HOW TO BE A GOOD TRAV­ELER IN AN AGE OF OVERTOURIS­M

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Insight - BY MELISSA RAYWORTH As­so­caited Press

In Paris, the Lou­vre Mu­seum closed for a day be­cause work­ers said the crowds were too big to han­dle. In the Hi­malayas, climbers at Mount Ever­est worry the peak has got­ten too crowded, con­tribut­ing to the high­est death toll in years. In pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions from Barcelona to Bali, “overtouris­m” has be­come a year-round prob­lem.

When fields of wild­flow­ers in Lake Elsi­nore, Cal­i­for­nia, were over­run this spring by tourists seek­ing the per­fect photo, the city tweeted bluntly about the im­pact of traf­fic jams and tram­pled hill­sides: “We know it has been mis­er­able and has caused un­nec­es­sary hard­ships for our en­tire com­mu­nity.” Last sum­mer, it was a sun­flower field out­side Toronto that got tram­pled af­ter be­com­ing In­sta­gram-fa­mous.

Dis­count air­lines, in­ex­pen­sive Airbnb rooms and so­cial me­dia shares have brought the bless­ing of tourist dol­lars and the grow­ing curse of noisy crowds and even dan­ger­ous con­di­tions to places once known for off-the­beaten-path charm or idyl­lic si­lence.

“Tourists are tram­pling the very at­trac­tion they’ve come to wit­ness,” says Joel De­ich­mann, a global stud­ies pro­fes­sor at Bent­ley Univer­sity in Mas­sachusetts.

Some com­mu­ni­ties have be­gun push­ing back with reg­u­la­tions and public ser­vice an­nounce­ments telling tourists to be­have.

How do you visit with­out do­ing harm? Four tips from ex­perts:

1. RE­MEM­BER, IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU: Ven­tur­ing far from home and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an un­fa­mil­iar cul­ture can be trans­for­ma­tive, bring­ing a sense of free­dom and even he­do­nism. But don’t for­get: This is al­ready some­one’s cul­ture, some­one’s home.

So re­search the place you want to visit. What kind of be­hav­ior is ap­pro­pri­ate there? What are the environmen­tal poli­cies? If you’re book­ing through a travel ser­vice, ask them for guid­ance.

Pavia Rosati, founder of the travel ser­vice Fathom and co-au­thor of the book “Travel Any­where” (Hardie Grant, 2019) re­minds trav­el­ers go­ing to ex­otic des­ti­na­tions: “You are not here to just add some­thing for­eign to your col­lec­tion.”

It might seem log­i­cal to put on a tank top and shorts in Thai­land’s 100de­gree heat. But if you’re vis­it­ing Bud­dhist tem­ples, it’s dis­re­spect­ful. “Err on the side of con­ser­va­tive dress­ing,” Rosati says.

De­ich­mann, who fre­quently trav­els abroad with his stu­dents, ad­vises them to take cues from local res­i­dents. For example, he says, on a sub­way or bus in Euro­pean cities, lo­cals are usu­ally read­ing or sit­ting qui­etly. Fol­low their lead: Avoid loud con­ver­sa­tions or get­ting up to snap pho­tos.

The same goes for latenight par­ty­ing: If you’re at a re­sort on a few hun­dred acres of gated lands, party as you wish. But if you’re stay­ing in an Airbnb apart­ment, re­al­ize that the per­son on the other side of the wall might need to put their baby to sleep or get up for work early.

2. PUT PICTURETAK­ING IN PER­SPEC­TIVE: With phone cam­eras, we’ve be­come ac­cus­tomed to tak­ing pic­tures con­stantly. But tak­ing pho­tos of peo­ple, their chil­dren and their homes is in­va­sive.

Also, re­spect the phys­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment. Don’t walk on the wild­flow­ers to get the best photo.

And con­sider risks: At Kaater­skill Falls in New York’s Catskill Moun­tains, four tourist deaths in re­cent years have been at­trib­uted to at­tempts to take dra­matic self­ies.

You’ll prob­a­bly en­joy your ex­pe­ri­ences more fully if you spend less time snap­ping pho­tos, says Univer­sity of Den­ver as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor Gia Nar­dini. And show­ing re­straint can help pro­tect the place you’re en­joy­ing from overtouris­m. “If you take that pic­ture,” Dodds asks, “will 1,000 peo­ple ar­rive the next day to take that same pic­ture?”

3. GIVE BACK: When Rosati was plan­ning a cruise along the Ama­zon River, she knew she’d be stop­ping in vil­lages where chil­dren needed ba­sics like pen­cils, crayons and pa­per. So “one-third of my suit­case was school sup­plies,” she says. Once there, she gave them away and filled the space in her suit­case with local crafts.

Con­sider spend­ing money in the local econ­omy, and seek out lo­cally owned restau­rants and bars.

To help the en­vi­ron­ment, use public trans­porta­tion as much as pos­si­ble.

Fi­nally, take your pack­ag­ing with you when you leave. And never buy gifts made from en­dan­gered an­i­mals or other il­le­gal ma­te­ri­als.

4. SAY HELLO: “My dad used to say you need to learn to say, ‘How can I get a cup of cof­fee’ in the local lan­guage,” says Dodds, au­thor of a new book, “Overtouris­m: Is­sues, Real­i­ties and Solutions” (De Gruyter Olden­bourg, 2019). Even where many lo­cals speak English, learn­ing a few words in their lan­guage – hello, please, thank you, yes, no – will earn you good will and a more au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ence.

De­ich­mann says al­ways keep in mind: “What if this were your vil­lage?”

GRE­GORY BULL AP

Peo­ple pose for a pic­ture among wild­flow­ers in bloom at Lake Elsi­nore, Calif., in March. This spring, fields of wild­flow­ers in Lake Elsi­nore were over­run and tram­pled by tourists seek­ing the per­fect photo.

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