Traveling this summer? What to know about anti-tourism protests

What travelers should know about anti-tourism protests

The sight of tourists being sprayed with water in Barcelona, Spain, was unsettling for people preparing for a vacation, but CBS Travel Editor Peter Greenberg says last Saturday’s demonstration is just the latest international protest against mass tourism.

“The numbers of people traveling exceed 2019 levels. And in certain destinations around the world — whether it’s Barcelona, Venice, Amsterdam, Athens, Japan, Italy and many others — local communities are trying to control it using any way they can, to basically deter more people from coming.”

“It’s a double-edged sword, because so many of these communities, their GDP is dependent on travel and tourism,” Greenberg said.

Many of the protests are from residents, who say large crowds deprive them of their country’s services and attention.

“In places like Venice, they’re charging a five euro fee to anybody who can’t prove they have a hotel reservation, to try to stop the day trippers from coming,” Greenberg said. “Has it worked? No.”

Greenberg said a Japanese town erected a huge banner as a barrier, so travelers wouldn’t stop to take photos of Mount Fuji. Greenberg said that tactic didn’t help: “Holes were cut in the banner.”

Last year, visits to the Acropolis of Athens, Greece’s most popular archaeological site, were capped at a maximum 20,000 daily.

“With 30,000 tourists trying to climb up to the Acropolis in 105-degree weather, it became a medical issue,” Greenberg said.

“Countries survive on mass tourism, but now we’ve reached the point of diminishing returns,” Greenberg said. “I think the best thing to do is get out a calendar, not a map, and realize that travel is a 12-month experience.”

Being flooded with tourists during high travel seasons does tax a destination’s infrastructure, said Greenberg.

“You don’t have to go in June, July and August,” Greenberg said. “Seasonality can be spread out.”

Traveling in off-peak seasons will generally result in fewer crowds and less expensive travel.

With 186 countries in the world that are open for international travelers, Greenberg suggests, “You can be smart and sensible and make intelligent, informed decisions as to when you go, and how you go.”

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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