Evaluating people outside the holidays that were once a hard earned luxury is not a bad thing – and there is a country that proves it
Corenno Plinio, a picturesque Italian village perched on Lake Como – it was only a matter of time before the masses found it.
When I first read about the newly elected mayor’s “controversial” plans to start charging an entry fee of € 5 (£ 4.30) for walkers, I thought it was a good move.
Here we have a place of medieval beauty, once peaceful, now full of thousands of annual visitors, 60% of whom are foreigners, with two British buses full of tourists that get on twice a week. Perhaps this new tax will discourage some of them and help reduce numbers.
In reverse. Apparently the mayor Stefano Cassinelli wants extra money to finance the transformation of this small village into an “open-air museum” and open the doors to even more hunters.
Other Italian tourist destinations – Venice, for example, will soon make visitors pay € 10 a day – are implementing withdrawals for the opposite reason: to reduce the absurd size of the seasonal crowds. A much more sensible motivation.
It’s happening all over the world, from India’s Taj Mahal to America’s National Parks – admission rates are rising. And not fast enough or tall enough for me.
A consequence of a past century of modern medicine, technology, relative peace and widespread democracy has been the most dramatic growth of the world population in human history. In turn, the meteoric rise of low-cost air travel has had the same effect on tourism.
In 2019, 1.4 billion trips were made abroad, with a 5% growth compared to the previous year and UNWTO forecasts will continue to increase at a similar rate every year. In short, these numbers are irreproachable, and while you and I could certainly commit to travel less, the majority don’t.
It is an uncomfortable truth that most of the problems on our planet would almost vanish if there were fewer people. Likewise, all the most beautiful monuments in the world and natural wonders would be undeniably better if there were fewer tourists there.
The only solution as far as I can see may not be a popular solution. You make tourism expensive again, a luxury you have to work hard for. In much the same way that beef was an occasional delight and is now a disastrously economic base that is wreaking havoc on our planet; traveling has become too convenient.
It is one thing for countries that are financially dependent on tourism and therefore actively welcome it. Another for the likes of Venice and Dubrovnik, whose inhabitants call for crowd control measures every summer when monstrous cruise ships flood their streets with selfie-wrestling owners.
And they are not just cities. American national parks – areas of land that were ironically isolated to protect them at the end of the 19th century – are sadly overcrowded and underfunded today.
Take Yellowstone, the oldest in the United States, where the number of annual visitors has increased by more than 40% in the past decade. No matter the unmanageable tails and the frustrating traffic jams, this ever-growing army of boots is ruining the once untouched ground underfoot.
In 2017, President Trump proposed a regime that would triple the cost of entry fees to parks, including Yellowstone. It hasn’t passed. Emily Douce, director of the United States’ National Parks Conservation Association’s Budget and Appropriations, spoke to many when she said, “Our concern is that we don’t want to price people outside the parks.”
We should evaluate people. I would have had to save a year to visit a wonderful and protected location instead of four, all invaded (and I am the first to admit that I travel too much).
The only reason Iceland remains relatively undamaged by tourists compared to other parts of Europe, despite its exceptional beauty, is because it is so expensive. The only land on which lions still roam wild and free? African safari parks; expensive. Luckily it costs so much to visit Antarctica, the least destroyed travel destination on Earth.
In other parts of the world, there is probably no better role model in the art of sustainable tourism in Bhutan. When the South Asian country first opened up to travelers in 1974, it based the framework on a “high value and low volume” strategy; requiring all visitors to spend at least $ 250 (£ 192) per person per day.
“The price controlled the flow of visitors and allowed our infrastructure and related services to grow with the expectations and demand of tourists, and protect our people [who] overall he had very little contact with the outside world [world]”, Says Thinley Choden, CEO of Bhutan Tours and Travels.” It attracts the visitors involved; who take the time to get to know our country and our culture “.
The aforementioned mayor of Lake Como would do well to follow him. Do not charge tourists a nominal fee to turn Corenno Plinio into a theme park. Keep your old spells by making less people pay more money.
And while you’re at it, the global powers of the moment put an end to the tax cuts currently reduced to the commercial aviation sector and also increase flight costs. Make tourism expensive again. It’s the only way to curb the number of reckless globe trotters – including myself – who love the best corners of the world until their death.