A sad truth to begin this article – overtourism is inevitable, thanks to a few modern elements that are only becoming more prevalent. For example, since the end of the Cold War in 1991, the world has accelerated to a more global and cooperative movement of people. This is thanks to relaxed border restrictions and the steady rise in living standards and income (not just in the West). Airlines, hotel chains, and government tourist sectors are all competing for your coin and – at a glance – are benefiting the economy of the local destination.
Obviously, the real negative effects of overpopulation appear far more real than the benefits. Most recently, social media has enabled everyone to become a ‘travel blogger’ and spreading the word about ‘untouched’ edges of the world has become easier than ever.
Wedding Cake Rock
Local to the state, Wedding Cake Rock is one of the latest victims of overtourism through the medium of social media. People are (literally) dying to get the craziest pic of them hanging off the edge, just to prove to their friends that their lives are interesting. With 26,000 #weddingcakerock images gracing the algorithms of Instagram, the popularity of the Rock has shot up. What’s the result? An ugly, 1.6 meter fence blocking the view (for shorter tourists) and the degradation of the natural beauty of the Royal National Park.
And yet, overtourism enthusiasts still jump the fence despite on-the-spot fines and the constant warnings from government bodies that the Rock is unsafe. At this time, three people have fallen to their death since 2014. Furthermore, the track to reach Wedding Cake Rock can experience foot traffic of up to 1,000 people everyday. That many pairs of feet are detrimental to the ecosystem of the national park and thanks to social media ‘influencers’, that number is on the rise.
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Although Australians are certainly doing their fair share of overtourism in their own country, word of certain ‘must-see’ destinations such as Wedding Cake Rock is continuing to spread overseas. A Tourism Australia report concluded that during 2016, the country received just below 1,200,000 Chinese tourists. Although Australia’s international tourism campaigns are still angled particularly towards Americans, the tourism sector – like our other economic sectors – are beginning to look to China.
With a growing middle class, China’s human export is increasing at an exponential rate. And Australia is one of the country’s top holiday destinations. The China Outbound Tourism Institute determined that the annual overseas visits from China to the world was 10.5 million at the turn of century. In 2018, it was 156 million annually. For 2019, that figure is set to continue to rise with a large majority of Chinese men and women visiting Australia choosing to land in and explore Sydney and Melbourne. Obviously, most money generated internationally is a benefit to our economy. But as a country renowned for its untouched beauty, steps may want to be considered to limit the growing international tourism influx.
Croatia’s Dubrovnik is well on the way to implementing their own limitations to prevent overtourism. This is in direct response to a culture and town that has been strangled and ‘loved to death’ by overtourism. Decades ago, Dubrovnik housed 5,000 local residents. That number today stands at 800, plummeting to make room for a constant influx of quasi-Game Of Thrones fans and cruise enthusiasts.
Croatian signs and advertisements have slowly evolved into English and the mayor Mato Frankovic is making serious changes in an effort to reclaim the traditional culture of his city. These changes include a cap of 4,00 visitors to the famed Old Town each day, as well as removing the various outdoor seating that clogged the back-alleys of the ancient town.
Wedding Cake Rock, Australia, and Dubrovnik are all victims (or potential victims) of overtourism. However, overtourism appears to be a result of an unfortunate yet unavoidable cycle:
- An ‘untouched’ site is discovered by the local, national, or international community.
- Word of mouth, spread massively through social media, steadily increases.
- As a flux of tourism enters the area, whatever made the place beautiful is destroyed.
- Another ‘untouched’ site is sought. Repeat.
The unique above examples are a few among many of the world’s dwindling natural and ancient beauty. And unless restrictions are considered, Australia’s favourite destinations could play the next real victims of overtourism.