Colombia is a country whose reputation has been unfairly plagued by its past. In recent years, as the political and criminal situation calmed down considerably, new airline routes have opened up. As a result, Colombia is now bringing in quite a bit of tourism, attracting over 2.5 million visitors in 2016.
Cartagena, Colombia’s Caribbean tourism capital, attracts around 14% of those travelers. And while the city doesn’t seem overrun by visitors, the desire to cater to them has led to the gentrification of Getsemaní. Development of this ultra-hip neighborhood is largely being funded by international companies, who seem hell-bent on tourism profits regardless of the impact on the locals who live there.
Some of the more popular local beaches are so swamped with tourists, they’re too expensive for locals to get out to them. The tourism boom in Cartagena has also led to a staggering problem wherein young local girls are forced into prostitution to cater to foreigners.
If you’re visiting Cartagena, I recommend talking to the friendly locals. Ask them about their favorite places to go and things to do in the area. Support local businesses, and do your best to put money into the local economy rather than spending it to support international corporate interests. –Megan Starr
EASTER ISLAND (CHILE)
Easter Island is best known for the mysterious Moai, gigantic stone statues created by the ancient Rapa Nui civilization. The Rapa Nui people carved the statues (some nearly 30 feet tall and weighing 80 tons), transported them to different sites, and erected them on ceremonial platforms. No one knows their purpose, but the 887 Moai are the tiny island’s main attraction.
Unfortunately, the sheer number of tourists (around 100,000 annually) are changing the nature of tourism on Easter Island. The Moai are very fragile, and tourists who touch the statues cause irreversible damage. Two important archaeological sites were closed to tourists in recent years due to deterioration.
Easter Island once collapsed under a population of 10,000. Now the island’s infrastructure and resources are being stressed by the growing surge of visitors. Available landfill area for non-recyclable waste is extremely limited.
Being a responsible tourist on Easter Island is easy. Just don’t touch the Moai, stick to marked trails, watch where you walk (archaeological sites are everywhere), respect local culture, and leave no waste. To avoid the crowds, travel off-season in winter (June to September) and skip the Tapati Festival in January. –Ketki Sharangpani of Dotted Globe
One special destination that’s sadly suffering from overtourism is Machu Picchu, and the increasingly popular Inca Trail that leads to it. Strict caps on visitors were put in place by the Peruvian government a few years back– 500 permits per day for the Inca Trail and 2500 per day for Machu Picchu. Yet still the famed site often sees double that number of visitors.
This is obvious in terms of countless irresponsible travelers ruining the natural beauty and mystical appeal with their ubiq uitous selfie sticks. But what’s even
worse is the area’s sanitation issues.
There’s toilet paper lining the hiking trails, squat toilets overflowing, and now the preservation of this precious site seems to be in danger. There is good news: In the summer of 2017, the Peruvian government passed a new restriction for Machu Picchu visitors, requiring they enter with an official tour guide in groups of 16 or less. Additionally, entry grants only a morning visit or an afternoon visit. So if if you want to spend the entire day, you’ll need to pay twice. While inside, visitors will need to stay on marked paths.
Hopefully new laws like these will help to ease the strain on this important UNESCO World Heritage site.
–Jessie Festa of Jessie on a Journey