"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded." This Yogi Berra joke may be old, but the phenomenon of a once-hidden gem becoming too popular for its own good is not. While it once took word of mouth or a good travel agent to find out about the world's tucked away destinations, today all it takes is an internet connection and an Instagram account.
Here are five destinations that are quickly becoming overrun with tourists and losing some of their charm in the process.
For many, Amsterdam brings to mind tales of wild parties and a dreamscape of a land where anything goes, but it is also a city with a storied past. Many people have chosen Amsterdam as their home and have lived quiet and peaceful lives there for generations. However, those locals are getting overrun by the tourists who descend upon the city all year long. While fewer than 1 million people call Amsterdam home, it sees 20 million visitors every year. This can cause quite a problem for locals, business owners, and even other tourists who prefer a more low-key experience.
In addition to annoying homeowners with loud partying, tourists have caused some unintended unfortunate consequences. Amsterdam is famous for its Bloemenmarkt, which featured floating flower shops on barges as a callback to the days when fresh flowers were boated in from the countryside to the city. However, the last floating florist had to close up shop because swarms of tourists who had no interest in making a purchase blocked the floral wares from actual customers.
The city is taking steps to curb the flow of tourists by raising the tax on hotels, restricting short term rental houses, and banning the "Beer Bike" that allowed tourists to drink while pedaling near the canals on a communal bicycle. Still, if it's a fun trip to a city known for its loose rules and great entertainment you're after, you may find yourself crowded out when you get there.
Many people will recognize this city as "King's Landing" from the immensely popular television show Game of Thrones. That's because the city of Dubrovnik, Croatia, was the filming location for the beloved HBO series. The city's distinctive architectural features including the walls that surround it and the gorgeous stone streets attract fans who want to touch a piece of their fantasy world lore, but the city is suffering from the constant influx of tourists.
Only 1,500 locals live inside the "Old City," which is the portion enclosed inside the fortress walls the show made so famous. In 2017, the small city was visited by 749,000 people who arrived via more than 500 cruise ships. Businesses catering to tourists are filling their shops with show memorabilia and hashtagging their Instagram posts with #KingsLanding to capitalize on the surge of potential customers. The city has taken to staggering cruise ship schedules and installing cameras to monitor the flow of foot traffic.
As the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh has the infrastructure and the accommodations to accept many visitors. It has also always drawn a particularly big crowd during its festival season, which peaks in the summer. The city welcomes international visitors and uses their presence as part of the draw of such an impressive and diverse celebration.
However, the city is straining under the pressure of too many tourists and is now actively seeking ways to manage the flow of people.
Residents feel the problem has gotten out of hand. They worry about the preservation of the historic look and feel of their city. They are also frustrated by the noise pollution that comes along with 4.26 million annual overnight stays and all the bus tours and foot traffic that come with them. While city officials and residents alike hope to maintain the city's status as a great destination for visitors, they are trying to find ways to do it that are more sustainable and manageable. In the meantime, people who visit the city may find themselves boxed in and less welcome.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
People visiting the national parks of the U.S. are likely looking for the opportunity to peacefully convene with nature and escape from the hustle and bustle of their daily lives. They may find such an escape impossible, however, with the looming reality of overtourism pressing upon them. One national park that is particularly struggling with an overabundance of visitors is Great Smoky Mountains.
The park had yet another record-breaking year in 2018 and saw an astounding 11.4 million visitors.
Making this overcrowding even worse is that not all of the visitors are well-behaved. With so many people and few resources to ensure that everyone follows the rules, illegal wildlife encounters, camping in restricted areas, and trampling of delicate plant life are just some of the problems the park faces. Rangers are trying to keep everyone in line to make sure that the park remains safe and preserved for the people who visit and the wildlife that lives there, but the throng of tourists makes it difficult to do so.
There are many stunningly beautiful (and surprisingly affordable) places to visit in Asia, but the desire to be able to have a unique experience is driving way too many people to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. People are drawn to this gorgeous destination in order to watch the sunset at the ancient temple, but officials have become concerned that the growing crowds will leave irreparable damage in their wake.
New policies are setting up different locations to hold the large crowds who gather each day to watch the sun sink, and the hope is that these measures will help protect the temple ruins. The impact extends beyond physical damage to the site, however. Many are frustrated with the commercial response to all of these visitors. The strip mall-like stores and theme parks that have popped up to serve the tourists seem out of place in a land known for its tranquility and ancient roots.