Towns take action against too many tourists.

Too-popular tourist destinations say #TooMuch

My story this week for CNBC is about overtourism, which is taking a toll on some of our favorites cities and some of the world’s most beautiful places. Take a read and let me know what you think about the remedies being put in place.

Several recent events, incidents and widely shared images have brought the issue of “overtourism,” and its economic, environmental and human consequences front and center.

For three days in April, ten popular tourist sites in the Faroe Islands were closed for maintenance but open to volunteers who came to create new walking paths, construct viewpoints, erect signs and rebuild ancient cairns.

At the end of May, the Louvre museum, the home of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa painting and a must-do for any visitor to Paris, closed for one day after a walkout by workers who complained about overcrowding.

In Venice, where there’s a movement to ban cruise ships from disgorging thousands of tourists into an already over-visited city, the MSC Opera cruise ship rammed into a dock and a tourist riverboat on June 2, injuring 5 people.

And last month the deaths of several climbers on Mount Everest was blamed on congestion on the trails near the top.

The image broadcaster and adventurer Ben Fogle tweeted of a long line of climbers hoping to reach the summit may bring a limit to the number of hikers allowed on the mountain. Some have suggested a lottery; comedian Conan O’Brien joked about a Disney-style Everest Fastpass.

Governments and local authorities step in

Around the world, tourism bureaus and governments are taking steps to combat the wear and tear overtourism is creating.

And not all these actions are brand new.

“In the 1980s, the government of Bhutan implemented sustainable tourism policies by following a tourism model of high value, low impact,” said Erika Richter, spokeswoman for the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA).

Instead of capping visitors at a certain number, as in the Galapagos, Bhutan charges visitors a daily fee of $200 during low season and $250 during high season.

“While the daily fee for visiting Bhutan may sound expensive, it covers most costs in-country including accommodations, food, guide, driver and entrance into festivals, making it quite reasonable,” said Beth Whitman, owner of WanderTours, “It also deters hordes of backpackers and budget travelers, which is exactly the government’s intention after witnessing the effects of tourism in nearby Nepal and India.”

In Peru, visitors need a timed ticket to visit Machu Picchu. Overcrowding recently moved officials to begin selling timed tickets for Barcelona’s Park Güell.  

Other cities have rolled out campaigns to cap and control tourism as well. Some try to tackle not only the influx of tourists, but their manners.

In Amsterdam, a city of less than one millions residents which hosts more than 19 million tourists a year, the tourism bureau is trying to direct visitors to out-of-the-center neighborhoods and to other Dutch destinations.

The city’s “Enjoy & Respect” campaign reminds visitors, especially young people between ages 18 and 34, that while Amsterdam is an “open, creative, innovative and tolerant city where the limits of what is allowed are wide,” public urination, littering, singing loudly  and other bad behavior is not allowed in the city and will incur big fines.

In addition to voting in entry fees for tourists, the city of Venice has adopted a Detourism campaign which encourages visitors to go beyond the usual tourist sights. A daily tourist report alerts, with tips on behavior from the #EnjoyRespectVenezia campaign, alerts locals and visitors alike to how congested the streets, canals and attractions may be.

To encourage visitors to go beyond crowded Reykjavik, Iceland’s tourism bureau created the “the A to Ö of Iceland” campaign, challenging visitors to head for other parts of the country.

Tourists are also directed to the Icelandic Pledge, which asks visitors to respect the landscape. Among the vows: “When nature calls, I won’t answer the call on nature,” and “I will take photos to die for, without dying for them.”

Elsewhere, highly Instgrammable destinations, such as Jackson Hole, Wyoming are welcoming visitors, but asking them not to geotag their photos.

“The geotagging campaign is not meant to exclude or discourage visitors from enjoying photos and Instagram posts,” said Kate Sollitt, Executive Director of the Jackson Hole Travel & Tourism Board, “We are simply asking them to think before geotagging certain remote, pristine areas that may be difficult to get to or are being overrun.”

