Normal is not something to aspire to, it’s something to get away fromJodie Foster
Normal, as per the context of the current post, refers to the humdrum routine work, the pressures arising from different echelons of our daily lives – be it work, academics or personal; ergo, necessitating the need for going the “not-so-normal” way, thereby giving ourselves the much deserved rejuvenation.
Let me clarify a point. Negative connotation of “normal” isn’t the intention over here, when the reference of going “away from the normal” is used. The “normal” over here can be conceptualized as something related to “mundane” rather than “satisfactory” or “standard”.
Having said that, let us now focus on something atypical, bespoke, unconventional or “uncliche”. To understand the “why” part of the uncliche and to set the context, I sincerely request you to read my post on The Need for the Uncliche prior to reading the current one.
Now that the context has been set, let us elaborate a bit on the “how” or the mechanics part of the uncliche. Let us walk through some of the places combating overtourism, yet, giving the inquisitive traveler an experience to cherish. Hope this also serves as a guide to the travelers who wish to visit such places and relish their journeys off the beaten track.
Tourism or Traveling is necessary, not only for the tourist / traveler, but also for the local people and the host country. However, over-tourism is detrimental, especially for the environment, local people and the host Country.
In my previous blog post, we outlined some simple steps through which this menace can be tackled to some extent. In this post, I will try to expand upon those ideas and connect them to the activities done by some of the tourist destinations, to which I paid a visit. I hope that this will serve as a head-start to the folks who plan on maximizing the benefits garnered from traveling and creating memories lasting a lifetime.
REDUCE traveling to the cliche destinations
|India||Taj Mahal will start penalizing tourists for overstaying (Mirror, June 2019)|
|The Netherlands||The Country plans on turning the spotlight towards the lesser known areas of the Netherlands – away from Amsterdam and Tulip Fields (DutchNews.nl, May 2019)|
|Greece||Santorini plans to set caps on the number of tourists visiting annually (Greek City Times, September 2018)|
The Euromonitor Report (2018) on Top 100 City Destinations places Agra in rank 29 Globally, with approximately 8.5 Million visitors in 2018. This is primarily due to the fact that Agra is home to the iconic Taj Mahal.
Amsterdam is a bit ahead in this report, with a rank of 23 and receives approximately 8.5 Million visitors. Amsterdam is facing quite a severe brunt of over-tourism.
Finding Alternative Destinations
I will outline some of the activities I try to undertake in this direction to have a memorable traveling experience.
|Country||Alternative Non-Cliche Place||Special Features|
|Italy||Turin||– Home to some major Companies like Ferrero, Lavazza, etc|
– Beautiful panoramic views of the Po river valley and the surrounding Italian Alps
– Home to Juventus FC and Torino FC
– Famous for several vineyards making the famous Piedmont variety of Italian Wines
– Second Largest Egyptian Museum in the World after Cairo
– Houses one of the tallest museums in the World (Mole Antonelliana), dedicated to Cinema
|The Netherlands||Rotterdam-The Hague||– Second largest city in the Netherlands, after Amsterdam|
– Houses the largest port of Europe
– An important transport and logistics hub of Europe. Offers great connectivity to many Dutch, Belgian and French cities
– Offers access to UNESCO World Heritage Site Kinderdijk – Having a high concentration of windmills amidst a wetland (alternative to Zaanse Schans near Amsterdam)
|Russia||Murmansk||– Offers a relatively lower cost and bespoke alternative to Scandinavian peers in the Arctic Region|
– Offers spectacular sights of Arctic Tundra Region, Mountains, Glaciers and Lakes, Fjords and a chance to view Aurora Borealis
– Well connected via Rail, Road and Air
The suggestion might be extended to finding and visiting relatively unknown or uncliched places in an otherwise cliched tourist destination – the rewards of which is expected to be quite enriching for the inquisitive traveler who is willing to go the extra mile to make his/her trip memorable.
