It’s been a controversial topic for many years, and now authorities have finally decided to ban tourists from climbing Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock), the sacred Anangu Aboriginal site in the red centre of Australia.
The ban comes into full effect on 26 October 2019, 34 years after the government returned the site to its traditional owners.
Although safety was one of the issues concerning both the Anangu and Australian authorities, the main reason for the closure was to preserve the integrity of the spiritually important site.
Sadly, although tourism can bring many positive benefits to a destination, it can also be extremely detrimental. Reports of people urinating on top of Uluru, for example, demonstrate ignorance, not only of the significance of the site, but also of basic hygiene – it’s feared important water sources have been contaminated as a result.
This isn’t a case in isolation. Iconic destinations and sites all over the world have fallen victim to over tourism. It’s a topic Justin Francis, CEO of tour company Responsible Travel, feels especially passionate about.
“In our view, greater attention must be put on the needs and wishes of local communities as tourism is planned and managed,” he said in response to the Uluru decision.
“A disregard of the impacts of tourism on local people’s lives has led to the modern phenomenon that has been dubbed ‘irresponsible tourism’ or ‘over tourism’.”
He notes a revolution is already underway…
Venetians have already made a stand against visitors disrespecting their city. In response to protests, local authorities introduced a fine of up to €450 as a “deterrent to people who think they can come to the city of Venice and do what they want, not respecting the city”.
Earlier this year, Rome banned eating and drinking at its famous fountains – with fines of up to €240 for breaking the rule. Paolo Bulgari, whose fashion house paid €1.5m to clean and renovate the Spanish Steps, also scorned tourists using the iconic stairway as a picnic seating area, for being “barbarians”.
Spain has experienced a bumper few years for tourism – great for the economy but not so great for its citizens. Barcelona, one of the most popular cities serviced by budget airlines, has responded by restricting Segway tours, imposing a halt on hotels opening in the city centre and clamping down on Airbnb rentals.
In response to threats that the historic Croatian city might lose its UNESCO status, drastic measures have been taken to curb visitor numbers – especially in the cruise sector.
Mayor Mato Frankovic has pledged to cap the number of tourists permitted to enter the Medieval-walled old town to a maximum of 4,000 per day. “We will lose money in the next two years – a million euros maybe by cutting the number of tourists,” he told the Telegraph. “But in the future we will gain much more. We deserve to be a top quality destination.”