Most of us won’t soon forget the images of climbers lined up atop Mt. Everest, waiting to access the summit.
The latest death on the mountain has started a robust conversation about the hazards of crowd management and overtourism. Local governments are looking hard at the impact of visitors in cities around the world, discussing new tourist taxes and restrictions on Airbnb to protect local housing supply. For us, each news story is a new opportunity for self examination.
It is a tricky issue. At Untours we have always looked to send people off the beaten tourist track. Part of our strategy takes us to small villages in places like Germany and Switzerland, and to farmhouses in Tuscany, where owners receive government subsidies if they continue to farm the land, rather than convert their farms to resorts.
It also means choosing well placed cities that are in the shadow of more popular and touristed ones: Leiden instead of Amsterdam, Kenmare over Killarney, Nafplio instead of Athens. In bigger cities, it means plugging into real neighborhoods.
We try to conduct business in a way that benefits the local communities where we send guests: favoring local owners and direct contracts with local people, encouraging guests to shop local and small, and honoring each region’s culture and conservation practices.
We still find ourselves in popular tourist cities, where we encourage guests to respect local norms and spend money in the community. In Venice, this is a big departure from the cruise ship day trippers who clog the streets for a few hours on their port call and rarely spend money in shops and restaurants. (See Banksy’s take on this.)
We work to be responsible in this space and welcome your ideas and suggestions to help us do so. We try to do the right thing but remain humble, knowing there is always room and responsibility to improve. Let's keep learning together.
Wishing you thoughtful, memorable, and low-impact travels,