Two-thousand-and-fourteen saw the number of tourists traveling the planet break the record of 1.1 trillion, 51 million more than the previous year. It seems that the movement is far from stopping since the trips, often at low cost, grow at an exponential rate.
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), like UNESCO, has sounded the alarm, especially regarding the most visited sites, often referred to as "must see." Other than the degradation, there is also the induced soiling and garbage, the accelerated wear of the monuments, the thefts (one statue stolen or damaged each day at Angkor Wat), the pollution by the coaches that pour out the cohorts of visitors, the circulation disturbances, or the noise for the local populations.
Reasoned measures regarding mass tourism provide food for thought for their author's concern for the future. They recommend drastic measures, going from a daily limit on visitors, to reserved visits, and even closing down a site forever, like the Caves of Lascaux.
Since we know that the Notre Dame receives 14 million visitors each year, the Sacre Coeur and the Louvre around 10 million, the Eiffel Tower nearly 7 million, and the Centre Pompidou appraches 4 million, we understand that these places could be victims of their success. While the induced economic activity that is attached to them is flourishing, the monuments suffer, and the reparations due to their wear and degradation become frequent and costly. Corot's painting, which was stolen from the Louvre in 1998 in plain sight has never been found, nor the notebook of Picasso's drawings in the eponymous museum.
The declarations of the UNWTO and UNESCO therefore arrive at the very moment when tourism has grown so much that we are sometimes close to a breaking point. It is time to think of another way to make these marvels known. Tourists must be better educated, more respectful and made aware before their trips. Those responsible should hear more from those who experience the negative consequences of tourism, which has become too industrialized, and they should also hear more from the inhabitants who suffer these continuous waves of visitors. This is not a simple subject, it concerns numerous countries, and for France, it is focused on Paris.
If the number of tourists keeps on climbing at the current rate, it will be necessary to go through serious evolutions of existing practices, as much on the part of the visitors as on the part of the countries that receive the most visits.
Are virtual online experiences a good substitute for actually visiting a site? How can we reduce the impact to tourist sites around the world? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments area below.
Original article, originally published in French, here.
Credits: Data and images linked to sources.