Did you know that tourism makes up about 10% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP)? WOW! That’s great news for a lot of countries, but the downside is that the rush of tourists often overwhelms places that may not have the infrastructure or capacity to handle millions of visitors annually. Over the last several years, a trend has emerged where popular tourist locations feel that they’re being forced to address overcrowding, littering, and outrageous behavior, in order to protect the very places that tourists are anxious to see. Many have acknowledged that if serious steps aren’t taken, those places will be forever damaged and they’ll end up being victims of their own success. For that reason, many countries are taking drastic measures to regulate tourism. So if you’re going to any of these five countries, here are some of the new rules facing travelers and locals alike!
Milan – Effective July 14 through August 13, the City has banned all selfie sticks, glass bottles, cans, containers……and food trucks! Why, you may ask? It’s aimed at reducing littering and anti-social behavior. The ban may even be extended if necessary.
Florence – In May, Florence announced that it would begin hosing down church steps to keep tourists from eating and drinking at tourist sites. Again, it’s aimed at reducing litter at historic and tourist sites.
Rome – Until October 31 (peak tourist season), drinking alcohol in public places has been banned between the hours of midnight to 7 am. Selling alcohol in grocery stores is prohibited after 10 pm and bars have to stop serving alcohol after 2 am. Fines range from 150 euros for drinking or 280 euros for selling. In addition, picnicking near, climbing on, or bathing in the City’s famous fountains has been banned, too. You’ll get a 240 euro fine for doing any of those things.
Cinque Terre – About 2.5 million tourists flooded into these rugged little Ligurian fishing villages in 2016. As a result, the towns have been overwhelmed. So, the five towns of the Cinque Terre which are a designated UNESCO World Heritage site, decided that they needed to limit the number of visitors. How will they regulate it? They’re going to institute a visitor ticketing system. Entry tickets will be able to be purchased online and an app will be created to show which villages are most congested. There will also be devices installed on the roads leading into the towns. Once a certain number of visitors has been reached, the roads will be shut down. Disclaimer - I haven't seen the app or exact dates when those restrictions may be put into place.
Venice – The 2014 rumor that Venice had banned wheel luggage is just that – a rumor. Apparently, it started with a news report and snowballed from there. Reports I saw from November 2014, quoting Venice officials that the ban was only meant to target commercial vendor carts, due to the noise pollution and because they erode the historic pavements. In trying to confirm what ban, if any, was in place, the best information I could find was that there was no wheeled luggage ban in Venice…so far…stay tuned.
Machu Picchu - A few years ago, Machu Picchu limited visitors to 2,500 per day, with an additional 500 permit limit for hikers on the Inca Trail. Still, in 2016, 1.4 million tourists visited, exceeding the 2,500 daily limit. And, it certainly looked like there were more than 2,500 people the day we visited. In an effort to further curb the huge number of visitors and reduce the negative impacts on the UNESCO site, new regulations will now be imposed. For two years, effective July 1, 2017, visitors to Machu Picchu will be required to be with an official tour guide with groups limited to 16 people. Your group will be issued tickets for specific times - either for between 6 am and noon for morning groups or between noon and 5:30 pm for afternoon groups. Visitors will also be restricted to one of the defined routes, rather than being able to wander around like we were able to. The good news is that the number of tourists allowed will actually increase – 3,000 for the morning and 2,600 for the afternoon.
When I read about Thailand cutting down on “begpackers”, I wasn’t entirely sure what that word meant. “Begpacking” is the practice of begging for money to finance a trip through Asia…and it’s most popular with Western backpackers. Who knew? Recently, there have been reports of border officials pulling travelers aside who have tourist visas and requesting that they show they have at least 20,000 baht (about $600) before being allowed to enter Thailand. In checking the country specific information for Thailand on the U.S. State Department website, I saw no mention of such monetary requirement. I did notice that immigration officials may ask you to show a return ticket, but even the Royal Thai Embassy website made no mention of a minimum monetary requirement as a condition of entry.
Barcelona has 1.6 million residents, but last year it had 32 million visitors! Incredible, huh? To help stem the crush of tourists, the city recently passed a law halting construction of new hotels, and limiting the number of permits on tourist apartments, as well as the number of hotel rooms that can be made available. As you can imagine, the tourism industry was up in arms, claiming that the focus of the regulation was all wrong, since only about a quarter of those 32 million visitors actually stayed in Barcelona.
Ibiza - It’s not only Barcelona that’s had enough, even the notorious party island of Ibiza seems to be over outlandish tourist behavior. In one of the towns, the local government is looking to ban all consumption of alcohol outdoors and in public places. The intent is to stop drunken behavior in the streets, but it doesn’t stop with alcohol. According to authorities, since there’s no way of knowing what’s in a cup or a bottle, if passed, the new law would extend to consumption of other drinks, like juice or water, in the streets. The fines could run anywhere from 750 euros to 3,000 euros – OUCH!
Aah, Iceland. When I visited the first time (many years ago) people thought I was crazy for wanting to go there – it was “so off the beaten path”. Nowadays, Americans are beating a path just to get there. Last year , the country had 325,000 American visitors alone, and that’s not the total number of visitors – there were about 1.3 million from across the globe! The entire Icelandic population is only 332,000! Consequently, the country is looking at limiting the number of visitors to natural sites to try to preserve what tourists are coming to Iceland to see. There have also been discussions of instituting hotel taxes to help with tourism infrastructure.
What Other Places Have Done/Are Doing
Since 2009, Antarctica has barred cruise ships from landing that carry greater than 500 passengers.
In 2011, the Galapagos Islands begin restricting the number of visitors to the islands; limiting the number of days they can stay and the number of ship landings they can make. Here’s the entire list of rules for visiting.
In 2014, Mount Everest slashed it climbing permit fees from $25,000 to $10,000 (for groups number 7-15) to make it a more a “affordable” $75,000 - $100,000 (GULP!), but in 2015, it actually raised that permit fee to $11,000 and imposed other requirements. Not only must climbers pack out their own trash, they must also take an additional 18 pounds of garbage! The fear is that commercialization is destroying the environment. Additionally, novice climbers - those who have not previously summitted peaks of about 21,000 feet - are now banned. The purpose of the ban is to reduce overcrowding.
This year, the Seychelles, the 115 island archipelago in the Indian Ocean off of Africa, where tourism is two thirds of its GDP - has banned all large scale hotel developments – indefinitely.
Also in 2017, the famous falls in Croatia’s Krka National Park will limit visitors to 10,000 at a time due to concerns over safety and damage to the environment. This is in response to damage done last year at another of Croatia’s parks. Visitors to Plitvice National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, caused damage when they strayed off designated paths.
Are you heading to any of these places? Have you already visited and experienced some of these regulations? I’d love to hear about it! Let me know on Facebook!