The Moral Dilemmas of Overtourism

Jessica Toale
The Conscious Traveller
4 min readJul 23, 2019

This morning it emerged that a pair of tourist were fined in Venice for making coffee near the base of the Rialto Bridge. In brewing their coffee the tourists had contravened some obscure rule the city put in place to manage the influx of tourists it receives every year.

Venice is a unique case. There are around only 270,000 permanent residents in a city that receives more than 20 million visitors a year.

Almost everyone who has visited has a story about overcrowding in its alleyways, piazzas and waterways — of being unable to get into St Mark’s Square or over one of its bridges.

I have visited Venice twice over the past few year for the art Bienniale. I love it, but equally despair the number of people, and the totally un-Italian prices for food and drink. It feels like the only city in Italy where it is difficult to find quality and “local” food.

Despite this, quite obviously, it remains a popular place to visit.

The impacts of overtourism

Backlash against overtourism is apparent everywhere, from the grumbles of Cambodia taxi drivers to graffiti in cities like Lisbon and Barcelona.

This has become even greater phenomenon with the invention of Instagram. Tourists and travellers crowding the same spots to get that perfect shot they’ve seen on someone else’s feed — whether it be of the entrance to Petra, the balloons in Cappadocia or of the rainbow algae in Colombia.

Venice is just one example where overtourism creates tension between local residents and visitors — pushing up rents and prices and reducing the quality of life for locals. There are other examples where overtourism is having a direct impact on natural environments or the preservation of historical monuments. Many in the UK will remember that access to Stonehenge became restricted after visitors climbing over the monument was found to be causing irreversible damage.

Jessica Toale
The Conscious Traveller

Londoner. Traveller. Activist. Instagram: @jessica.toale