Home Tourism How overtourism hit this summer

How overtourism hit this summer

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This summer, Europe has been reeling from heat, wildfires, migrants, concerns over Russia’s war in Ukraine and too much tourism. I know; I was part of the problem.

Tourism is a quick economic fix for poor countries, but it’s also vital for rich countries – until both get too much.

Places that everyone wants to visit, often on bucket lists, are choking on their success. Paris, Stonehenge and the Lake District in Britain, the Ring of Kerry in Ireland and the jewels of Italy – Florence and Venice – all suffer from summer overload.

This summer, the situation was so bad in Venice that cruise ships had to be turned away. The Greek islands of Santorini, Corfu and Mykonos were also inundated with cruisers and other tourists.

Yet tourism is vital to many economies. Emerging tourist destinations along Croatia’s Dalmatian coast are the last to feel the benefits and problems of tourism. The sites, routes and facilities are extensive, but tourism means economic well-being for the region, especially as cruise ships have started calling.

Cruise ships, these large floating palaces – and which become gigantic – overwhelm ports when they anchor, overload infrastructure and deposit a lot of money.

Greece and many countries bordering the Adriatic Sea derive around 25 percent of their GDP from tourism, particularly cruise ships. Cruise ships are very important to any coastal community with ancient ruins, historic and picturesque towns, and natural wonders – and the Balkan countries all have them in abundance.

In early August, my wife and I sailed the Dalmatian coast and the Greek islands. When we booked the cruise, at the last minute, we were fully aware of the tourist pressure that Europe faces every summer, but we learned that it is getting worse.

Most of the Dalmatian coast is still visitable in summer and extremely rewarding, with the exception of Dubrovnik, which we skipped. This, I learned, is a demonstration of the stress caused by overtourism. The full effect of cruise ships has not yet begun to be felt on small coastal towns like on the most famous Greek islands.

You can’t choose a Greek island itinerary in summer that will avoid seeing too many cruise ships carrying 2,500 or more passengers arriving at the same destination at the same time.

Fira, Santorini, is a fabulous cliffside town, except when too many visitors disembark from a flotilla of cruise ships anchored in the port.

Five cruise ships arrived simultaneously in Fira, including ours, and thousands of tourists disembarked. You have to ride a donkey or cable car to reach the charming town. My wife and I love donkeys, so we opted for the cable car. It was chaotic, almost dangerous. Extraordinarily, the crowds waiting for hours to board the cable cars were well behaved: no jostling, no audible outrage, just a resigned queue.

Lest you think cruise ships are only filled with Americans, cruising has become a global passion.

Cruise passengers discover the world from the comfort and security of a huge, well-organized hotel that moves with them. They see more and take selfies in more places than they otherwise could.

Cruising is big business and the size of the ship doesn’t seem to deter anyone.

Royal Caribbean is about to add its Icon class: they will be able to carry up to 7,000 passengers and 3,000 crew members. For merchants and tax collectors, these are galleons of gold as visitors spend their doubloons on tours, trinkets, meals, and tips.

But excessive tourism degrades the picturesque ports, treasured villages and grand structures of the past. When I see a cruise ship overlooking a city where history was born, I think: the barbarians are arriving in shorts, cameras and cell phones in hand. I may be one of them, but I will try to avoid high summer in the future.

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