As travel restrictions ease and we venture out to satiate our travel itches, the hurdle of over-tourism could take centre-stage again. Here are some easy-to-follow tips to curb the same in the post-COVID-19 world. By Bayar Jain

 

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Within three months of 2020, views of once lively streets and bustling tourist spots were rendered deserted, courtesy the Coronavirus pandemic. Silent alleys soon became the norm while ‘crowds’ started morphing into a phenomenon of the past. Global tourism, as we knew it, came to a halt. Yet, as the world shifts gears to embrace wander-bugs once again, the danger of retracing to a challenge of the past resurfaces — over-tourism.

2019’s report by the World Tourism Organisation notes that over 89 million international tourists visited France in 2018 alone, a three per cent rise from the previous year. Spain, United States of America, China, and Italy bagged the subsequent spots, all with more than 60 million international arrivals, respectively. India, specifically, saw 17.42 million international tourists visiting its land in 2018, according to the country’s Ministry of Tourism report.

 

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However, international tourism isn’t the only frontier lending its weight on these rising numbers. The same Indian report states that Tamil Nadu (385.9 million), Uttar Pradesh (285.1 million), Karnataka (214.3 million), Andhra Pradesh (194.8 million) and Maharashtra (119.2 million) accounted for a whopping 64 per cent of the country’s total domestic tourism in 2018. Agra’s Taj Mahal, alone, had 5.65 million domestic travellers paying homage to the white-domed beauty.

These numbers are glaring proof of the lopsided tourism and preferred destinations, both Indian and abroad. The temporary collapse of travel, however, has forced one to readjust their gaze and refocus on a renewed form of exploring. If there’s a takeaway from this dystopian reality of the COVID-19 era, it’s to throw limelight on sustainable travel, of which over-tourism forms a big part—a challenge that could resurface if necessary precautions aren’t taken.

Slow Down

 

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Just as the Coronavirus forced us to slow down, a similar ideology must find its way in future travels as well. To truly immerse in a destination is to take a backseat, and spend time understanding; a feat rarely accomplished with point-to-point itineraries. Instead of chalking out the intricacies of plans before reaching a destination, consider seeing what the place has to offer instead. Rely on observation or impromptu travelling to prevent getting sucked into the tide of the ‘usuals’. However, having said that, the larger framework (like numbers of days, means of transport, currencies, etc.) should be planned before arriving at the destination to prevent any unnecessary hassle.

Support Local

 

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While on the surface, this doesn’t sound like a contributing factor in over-tourism, its underlying implications yield the same results. With international travel still being seen as a tough mountain to scale, for now, the compulsion for supporting local destinations comes as a natural option. However, over time, these domestic destinations have re-crafted themselves to please the larger audience. Which means, even though one might be visiting a ‘local’ destination, chances of seeing it with a ‘tourist’ gaze continues, which means any wanderer is bound to see the usual, cliche tourist hotspots. By opting for local tourist operators, accommodations, eateries, and the likes, the chances of exploring offbeat paths are higher, while also giving one a true sense of a destination.

Embrace Off-Seasons

 

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Should a popular destination be on the travel bucket list, consider off-seasons or shoulder months for these spots. Every destination has a particular time of the year which sees a higher footfall than usual, often leaving other months dry. Bank on this time to not only avail lower prices but also help keep over-tourism at bay. This win-win solution results in lesser crowds, cheaper rates, and even give locals extra earnings during an otherwise slow period. Besides, it works in tandem with social distancing too!

Don’t travel for the ‘gram!

 

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This doesn’t imply that travelling and posting on social media should be a no-no, but travelling for the sake of a beautiful feed post can be curbed. Just because a place looked gorgeous on someone’s profile and it’s a ‘must-visit’, doesn’t mean one should visit it too. People’s tastes vary, and the same applies while planning a vacation as well.

Related: The Statue Of Liberty Takes A Step To Reduce Over-Tourism