Insight Investigates: Overtourism, and What You Can Do to Help

by | 21 Nov 2023

The environmental impacts of tourism are a difficult reality to accept. They’re the bittersweet result of that wonderful travel bug we all share. Our desire to see the world and marvel at its splendor, unfortunately, comes with its drawbacks. Damaged ecosystems, crowded hotspots, and out-of-control pollution to name a few. That’s especially true with destinations that are wildly popular, like Venice, where they banned cruise ships in 2021. Or take Machu Picchu, where the authorities recently suspended tourist visits due to erosion of the citadel’s stones. As responsible travelers, it’s crucial to understand the impact of our journeys and take steps to preserve the places we love. In this edition of “Insight Investigates,” we explore the environmental impacts of tourism and discuss actionable steps you can take to be part of the solution.


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A lot of the environmental impacts of tourism are a result of overtourism, which is when popular destinations receive more visitors than they can handle sustainably. This puts pressure on the environment, local residents, and historical sites. The recent closure of sections of Machu Picchu due to the strain of excessive footfall is a stark reminder of the urgent need for responsible tourism. Other examples include Barcelona and Santorini struggling under daily cruise ship visits, and many ruins in Asia being damaged by constant crowds.



Consider alternative destinations to those that typically see a large influx of visitors. Take, for instance, the Balkans region, rich in history, culture and unique traditions. After rebuilding and repairing after year of conflict, this region has become an amazing place to visit for its authenticity and unspoilt natural environment. Yet, it remains far more under the radar compared to its European neighbors. Take Sarajevo, one of the war’s hotspots. It is now rebuilt, fully open for tourism, and an incredibly unique city nicknamed ‘Jerusalem of Europe’ for its religious and cultural diversity. Nearby, in Croatia, you’ll find gorgeous beaches and turquoise waters to rival any in Greece or Italy.

Discover 8 unique countries in 16 amazing days on Treasures of the Balkans

You may also like: Cruising the Croatian coastline in perfect style

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One of the best ways to lower the environmental impact of tourism is to travel to places outside of their busiest season. This not only reduces the impact of huge crowds, which can put strain on natural resources, but also allows you to appreciate destinations in a more natural and undisturbed state. You’ll also help support local businesses that normally struggle in the off-season, when there are far less tourists.

One of our favorite destinations to visit is Germany in the fall, a season that amplifies its fairytale charm. Especially in Bavaria and the Black forest, which is where the whimsical cuckoo clocks come from. Also, fall is when you can go to Oktoberfest, one of Germany’s most famous festivals. Though associated with jolly beer halls and huge steins, it wasn’t originally a beer festival, but rather a wedding party. It was the celebration of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage in 1810, but evolved into the worldwide party it is today.

See the Best of Germany up close and personal, in comfort and style

You may also like: The sustainable benefits of traveling in the off-season

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This is a simple way to reduce the environmental impact of tourism, but it makes a difference. Reduce waste by opting for reusable products, disposing of your trash, and minimizing single-use plastics. When exploring nature, stick to designated trails to protect fragile ecosystems and maintain a respectful distance from wildlife. Implement sustainable practices, such as choosing eco-friendly products and conserving energy. Just try to never leave anything behind and keep your destination looking as it was before you arrived.


We take pride in providing a responsible travel experience, no matter what tour you go on.

We plan all our itineraries and operations in line with our How We Tread Right sustainability strategy. This serves as our corporate and social responsibility roadmap, charting the course for our 5-year advancement of sustainable travel, decarbonization, and social, economic and community development.

Not only that, but did you know that traveling by coach is actually one of the most environmentally-friendly modes of transport? It’s even more sustainable than taking a train.

Finally, nothing represents our commitment to sustainability better than our MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experiences, which are on almost every Insight Vacations tour. These are experiences where you get to engage with your destination in a positively sustainable way. Be it through an arts workshop, a visit to an eco-sanctuary, or a trip to a small local business. These experiences have been designed to forward at least two of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ensuring that your journey leaves a positive impact wherever you go.

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As responsible travelers, we have the power to protect the world’s treasures and reducing the environmental impacts of tourism. By going in the off-season, exploring lesser-known gems, and supporting local communities, we can ensure that the magic of travel endures for generations to come. Travel with insight; travel responsibly.

I'm Jay – born in Italy, raised in South London. Having French sisters and Hungarian ancestors, I've always been fascinated with the world and its cultures, and I carry this curiosity into my writing for Insightful. My favourite destinations I've traveled to so far have been Italy, Peru, France and Brazil.