booming business and more and more places are wanting a piece of the tourist dollar in order to diversify or boost their economies. It can be hard to attract tourists away from big name places and to take a chance on somewhere new with fewer Tripadvisor reviews. However, you could also be rewarded with a hidden gem, brand new infrastructure, eco-focused facilities and a huge welcome.

6. Go where you're needed.

Rather than think what a place can offer you, consider how you can pay it forward. Not all Voluntourism is bad. Some programs are set up to be less about the volunteer contributing and more about their learning. Others offer a touristic experience as a way of raising funds for their organisation. Many organisations, including those close to home, do actually need volunteers to help - often with manual labour or tedious tasks like clearing land of rubbish or noxious plants. But on the upside, hard work can be rewarding, particularly if it is in an amazing location. Not to mention that feel-good feeling you get working with inspiring people and doing your bit to make the world a better place.

7. Take a Staycation

Before budget airlines began transporting people across a continent for less than the price of a decent meal, most people vacationed close to home. With folk becoming more carbon conscious the 'staycation', staying at home on vacation, is becoming popular again. Being a tourist in your own backyard is always interesting. Exploring museums and sites that you take for granted, going to national parks, the coast or countryside and local festivals you usually miss because you are away. You could even say spending your holiday money at your favourite cafes and on some well-deserved pampering, is doing your bit for the local economy.

Of course, if you live in one of the tourist choked locales, getting away might be a good idea. But then again, with your inside knowledge, you probably know that gem of a place which is a smug 'best-kept secret'.

image: wix





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