3 Countries taking steps to educate travellers and tourists

While sitting on the top bunk of my hostel in Vienna, scrolling through Instagram, I stopped on a photo that looked like the back drop from one of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales. It was breathtaking.

The geo tag told me it was the small town, Hallstatt, located in Upper Austria and only a few hours away.

Photo by KJP on Instagram
Photo by KJP on Instagram

Looking for a break from the hustle and bustle of the cities I’d been backpacking through, I made my way to the train station and started the journey to the remote gem.

I arrived just after 8:30 AM and began walking the historic streets. Making myself comfortable at a coffee shop overlooking the water, I went to pull out my book for what I expected to be a relaxing day.

That’s when a green bus caught my attention. Not one bus, I quickly realized, but dozens of them!

Streams of tourists poured out of them. Within minutes the streets were full, and the spell of restful silence broken.

As I watched, massive groups started to push through the small town, leaving their garbage and overcrowding its limited infrastructure.

When I asked the barista what was happening, he replied in a flat tone, “It happens every day. Everyone wants a Hallstatt picture.”

A lump formed in the pit of my stomach. I’d been inspired to come for that same reason. It was in that moment that I first experienced the negative effects of ‘overtourism’.

Through the introduction of social media platforms such as Instagram, lesser known destinations are now spotlighted, leading to an influx of tourists, the majority of who are millennials. According to a recent survey conducted by Schofields, “more than 40% of millennials under 33 prioritize ‘Instagrammabillity’ when choosing their next holiday spot”.

Despite the economic benefits of tourism, the sheer number of visitors to locations that don’t have the infrastructure to support them has led to ‘overtourism’, causing negative ramifications for both communities and ecosystems. This isn’t set to stop, as the industry is experiencing rapid growth, with an estimated 1.5 billion people expected to travel annually by 2020.

What is Overtourism?

A crowd gathers around the Trevi Fountain in Rome, which has banned most motorcoaches from its city center in a bid to curtail overcrowding. Photo Credit: Indegerd/Shutterstock
A crowd gathers around the Trevi Fountain in Rome, which has banned most motorcoaches from its city center in a bid to curtail overcrowding. Photo Credit: Indegerd/Shutterstock

What is responsible tourism?

What can be done to combat overtourism?

Three countries Palau, Iceland, and New Zealand are doing just that through the implementation of “traveler-pledge” policies. While each varies slightly depending on the community’s needs, the foundation of having visitors signing promises that they will be responsible travellers during their stays remains the same.

What is the Palau Pledge?

Palau is the first nation to change its immigration laws for the cause of environmental protection. Upon entry, visitors need to sign a passport pledge to act in an ecologically responsible way on the island.

Every tourist who takes the pledge needs to follow a sustainable tourism checklist or risk a fine.

The Palau Pledge Includes:

  • Do support local businesses and communities
  • Don’t feed the fish and sharks
  • Don’t drag fins over coral when swimming
  • Do get others to respect the customs
  • Don’t touch or step on coral
  • Don’t take fruit or flowers from gardens
  • Do learn about the culture and the people
  • Don’t touch or chase wildlife
  • Don’t litter
  • Don’t smoke in restricted areas

In addition to signing the pledge, every inbound visitor is required to watch the inflight film below, which shows the need for responsible tourism.

What is the Icelandic Pledge?

Unlike Palau, this pledge is not part of Iceland’s immigration laws. Instead it helps reinforce the importance for responsible travel through marketing efforts.

The Icelandic Pledge includes:

  • When I explore new places, I will leave them as I found them.
  • I will take photos to die for, without dying for them.
  • I will follow the road into the unknown, but never venture off the road.
  • And I will only park where I am supposed to.
  • When I sleep out under the stars, I’ll stay within a campsite.
  • And when nature calls, I won’t answer the call on nature.
  • I will be prepared for all weathers, all possibilities and all adventures.

What is the New Zealand Tiaki Promise?

This initiative comes from seven key New Zealand organizations that joined forces to encourage international and domestic travellers to act as guardians of their country. The organizations include: Air New Zealand, Tourism New Zealand, the Department of Conservation, Tourism Industry Aotearoa, Local Government New Zealand, New Zealand Maori Tourism and Tourism Holdings Ltd.

Although it is also not an immigration requirement, the pledge provides a collection of resources for travellers to learn how to be more responsible. They’ve been successful in reaching large numbers of people as each of the seven stakeholders promote the Tiaki Promise to their customers, trade partners, and staff, ensuring messaging is reinforced at visitor touch points across the country.

The Tiaki Promise includes:

  • Travel safely, showing care and consideration for all.
  • Respect culture, travelling with an open heart and mind.


To conclude

As a visitor, it is important that we each take the time to review the cultural norms and capacity of our desired destination, prior to booking — or jumping on the next train to Hallstatt.