The role of tourists and travel advisors

Guarding against overtourism isn’t just the responsibility of governments and tourism agencies, says ASTA’s Erika Richert, “Although governments’ involvement may hold the most power, there’s also a place for tourists and travel advisors to do their part in responsible tourism.”

The challenge is finding the tipping point between checking off the must-see destinations on many people’s wish lists and adding to overtourism.

In addition to urging travelers to choose small cruises that are less overwhelming to a community, the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) suggests travelers avoid already overcrowded in favor of less-visited destinations offering similar scenery and experiences

“You can’t suddenly say one day that tourism is closed,” says Jessica Hall Upchurch, Vice Chair and Sustainability Ambassador for the Virtuoso network of luxury travel advisors, “What you can do is be transparent about it and offer solutions. Because at their core, people want to do the right thing.”

Souvenir Sunday at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

It’s Souvenir Sunday, a day to take a look at some of the fun, locally-themed and inexpensive items you can buy when you’re stuck at the airport.

This week’s treats come from one of my favorites: Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.




If you find a great souvenir at an airport, please snap a photo and send it along. It may be featured on a future edition of Souvenir Sunday here on

KLM offering Amsterdam travelers a ‘care tag’

Thinking of heading to Amsterdam?

September, when all the college kids and summer tourists clear out, might be a good time to go.

And if you do, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has what may be a fun – free – travel gadget for you.

For travelers going to Amsterdam in September, KLM has created a “Care Tag,” which it describes as a smart audio luggage tag with a built-in offline GPS module and a speaker that automatically provides verbal tips (recorded by KLM crew members) on how to travel in the city.

KLM says the tips include alerts on busy intersections with a lot of cyclists, where and how to lock your bike, and when you should watch out for pickpockets, where to taste local food for free, where to see great street art, or where to rent a bike or boat.

How do you get a tag?  KLM says passengers traveling to Amsterdam in September will be able to order their  tag on line for free. The first batch of Care Tags will speak English, but Care Tags that speak Chinese, Portuguese, German and Russian will be available later this year.

I’m checking to see if just a speaker on the tags or if you can plug in a set of headphones.

And, while the Lost and Found pup was cute – but not real – KLM reps say the Care Tag is real thing.



Museum Monday: odd Amsterdam


Heading to Amsterdam?

Put the canal boat rides, flower markets, cheeses shops, (maybe some “coffee shops”) and tours of the recently-reopened Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House on your list.

But for a taste of Amsterdam’s more offbeat side, give some of these museums I profiled for a try as well.

Sex and drugs are covered in the Sexmuseum and in its kissing-cousin, the Erotic Museum, in the Red Light District, while there’s also a museum exploring the history of hash, marijuana and hemp.

1_Cat Cabinet

Feline fans will adore the Cat Cabinet (Katten Cabinet) – a museum filled with artwork devoted to cats – while the Museum of Bags and Purses tells the story of pouches, pockets, clutches, suitcases and bags through the ages. Museum of Bags and purses (2)

Micropia is a museum that tells the story of microbes and bacteria in a way that will have you rushing home to replace your toothbrush and kitchen sponges, while the Dutch Funeral Museum and the Museum Vrolik (a medical museum filled with anatomical anomalies) may leave you a bit shaken, but happy to be alive.

5_Skeletons at Museum Vrolik

For more details – and a bonus museum (the John & Yoko shrine at the Amsterdam Hilton) – see my full story – You can get weird in Amsterdam without getting high – on

Dreaming of: Schiphol Airport

After spending a week in Amsterdam – including that touristy classic, a stay on a houseboat – I was actually pleased that bad weather in the U.S.delayed my flight home.

Because that gave me more time to hang out in Schiphol Airport, where I was really temped to buy these (somewhat corny, I know….) souvenirs.

The ginger cake would have been a nice gift for my neighbor (I bought her a tote bag from the Cat Cabinet – shh, don’t tell her..) and those wooden tulips – spotted for sale everywhere in Amsterdam that by the end of week I was tired of them – would have been a long-lasting spot of color in the gray Seattle winter I’ve returned to.

I know… just another reason to go back. Soon.


AMS Ginger Cake