The World Today for May 08, 2024


Wish You Weren’t Here


International tourism is arguably the fundamental building block of globalization. Visiting a foreign country, meeting different folks, soaking in the sites, and experiencing a new culture, are for most people the first steps in understanding the world beyond their native countries or home communities, and often make for a fun adventure. Unfortunately, that tourism has taken a toll.

In Venice, Italy, for example, an estimated 30 million people visit the beautiful city annually, wrote Smithsonian Magazine. Around two-thirds of those visitors spend less than a day, however. Their cash helps local businesses. But their trash, demand for amenities, and the congestion that results from their presence have caused problems serious enough for city officials to have imposed the world’s first entrance fee for a city.

Enacted on April 25 – Italy’s Liberation Day, which marks the fall of fascism in the country at the end of World War II, and the feast day of Saint Mark, the city’s patron saint – the euro 5 fee ($5.38) applies to day trippers who come between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., reported the Art Newspaper. The charge has exemptions for students, the disabled and others.

Officials hoped the fee might reduce the burden that tourists place on the city and create incentives for people to offer goods and services for full-time residents, CNBC reported. Today, for example, as Venice has become a well-known stop for massive cruise shops, only 50,000 people live on Venice’s main island. In 1970, around 175,000 residents did.

Still, many Venetians opposed the fee. “I can tell you that almost the entire city is against it,” said Matteo Secchi, a resident, in an interview with the Guardian. “You can’t impose an entrance fee to a city – all they’re doing is transforming it into a theme park. This is a bad image for Venice … I mean, are we joking?”

Venice is not alone, however. Sustainability advocates are trying to slow tourism in numerous places around the world – from the majestic city of Dubrovnik, Croatia to the Asian nation of Bhutan, where hikers go to conquer the Himalayas, reported the Independent.

Sometimes these efforts are broad. In Amsterdam, where hordes of tourists visit to experience art and architecture, marijuana, and liberal prostitution laws, officials last year launched a public relations campaign to dissuade young British men from coming to the city, and then barred cruise ships from the city center. Recently, added the New York Times, the city has blocked the establishment of new hotels.

Italy’s Florence and Penang in Malaysia went further: They banned all short-term private rentals from platforms such as Airbnb.

Some destinations such as Machu Picchu in Peru and the Acropolis in Athens have instituted strict ticketing systems to keep tourist numbers down. “To reserve is to preserve” is the slogan by French locals for the Calanque de Sugiton in southern France.

At other times, officials address a particular issue. In the Japanese town of Fujikawaguchiko at the base of Mount Fuji, locals have erected an eight-feet-tall black screen next to a popular viewing spot to prevent annoying visitors from taking selfies there, according to the Rakyat Post. That’s the same tactic tried by the Austrian town of Hallstatt, which reportedly is the inspiration for the film, “Frozen,” and also featured in a Korean drama: The village of fewer than 1,000 residents receives 3 million visitors annually, inspiring local protests against mass tourism last year. Now, officials are doing what they can to reduce tourism numbers by one-third.

Then there are attempts to address behavior: Some towns such as Portofino on the Italian Riviera fine tourists hundreds of dollars for stopping and taking selfies, blocking traffic on roads and sidewalks. Others have tried banning eating “messy foods” at tourist attractions (Rome), snacking on late-night pizza, ice cream or cream puffs after midnight (Milan) or talking on phones on loudspeaker (Spain). Protests recently broke out on Spain’s Canary Islands, with residents saying they have reached their limit.

Meanwhile, Bali hands out a booklet outlining acceptable behavior to all visitors as part of a campaign to rein in unruly and disrespectful tourists, which has been a hot topic over the past few years.

“Many tourists don’t understand how deeply they can impact Bali with their actions,” I Nengah Subadra, associate professor of tourism at Bali’s University of Triatma Mulya, told National Geographic. “Dressing too casually, talking too loudly, or touching someone too intimately at sacred sites disrupts the island’s delicate spiritual balance.”

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