The Worst Destinations for Sustainable Travel

The world is an amazing place and we certainly hope to keep some of the most sacred and magical places around for future generations to enjoy. However, varying factors ranging from climate change to an unsustainable increase of tourism in certain fragile destinations like the Great Barrier Reef in Australia are threatening to keep these places around. In this post, Misty Foster highlights some of the least sustainable places in the world to visit right now. 

Ah, the relaxing atmosphere of the beach. The excitement of the world’s most romantic cities. We love traveling and experiencing these things until there are one too many people on the beach or you aren’t the only one “pushing” the leaning tower of Pisa up in your picture. Overcrowding is only one part of the problem when it comes to issues concerning sustainable travel. The idea follows that the more people visit a place, the greater the impact is left behind.

This is especially true for smaller islands and places that don’t have structural integrity set up. For example, the beautiful infinity pools you see in Santorini overlooking the caldera, may be a travel dream for most but the weight of the water and pools is causing cliff sagging. This becomes especially concerning when you understand that this island is prone to earthquakes and is the result of a volcano. The danger factor goes up significantly and building more pools on the cliffs because of tourism demands, becomes an increasingly problematic issue.

There are many popular places that are experiencing unsustainable tourism and are contributing to either the total destruction of the place or the overall wear and tear. Cinqe Terre comes to mind and has recently limited the amount of tourists allowed to visit at a time. With that in mind, we’ve selected seven destinations that are in the midst of their own kind of struggle and that we recommend considering avoiding.

The Taj Mahal

In early 2011, the Taj Mahal announced that it would potentially be closing due to the rotting wooden structure of its foundation. Initially they predicted that in five years, if urgent care wasn’t taken, they would be closing indefinitely. While the 358 year old marble mausoleum still keeps its doors open for tourism, there is an ever looming threat of closing for good. In 2013 UNESCO declared that the famous spot would be closing in 2017 due to air pollution and human interaction causing the white marble to crumble.

Visitors will still be able to gaze upon the building from afar but the experience of going in will be limited to workers and conservationists.

Venice, Italy

Venice is sinking. Or rather, the sea level is rising and swallowing up the canals. Not only is flooding becoming normative, but a recent study found that the city is starting to tilt slowly to the east due to the subsidence.This is due to the ground compacting from centuries of building and from water pumping and extraction from the ground. The two factors combined have caused the settlement to tilt.

It’s estimated that it’s subsiding one to two millimeters a year. The city has plans to build anti-flooding walls but mass tourism and human impact only worsens the problem.

The Great Barrier Reef

In a controversial article, Outside Magazine officially declared The Great Barrier Reef as dead in October of 2016. While the scientific community responded in horror and outrage, many took the news at face value. The reef is not officially dead. That said, it is dying at an alarming rate. 93% of the reef has experienced bleaching due to extreme changes in climate, light and nutrients. Some of the damage is due to human touch and the oils our skin leaves behind.

Scientist don’t want the public to give up on the idea that it’s past the point of no return. The Australian government has a REEF 2050 PLAN that would rehabilitate the area. While an estimated two million visitors come every year to swim amongst the coral, our opinion is to sit this one out until the revitalization of the coral is possible and we can experience it in a more sustainable way.

Potosi, Bolivia

Trash is an understatement when you see the amount of waste that sits around in Potosi, Bolivia. The UNESCO world heritage city is known for a few things. One, being one of the highest cities in the world and two, a major silver mining spot. It’s now also being called one of the most polluted cities in the world. Not only is there a blase attitude towards throwing garbage anywhere, the mining has caused pollution in the water.

Lead, arsenic, calcium and sulfur all leak from the mines. Mining tours are especially popular amongst visitors and that demand leads to more pollution.

Machu Picchu

The Inca Trail blazes through the hearts of many. The thrill of climbing to the top of the 7,970 foot peak excites many! Unfortunately, due to a high volume of foot traffic the trail has to be closed in February of every year to repair the damage. It also happens to be the rainy season and as such becomes more dangerous for travelers to take it. Rumors of the closing come and go often in part because of the annual closing in February but also because the erosion is starting to become more noticeable.

While Machu Picchu itself is not closed, the iconic Inca Trail possess the greatest threat of environmental stress.

The Great Wall of China

This one hurts us too. The Great Wall of China is crumbling. It’s easy to understand how when you consider that ten million visitors flock to it each year. Not only do some sections of the wall have graffiti damage, but squatters and campers have left behind tents, trash and urine. Since there is no clear ban on sleeping on the wall, it’s hard to regulate this issue. There are even occasional raves held on the wall, where empty bottles and remnants of a major party are left behind.

The struggle to balance tourism and allowing people to enjoy the wall and staving off destruction of the wall is not easy when you consider that the total length of the wall is 13,170.69 miles.

 

This is an excerpt from a post written by Misty Foster for About.com. To read the post in full, click here. 

Travel+SocialGood is a nonprofit and community aimed at propelling the travel industry to meet its potential for global positive impact. The TSG Media Network is one of our five initiatives, and is an alliance of content creators passionate about sustainable travel. Our goal is to help build the travel industry of the future, where all travel will have a positive economic, environmental, cultural and social impact for traveler, place and resident.

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