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Byron Bay named among world’s worst locations for overtourism

Byron Bay named among world’s worst locations for overtourism
June 5, 2019

The small NSW coastal community of Byron Bay has been named among two Australian locations – along with Uluru in the Northern Territory - as places suffering the greatest rates of overtourism.

Byron Bay was among 98 identified in a new global map as struggling with the burden of too many visitors by UK tour company Responsible Travel – which drew upon news reports of overtourism from around the world in an effort to shed light on the scale of the issue.

Byron attracts more than two million tourists annually who spend more than $700 million. However, the downside to that is that almost a fifth of all houses are holiday lets and the cost of those houses saw it overtake Sydney this year as the expensive place in Australia to buy a house.

Byron Shire Mayor Richardson has spoken on the issue may times, saying that something needs to protect the community’s right to residential areas “that are filled with neighbours not tourists”.

Visitors to Byron also put a heavy strain on the town's roads, sewerage and waste networks and the Byron Shire Council, which relies on a rate base of just 15,000 people, has struggled to raise funds for projects and maintain infrastructure.

Responsible Travel's overtourism map.

In Asia, Bali and Komodo Island in Indonesia, El Nido and Boracay the Philippines, Kyoto in Japan, Jeju Island in South Korea, Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, Maya Bay in Thailand, Bagan in Myanmar and Angkor Wat in Cambodia were among the destinations highlighted.

Other destinations within Australasia and the Pacific region identified as suffering pressure include Hawaii, Easter Island and New Zealand’s Waitangi and the Matapōuri Mermaid Pools.

The Matapouri Mermaid Pools officially closed to the public in April after tourists left behind rubbish and it was found they had been damaged by urine and sunscreen.

Responsible Travel notes that the map uncovers only "the tip of the iceberg", noting that overtourism in many places is under-reported or not reported on at all, advising “what we've found is staggering - reports from 98 destinations in 63 countries of places that are suffering under the strains of overtourism.”

Responsible Travel Chief Executive Justin Francis said many are under the mistaken impression that overtourism is confined to certain spots in Europe and that this can be controlled through better visitor management.

He told London newspaper The Telegraph “with forecasts of a 30% growth in tourists over the next 10 years, it's hard not to conclude that we - tourists and residents - are facing a crisis.

Last year international tourist arrivals worldwide reached 1.4 billion, two years ahead of schedule according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization. France, the world's most popular country, is expecting a record 100 million visitors a year by 2020 and destinations from Rome to Reykjavik, Goa to the Galapagos and Boracay to Bali are straining under the weight of too many tourists.

With New Zealand having experienced a four-fold growth in tourism since 1990 the New Zealand Government will be introducing a $35 International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy from 1st July to help fund new infrastructure and protect the environment. 

Images: Byron Bay (top) and Matapouri Mermaid Pools (below).

Related Articles

2nd June 2019 - Increased Great Walks pricing sees fewer tourists but more income

29th May 2019 - Climber suffers cardiac arrest on Uluru

16th May 2019 - New Zealand Government delivers strategy for sustainable tourism growth

5th March 2019 - Byron Shire Council steps up efforts to reduce cigarette litter on beaches

2nd February 2019 - World Tourism Association launched to combat overtourism

21st November 2018 - New UNWTO Report helps cities manage impacts of ‘overtourism’

3rd October 2018 - Overtourism leads to indefinite closure of iconic Thai bay

19th May 2018 - World’s protected areas suffer ‘shocking’ human impact

27th February 2018 - Swamped with marine garbage, popular Bali beaches require massive daily clean up

3rd February 2018 - Tourism to generate 2.4 million new jobs in Indonesia

1st November 2017 - Climbing Uluru to be banned from October 2019

4th July 2017 - PATA maintains leadership in sustainable tourism practices

17th May 2016 - Thai Government closes Andaman Sea island to tourists due to ‘overcrowding’

24th June 2015 - Responsible Travel member tour operators raise over $1 million in wake of Nepal earthquake

8th October 2010 - Byron Bay Bluesfest named Australia’s top event

12th August 2008 - $16 million events centre for Okara Park

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