Tourism industries around the world are flourishing again after a pandemic slowdown, but not all places are benefitting from the boom. Over-tourism and environmental concerns have made some spots a bad idea to visit, as Fodor’s Travel has highlighted in its 2023 ‘No List.’
Extreme heat and drought are on the rise, thanks to human-fueled climate change. This has strained infrastructure, emergency services, and access to potable water. So if lots of extra people show up to a location that is struggling, the benefits of that tourism will be outweighed by how much harder life will become for locals and for the surrounding ecosystems.
Here’s some insight into regions on Fodor’s list, along with things to consider before traveling abroad.
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Unless you’re visiting Antarctica from your home at southern end of South America, leisure travel to the South Pole will produce a boatload of emissions. The world’s poles are melting, and recent studies have found that maintaining Antarctica’s ice shelves is crucial for stopping rapid sea level rise.
The ice-covered continent is also home to several endangered species. This includes a variety of whales, penguins, and sea birds. Those animals’ right to live and thrive in their natural habitat should outweigh the tourism industry’s right to send people to Antarctica.
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The Hawaiian islands received over 2 million visitors last year, a local news website reported. Maui has struggled with water access due to drought earlier this year; last year, the dry conditions become so bad the island’s government enacted water restrictions. This prompted locals to ask tourists to reconsider visiting, the Washington Post reported.
Native Hawaiians have also asked tourists to stop visiting the islands in droves. Overcrowding has raised rental prices, strained access to water, and stressed aquatic ecosystems. Tourists have sometimes disturbed wildlife or have visited protected areas, despite being asked not to.
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The Rhine and Danube rivers are visited by international tourists who traverse their waters via cruise ships. But this past August, more than 60% of Europe was under some form of drought alert or warnings, CNN reported. And those dry conditions especially affected the Rhine and Danube, which flow through several countries in Europe.
This July, the Rhine was only a few inches away from failure, which meant levels were so low it would have been impossible for shipping vessels to pass. Shipping vessels and cruise ships have had to change routes to accommodate for the extremely low water levels this year.
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Arizona is naturally arid, and the ongoing megadrought has affected water access across the state. Lake Mead and Lake Powell, which are two of the country’s largest water reservoirs, are partially in Arizona. Both provide recreational space and drinking water for locals and visitors. But they’re quickly drying out, with alarmingly low water levels recorded this year.
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Venice, Italy is a famously romantic destination: think cobblestones, gorgeous architecture, and traveling along the canals via gondola. But the country has seen a 172% increase in international visitors from January to July 2022 from the same time last year, CNN reported. Well-known locations like Venice have been swamped after getting a break during the first two years of covid-19 restrictions. This means more litter and locals who are tired of the incessant crowds (who are most likely to be the ones trashing the canals). To combat the litter and crowds, Venice’s mayor announced that tourists will have to pay an entrance fee in 2023.
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Lake Tahoe has been inundated by tourists and people who have purchased second homes in the area. This means car traffic around the lake as skyrocketed, which affects the quality of the water, according to The League To Save Lake Tahoe’s website. The lake is famous for its pristine blue water, but too many people and too much traffic can increase the sediment pollution into the lake, according to Fodor’s.
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Étretat, Normandy is known for its iconic coastline and rocky archway by the water. But that coast is quickly eroding due to sea level rise, and over tourism is only making that worse, France24 reported. The increased foot traffic has even created landslides. Local officials also worry about the wastewater treatment facility. It wasn’t made to handle thousands of visitors a day, along with the local population. It had to be shut down for maintenance last year due to overuse, according to France24.
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Koh Tao is an island along the Gulf of Thailand with beautiful greenery, tropical beaches, and diving spots. But there are endangered turtles that live in that region, along with protected coral. Coral reefs and marine environments that see more scuba divers are more likely to experience disease, according to Environmental Health News. Just this year, the island imposed a new fee for tourists. It’s the equivalent of about 55 cents in U.S. dollars and will go toward conservation efforts and waste management, the New York Times reported.
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Much of Spain is naturally dry, but the country is experiencing its driest conditions in over 1,000 years, according to recent research. This has severely affected agriculture, and several of Spain’s water reservoirs have reached critically low levels this year, Reuters reported.
Málaga, which is in the south of Spain, is a growing tourist destination drawing crowds with its beautiful beaches. But as of last month, Viñuela reservoir—the area’s largest—was at only 11% capacity. Growing crowds risk competing with locals for that shrinking pool of potable water.
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Much like other beautiful destinations along France’s coastline, Calanques National Park is struggling to keep up with tourism. It’s one of the most popular seaside areas in the country and the only the only national park in Europe to encompass urban areas, land, and sea. But during peak vacation seasons, the area sees up to 2,000 visitors a day. All that foot traffic has eroded the beloved shoreline, France24 reported. To protect the area for locals and future generations, the park has introduced a reservation system for anyone hoping to visit the beaches. This new system will only allow 400 people to visit daily.
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