The term ‘overtourism’ has become the go-to expression to describe mass tourism, particularly for places underprepared for influxes of visitors.
Facilitated largely by the advent of budget travel, the world has never been more accessible and affordable to explore. But, in addition to the obvious financial considerations involved, there is a human, environmental and ethical cost to our lifestyle choices – especially when it comes to travel.
What is ‘extractive tourism’?
‘Extractive tourism’ – a term first coined by academic Vijay Kolinjivadi – goes beyond the basic interpretation of overtourism as a congestion caused by travellers flocking to tourism hotspots while balancing out the economic benefits. The new phrase better encompasses the destructive impact of mass tourism on local communities as well.
In recent years, the issue of overtourism has sparked feverish debate in the travel industry itself as well as in wider society. For many, travel has ceased to be seen as a benign activity to be enjoyed by all. The privilege of being able to travel the world freely is increasingly being considered as an entitlement. This view is having a toxic effect on the planet, contributing to the climate crisis and the destruction of ecosystems as well as harming the cultural heritage and livelihoods of indigenous populations, according to Kolinjivadi.
The government in Thailand, for instance, was forced to close Maya Bay indefinitely in 2018 to allow its ecosystem – damaged by years of untrammelled mass tourism – to fully regenerate.
In 2016, Venetians protested in the city’s Giudecca Canal in small fishing boats to block the passage of large cruise ships which have been blamed for unsettling the delicate environmental balance of Venice’s lagoon. Such has been the influx of colossal vessels to the city, each one bringing thousands of tourists a day, that grassroots movements have sprung up in the city initiating innovative schemes to deal with the surplus waste created by the wave of visitors arriving on the island.
This is an excerpt from an article by David Walsh, originally published by Euronews.