PARIS, May 30 — These destinations are taking steps to put the environment ahead of tourists, prioritizing the health of the planet over the pleasure of travel. Around the world, a growing number of destinations are implementing measures designed to protect the very assets that have made them so popular. Here are some locations that are requiring visitors to adhere to specific guidelines.
Reserve before you visit
To preserve the flora and fauna of a location and protect it from the risks presented by crowds of humans, many local authorities have introduced a reservation system for tourists. While the famous US national park of Yosemite put an end to its reservation system after using it for three consecutive summers, the trend is to prolong these systems, which gained popularity during the Covid pandemic. For instance, in the Luberon region of France, the ochre structures of Rustrel, known as the Colorado Provencal, can be visited by reservation only between 9 am and 1 pm. In the afternoon, visits are possible without a reservation but only 3,000 visitors a day are able to access this landscape, which has an air of the American Wild West about it.
The system has already proved effective, particularly in Marseille, France where crowds can no longer storm the Sugiton and Pierres Tombées creeks. From mid-June onwards, just 400 lucky people will be allowed to approach the rock formations bathed in crystal-clear water every day. The key is to be quick, so as not to miss out, given the success of the operation. Not far away, the island of Porquerolles is expecting 6,000 visitors a day this summer. The shuttle boats that run between the coast of the island and that of the mainland ensure that this maximum is respected by limiting the number of tickets available. Holidaymakers who don’t have tickets can still decide to visit other islands in the Parc National de Port-Cros which are not subject to booking. These include Port-Cros and Le Levant.
Another Mediterranean island in France, Corsica, has also taken steps to set quotas on the number of visitors wishing to bathe in the crystal-clear waters of the Lavezzi Islands, comparable to those in French Polynesia. The Aiguilles de Bavella and the Restonica valley, which are often compulsory stops on hikers’ itineraries, can also only be visited with prior booking.
Indeed a reservation system goes hand in hand with the introduction of visitor quotas. All over the world, this solution is being used in efforts to preserve historic relics such as Machu Picchu in Peru. One of the “New 7 Wonders of the World,” built by the Inca civilisation, the site has suffered greatly from tourist traffic. Just 2,500 visitors a day can discover this city perched at an altitude of 2,500 meters, and these individuals need to respect their specific time slot and hire a guide, who will outline the secrets of this Peruvian monument during a tour that can last up to a maximum of four hours.
From the Galapagos Islands to Antarctica, Boracay in the Philippines and Maya Bay in Thailand, the introduction of a quota on tourist numbers is a protective measure to allow nature to regenerate. In the case of Easter Island, the aim is to minimise the amount of waste potentially generated by tourism. In the land of the mysterious moai statues, the length of stay is limited to 30 days, and a visiting permit is required. And this applies to Chileans too!
Financial deterrents to visiting
While visits to some of Marseille’s calanques can be booked free of charge, a number of destinations charge visitors in order to curb their enthusiasm. In the Pacific, the Galapagos Islands impose an entrance tax of US$100 per visitor. But the most famous example of this is undoubtedly Bhutan. This small country tucked away in the Himalayas, famous for its Gross Domestic Happiness, is only open to wealthy travellers. Not only is accommodation expensive, but a US$200 (RM922) tax is added for each night spent. Enough to seriously put constraints on your travel budget!
Indonesian authorities have chosen the same strategy for protecting their famous Komodo dragons. On the island of the same name, where these large lizards languorously roam, the price of an entrance ticket to the national park has been multiplied by about 25. Last year a visitor’s pass cost IDR150.000 or about US$10, now it’s IDR3.750.000 or about US$250 per person.
Using a financial deterrent for discouraging tourists is an approach used by more destinations than you might think. In Venice, the introduction of such a tax has been talked about for several years now. Postponed several times, the measure is due to come into force early next year. It should be remembered that the tax will only apply to visitors who are not staying on site. It is particularly aimed at day visitors, such as cruise passengers.
A host of approaches are designed to reduce the density of tourism, which can be devastating for ecosystems. In the United States, there is even a site that can only be visited by lottery. The Wave, located in the Vermilion Cliffs, is an ultra photogenic rock formation in Arizona, considered one of the most beautiful natural sites in the world. But if you want to get up close, hope you have luck on your side since to visit you have to take your chances by buying a lottery ticket worth ten dollars and then hope to be drawn at random. And there are no refunds if you prove to be unlucky. — ETX Studio