Visitors flock to the world’s most well-known vacation destinations by the hundreds of thousands, even millions, annually. Streets and sidewalks of popular cities become congested. Finding a few grains of available sand to spread out a towel on a famous beach can prove to be quite a tedious endeavor. Yet despite the overcrowded conditions these happy go lucky tourists consistently cause, they still show up in waves, and the residents of some of these not-to-miss destinations have had enough.
While the influx of tourist dollars is an important part of any popular destination’s economy, some places are less likely than before to put out the welcome mat. Many locals would rather restore peacefulness and/or protect their valued eco-systems from being stomped on by people who don’t live there and could not care less what happens once they leave. Citizens in some areas claim their cost of living has skyrocketed as prices continually rise due to supply and demand. Their paychecks have been stretched thin. They’re beginning to question whether the extra money is worth being overrun by hordes of self-centered tourists. They see their quality of life as being diminished beyond what they can tolerate, to the point where they would much prefer people vacation elsewhere.
These destinations will more than likely come as an unexpected surprise. They might even be on your bucket list of places to see. And they are amazingly beautiful and beguiling. Unfortunately, the window may have closed on visitors being welcomed unconditionally, with open arms.
Spain’s capital city of Barcelona, with an estimated population of around 5.5-million, receives approximately 36 million visitors annually, or roughly seven times the amount of its permanent residents. Barcelona has experienced more than a 25% increase in tourism since 2012. It’s safe to say the city is busting at the seams and their cup is overflowing in all the wrong ways.
Residents have fiercely complained about rowdy tourists drinking and carousing at all hours on their beaches, making them not only unenjoyable for them but unsafe as well. When the sun comes up it isn’t unusual to find drunken bodies scattered about the sand sleeping off their over-indulgence in the same spots where they passed out the previous night.
Barcelonians feel like nothing in the city belongs to them any longer. Restaurant and nightclub owners who benefit from the revenue, cater towards the very visitors who butter their establishment’s bread with their bulging wallets full of excess currency. And who can blame them? But this doesn’t help the residents who would also like to enjoy these things but prefer avoiding the unruly chaos which has befallen their home sweet home.
In 2017, thousands of Barcelona’s residents let their grievances be known when they stormed the beaches in protest of the misbehaving tourists. Some even claim they have been forced from their homes due to Airbnb causing their rents to escalate out of control.
The government has since passed a law which limits the number of beds available to tourists on any given night, but thus far this measure has done little to appease Barcelona’s distraught and fed up citizens.
In 2017, sign-carrying Venetians took the streets in protest of how their mammoth tourist trade is destroying their fair city. They can no longer accommodate the 30-million visitors which invade Venice annually, especially considering the population within city boundaries is only 55,000.
Things have become so bad that many residents have pulled up stakes and hauled their families to quieter more peaceful towns and communities, as Venice’s population continues to decline. The waste alone being produced by all these visitors has created an issue unto itself.
Enormous cruise ships congesting and polluting their waters is a major concern. Fishermen are having to go further out to sea for a good days catch as the marine floors closer to land have been rendered all but useless, with aquatic life being wiped out. Plans are in the works to prevent the ships from navigating up the Giudecca Canal which is vital to Venice. When this new plan reaches its fruition cruise ships will have to take a much longer route to get there.
If your life won’t be complete without a gondola ride in Venice, be aware you may not be received with the warmest of welcomes. You should also prepare yourself for overcrowded conditions and long lines everywhere you go, including restaurants. If you do go, at least avoid the tourist traps and try some of the quieter streets of no interest to visitors where your apter to find smaller places frequented by locals.
Santorini is a gorgeous island with white-washed buildings and sunsets to die for, but it has a major problem. Too many people want to enjoy its splendor and beauty which is destroying the very reason they go there in the first place. It’s a catch-22.
Just in 2017 alone, over two million visitors paid homage to the island paradise with their presence. Cruise ships motor in and out of the islands surrounding waters virtually non-stop, dumping off hordes of selfie-stick holding tourists. What was once a serene Garden of Eden is now a congested mass of often misbehaved tourists chugging ouzo and creating havoc. Even the quaint little moussaka serving cafes can hardly keep up with the demands of their famished guests.
The mayor of the island has limited the number of visitors to 8,000 a day which is roughly half of the resident population. However. The population is growing as a result of visitors falling in love with the island and deciding to never leave. This is causing more and more of the islands natural beauty to be consumed by humankind’s often unapologetic footprint.
There are other Greek islands equally as beautiful but not as financially advantageous for travel agents, where life remains somewhat as it always has at a much slower pace. These islands are fairly easy to get to by catching a boat out of Athens, but you won’t find any cruise ships parked in their harbors. Because they do not cater to tourists, you’ll experience a Greek island the way it should be experienced. Quiet, friendly, and relaxing.
The world is a big place. You may want to consider heading someplace where you’ll be greeted with open arms, and there is an abundance of fantastic destinations from which to choose. All this being said, there’s a reason these destinations are so popular. If you decide you have to see these places (and let’s face it, there is no real substitute for Venice), just don’t be surprised or disappointed by the throngs of like-minded travelers, high prices, and expect an occasional glare from a local.