This Photo Illustrates Just How Bad Overtourism Is Getting in Europe

Overtourism is a real issue, and social media might be partially to blame.

Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket/Getty Images
Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket/Getty Images
Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket/Getty Images

Instagram is not reality, and that applies to travel-related content as well.

While social media is certainly a powerful tool for discovering oft-overlooked spots and less-touristy areas, it can also have either an opposite or a boomerang effect. Already iconic and intensely-visited landmarks become even more crowded, and lesser-known gems suddenly start appearing on every alternative traveler’s checklist. In either case, the end result is pretty much the same: huge crowds and a slew of identical Insta-pics.

That is not to say that one shouldn’t take their own photos when visiting a particularly beautiful popular spot. Take for example the viewpoint featured in the Santorini photo above-it is, without doubt, a gorgeous viewpoint, and its sole existence calls for a photo to best treasure your Greek vacation memories.

However, with everybody (rightfully so!) having the same thought and sentiment, the consequence is that of overtourism-which, in my humble opinion, can potentially ruin the vibe. Aside from taking photos of them, sunsets are to be enjoyed and savored, and the presence of too many people can disrupt the moment, leading you to rush and make space for others, maximize your minutes spent there to take the best pic, and to ultimately end up with only a few photos of a sunset that, in reality, you didn’t get to experience.

Overtourism is a real issue, and with Europe-bound travel in full bloom this summer, countless bucket-list destinations and iconic landmarks are suffering its consequences. This year, all sorts of travel metrics-from air travel data, hotel bookings, and the sheer number of tourists-reportedly rose back to a comparable level to those of summer 2019 right before the pandemic hit and brought the entire industry to a halt. According to data analyzed by the hospitality software company OTA Insight, the volume of searches for Venice and Barcelona increased by more than 1500% from the beginning of January 2021 to May 2022. Searches for Paris climbed 1200%. Similarly, hotel searches in the same time period soared, rising eight- and nine-fold for Paris and Barcelona, respectively.

While this, on one hand, is a celebratory win for the travel industry, it also brings countries back to discussing potential measures to curb overtourism in densely visited areas and cities. Conversations around the topic were already happening pre-pandemic, and cities like Croatia’s Dubrovnik were already trying to implement new rules in 2017, when the city installed cameras to count and limit the number of people entering the Old Town. More recently, the Austrian city of Hallstatt built (and soon after took down) a fence to prevent tourists from overcrowding a very Instagrammable viewpoint in the respect of nearby residents.

But curbing overtourism isn’t only about people per se. Rather, it’s about what the presence of so many people means for public sites. According to experts, in fact, overtourism often results in damages to environments and landmarks, and can potentially affect animals as well, as it can effectively scare away some species of local fauna. Plus, its repercussions are oftentimes felt by residents of the area who, due to the increase in demand, are often left to face soaring rents and prices.

In 2017, the World Travel & Tourism Council partnered with McKinsey & Company to study the phenomenon of overtourism, and how it impacts the areas in which the issue is most chronic. The official report, in sum, agreed with other leading experts in the field, and stated that the phenomenon brings about five main challenges that sites and cities have to face, including alienated local residents, degraded tourist experience, overloaded infrastructure, damage to nature, and threats to culture and heritage.

In a way, the sunset photo in Oia encapsulates the issue at its core. Sure, it is just a photo-but a photo that speaks to overcrowded areas with few and very lax (if none) access regulations, potential littering, and a possibly degraded experience, where the only organic sunset experience one gets is the one through the camera lens of their phone. And at that point, maybe the picture isn’t worth the crowded, borderline non-sustainable, and potentially culturally-damaging hike.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTikTokTwitterFacebookPinterest, and YouTube.

Serena Tara is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


Mad Mex’s New Menu Item Is Inspired by a Popular Mexican Street Food

mad mex chicken al pastor

Mexican restaurant chain Mad Mex has dropped a new protein, and it’s one of the most popular street foods in Mexico.

Enter, Chicken Al Pastor. It’s traditionally made with pork and grilled on a spinning rotisserie with a pineapple sitting a top, but Mad Mex has put its own spin on it, serving chicken bathed in an Al Pastor marinade with a touch of juicy pineapple.

You can order the protein-packed filling in your favourite burrito, bowl, quesadilla, nachos, or in a taco.

As always, these things are here for a good time, not a long time. Pop into your local Mad Mex restaurant, order delivery or through the Mad Mex app today.

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