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Most, if not all people, appreciate and welcome tourists in their towns, cities, and countries. Most importantly, tourism brings in money to help the local economy. In addition, residents feel excited that people from other backgrounds are interested in what they have to offer. However, as with anything in life, it is best in moderation. Today, people in many parts of the world are experiencing an unfortunate phenomenon in the tourism industry: overtourism.


What exactly is overtourism?


Overtourism is the idea that the quality of life at a destination has been adversely affected by tourism. This can include destinations that attract raucous partiers, poorer destinations where tourists from wealthier areas have a feeling of superiority, and destinations with a culture so vastly different than what the perceived mainstream way of life is that the amount and magnitude of cultural faux pas that occurs are alarmingly high and disruptive. It can have such a negative impact on a destination that it overshadows any of tourism’s positive effects.

This not only deteriorates the resident’s way of life but also adversely affects the traveler’s experience. The resentment from the local can cause them to act in a cold and unfriendly manner. For example, they may be less likely to help or speak in a mutually intelligible language. This will then prevent the traveler from truly experiencing everything the destination has to offer. Therefore, it is in the traveler’s best interest to behave in a respectful manner toward the locals.

This is important to note because many travelers could care less about their role in overtourism. For examples, those looking to just go party. However, congruent with our central theme here at The Lost Geographer, we believe that understanding this is beneficial to the individual. This isn’t about just being politically correct; this is about enhancing the traveler’s experience as well. We can go back to making tourism a win-win situation.


How can you help stop overtourism?


Learn a few words in the language. This is especially useful for countries where the local language isn’t all that popular abroad. The locals will truly appreciate that you have taken the time to learn a few words and will then go the extra mile in providing help, exceptional service at restaurants and bars, and friendships.

Research cultural faux pas. A cultural faux pas is essentially an action or behavior that may be acceptable in your culture but unacceptable in others. This also works vice versa. This can include greetings, discussion topics, and even laws. The last thing you want to do is upset a local by doing something they deem offensive. Check out our Cultural Faux Pas mini-series on The Lost Geographer Podcast or our Country Snapshots to learn about some when you travel.

Call out bad behavior from travel partners. If the person or people you’re traveling with are acting in a way that is disrespectful of the local culture, call them out! This is especially true for big groups because then the locals are more likely to stereotype. A bigger group is more likely to draw a negative stereotype due to the fact that there are multiple people. Multiple people are more likely to seem like an accurate representation of an entire culture as opposed to just one person.

Be curious about the culture. Developing curiosity about a culture will not only make you more intelligent as you’ll learn more but enhance your experience. When you develop a natural curiosity, you will get much more out of your experience without leaving a negative imprint for the locals. In fact, they’ll appreciate your curiosity and will reciprocate and show you a good time.


Promoting responsible tourism


It’s never been easier to travel than today, and it’s one of the greatest opportunities we have nowadays. That being said, we do need to be responsible about the way we behave when we travel. Again, it’s important to emphasize that responsible tourism makes everybody better off. This isn’t a plea or demand for being respectful because the locals “don’t like your disrespectful behavior”. This benefits the traveler as equally as it does the local, as it creates a better experience for both.

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