7 Places You Shouldn't Travel To In 2018


Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past year, you are probably aware of the severe backlash that tourists are facing in many parts of the world. This growing anti-tourism sentiment is especially prevalent in the most visited destinations of the globe, where locals are angry about the growing crowds stifling their limited resources and making moving around in their own neighbourhood a nightmare. But overcrowding isn't the only problem. While Airbnbs at tourist destinations are bringing in the moolah, they are also driving up rent making it unaffordable for locals to live in their own city. Then there is the trash and waste that tourists leave behind which causes an imbalance in the fragile ecosystem.

Why am I telling you all this? Because if you are a conscious traveller and care about the world that you seek you discover, you will think twice before visiting these seven places that are already struggling with too many visitors.

Photo of Maya Bay, Thailand by Himani Khatreja

You might remember Maya Bay from the Leonardo DiCaprio starrer, the Beach. After the film made it famous in the year 2000, Maya Beach on the Thai island of Koh Phi Phi Leh saw 4,000 visitors and 200 boats make their way to its white sandy shores every day. From then to now, the island's translucent waters and limestone cliffs have taken such a beating that the Thai authorities have decided to close the beach down in June for four months to heal. Boat anchors, beachfront hotels and dumped rubbish have damaged around 77% of the bay’s precious coral and sea life has almost dissapeared. Marine scientists hope that the coral will recover and grow back till October, when the bay will be opened again. This time however, only a maximum of 2,000 tourists will be allowed on the shores and the anchoring of boats will no longer be permitted.

Photo of Dubrovnik, Croatia by Himani Khatreja
Photo of Dubrovnik, Croatia by Himani Khatreja

Following UNESCO’s recommendation in 2017, the number of tourists was capped at 8,000 a day at the World Heritage Site of Dubrovnik in Croatia. The organisation feared damage and destruction to the old buildings here and the government even installed five surveillance cameras at the walled entrances to track how many people were entering. The measures haven’t proved to be enough, however, and UNESCO has threatened to take away its world heritage status if something isn’t done about the inflow of tourists soon. Recently elected mayor Mato Franković vowed to “reset” the city and is rolling out a new limit that restricts visitors to 4,000 a day. Most of Dubrovnik’s tourists are day visitors that stop here as part of their cruise holiday. In the year 2016, 29 ships stopped here with a total of 799,916 passengers.

Credit: morisius cosmonaut

Photo of Malana, Himachal Pradesh, India by Himani Khatreja

Credit: Saurabh Chatterjee

Photo of Malana, Himachal Pradesh, India by Himani Khatreja

Malana in India’s Parvati Valley is a landlocked village that was once isolated from the world; its beauty untouched and its people satisfied in selling baskets, slippers and rope they made from hemp. Everything changed, however, when word got out about its cultivation of Malana Cream, a premium-quality cannabis strain which sells for $250 a tola in Amsterdam. To keep up with the growing tourism, restaurants and guest houses spurted up everywhere leading to too many tourists and even more trash. Malana became popular as a hub of narco-tourism, a moniker rejected by the religious locals. Desperate to protect the sanctity of this ancient village, villagers have banned tourists from staying overnight here. In fact, a priest chosen by their revered deity, Jamlu, has asked villagers to shut down all commercial tourist establishments to protect local culture and traditions.

Photo of Boracay Island, Malay, Philippines by Himani Khatreja
Photo of Boracay Island, Malay, Philippines by Himani Khatreja

Boracay in the Philippines is the stuff all island dreams are made of. Powdery white beaches, palm trees, shacks and bars – it has it all. But as of April 26, 2018, this tropical paradise is shutting down for six months to recuperate from the environmental violations caused by the heavy tourist influx; 2.1 million tourists arrived here in 2017 alone. To rehabilitate this “cesspool”, as the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has called it, the island will be completely closed off for local and international visitors. In a bid to deal with the rising number of tourists, Boracay has seen rapid development, illegal construction, traffic congestion and illegal fishing, all threatening the sensitive ecosystem of the island. In the coming months, the environment ministry will try to construct a sewer system and crackdown on illegal structures on popular beaches.

Credit: Bert Kaufmann

Photo of Barcelona, Spain by Himani Khatreja

Credit: Alexander.Hüls

Photo of Barcelona, Spain by Himani Khatreja

Beloved Barcelona is another popular destination trying to balance preservation with progression. According to CNN, this city received 34 million tourists in 2016, angering locals who complained of overcrowding and rowdy behaviour by chanting anti-tourist slogans on the streets. Random corners on the street were studded with graffiti reading, “tourist you are the terrorist” and its like. Their main issue is that rental services like Airbnb are causing a rise in the rent rates making it unaffordable for them to stay in their own city. Now Barcelona is set to pass a law called the “special urban plan for tourist accommodation” that will limit the number of beds available in hotels and tourist apartments. Hope is that this will decongest the popular places and redistribute the crowds throughout the city.

Credit: Apollo

Photo of Machu Picchu, Peru by Himani Khatreja

Credit: Elsie Lin

Photo of Machu Picchu, Peru by Himani Khatreja

The number of tourists has only grown since Peru’s ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu was named a World Heritage Site in 1983. While UNESCO recommends a cap of 2,500 visitors per day, the number far exceeds this in reality. As tourists hike through the trail, they leave behind waste, pitch a crazy number of tents and damage parts of the citadel, a place not used to mass habitation. In a bid to protect their legacy, the Peruvian government limited the number of people allowed to hike the trail per season and also closed it down in February for maintenance. Tourists found a way around this, so in 2017, a new system was implemented according to which a ticket has to be bought for the trail either in the morning or evening, curbing the number of people.

Photo of Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy by Himani Khatreja

Credit: Lorenzo Maddalena

Photo of Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy by Himani Khatreja

Italy's Venice has become a victim of its own popularity. As tourists crowd its most popular areas such as the lovely Grand Canal, St. Mark's Basilica and the Ponte di Rialto, cases of vandalism and an out-of-control mushrooming of hotels is on the rise. Here too, locals are being forced out of their city due to shooting rent rates and choked streets. From the 175,000 Venetians that resided here in 1951, only 50,000 remain. Some are annoyed by the noisy wheelie suitcases and the thousands of people walking around and snapping selfies on one of the 391 bridges, while others are disgusted by the enormous cruise ships that pass through the Giudecca Canal emitting poisonous fumes. City officials are now planning to market lesser-known areas and even put them on tourist maps and tickets to make them popular. Like Barcelona, Venice will also start limiting the number of tourist accommodations.

You might say that taking these places off your bucket list is not the solution. I have to agree with you, while reiterating that exploration does not mean exploitation. If you must go, remember to:

• Keep your trash with you

• See lesser-known parts of the destination

• Steer clear of big chains and shop at local businesses

• Dine at small, family-run restaurants

• Visit less popular museums

• Pick a mode of transport that doesn't add to the chaos

• Find authentic experiences away from the crowds

What is going to be your approach to travelling this year? Tell me in the comments below. If you have questions about a destination or anything related to travel, let our travel experts help you on our community forum.

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