|Country||Alternative Non-Cliche Place||Special Features|
|France||Statue of Liberty, Paris||– The Twin of its US Counterpart – commissioned 3 years after its US Counterpart|
– Gifted to France by American expatriate community to mark the Centennial year of the French Revolution
|Singapore||MacRitchie Reservoir Park||– A vast expanse of forest within Singapore. Offers breathtaking views of dense equatorial rainforest, and may involve a walk/slight trek for nearly 12 km within the forest.|
Visiting tourist destinations with well developed INFRASTRUCTURE
Some cities have established infrastructure in place in order to handle large volumes of tourist inflows. Some are following suit. Hence, it stands to reason to prefer visiting those cities which are able to handle a humongous tourist inflow and not succumb to it, thereby resulting in unmanageable crowds.
|Country||Preferred Tourist Destination||Special Features|
|Germany||Berlin||– The Berlin Metro (S-Bahn and U-Bahn) themselves offer a combined 480+ km (expanding) massive network to handle heavy crowds|
– Berlin is an important historical and cultural Capital of Europe, housing important tourist attractions like Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Berlin Wall fragments, FIFA World Cup Stadium etc.
|Russia||Moscow||– The Moscow Metro with a Massive 400 km network (expanding) boasts of a near clockwork like punctual service every 1:30 minutes.|
– Offers numerous architectural and aesthetic delights like St. Basil’s Cathedral, Kremlin, Red Square, Numerous Green Zones and Botanical Gardens, FIFA World Cup Stadium etc. Winters in Moscow is akin to a surreal magical phenomenon to behold.
SUSTAINABLE Tourist Destinations
A major arena of sustainability in the modern context involves minimizing the carbon footprint as much as possible. Refuse, Reuse and Recycle are thus the three important pillars on which sustainability hinges.
Tourism in general tends to increase the carbon footprint. As we have seen in this as well as my previous article, over-tourism is detrimental to the environment, thus forcing the authorities in many places to put checks and restrictions on the number of tourists in general.
However, there do exist the curious cases of the authorities in some places who want to welcome more tourists, give them an enhanced tourist experience, yet paradoxically, reduce the carbon footprint of the place.
In my personal opinion, I find the following destinations actively pursuing sustainable tourism:
|Country||Sustainable Tourist Destination||Special Features|
|Denmark||Copenhagen||– Aims to attract more tourists, in a highly sustainable manner, without affecting its target of being a carbon neutral city by 2025|
– A Strategic Plan called “Tourism for Good” has been released to actively promote sustainable tourism by 2030, despite increasing tourist arrivals.
|Germany||Berlin||– Already possesses sufficient infrastructure to tackle quite a large volume of tourist inflows|
– Actively pursues tourists to use public transport and the system nearly handholds tourists to that end
I will try to mention the case of Copenhagen in detail, as some of their initiatives on sustainable tourism are actually visible on ground.
Copenhagen / København (Denmark)
Copenhagen, the Capital of Denmark and one of the busiest cities in Scandinavia seems to have realized the threat of over-tourism long back. The Euromonitor Report (2018) on Top 100 City Destinations places Copenhagen at a comfortable rank of 72 with approx. 3 Million visitors in 2018.
However this didn’t seem to offer any breather to the City Administration. Let us walk through their plan for developing Copenhagen as a Sustainable Tourist Destination by 2030.
Spreading tourism uniformly throughout Copenhagen and Greater Copenhagen area: Copenhagen is trying to make tourists visit the unexplored places in Greater Copenhagen Area by increasing mobility throughout those regions. I have found the network of trains and buses even in far flung places like Vanløse and Åfløjen to be well developed, frequent and quite punctual. The City also plans to switch from Diesel buses to Electric buses by 2020. Increased connectivity to neighbouring city of
Malmö (Sweden) also helps in reducing the pressure on Copenhagen. Relatively unexplored yet culturally rich places like Roskilde is also covered through this scheme. The Copenhagen Metro card is a Multi Transport card which supports a tourist not only within Copenhagen, but also allows him/her to board trains to nearby places like Roskilde (but not Malmö). Copenhagen, like other cities, is expanding its Metro network as well.
Enhancing Tourist Satisfaction: Copenhagen wants to position itself as a recommended destination for more than 77% of its visitors. Its extensive digital and social media campaign is a testimony to this strategy. Not only does Copenhagen try to attract new visitors, but also it ups the ante of offerings to the people who have already paid a visit (through complex usage of data analytics and other marketing tools) thereby pursuing them to visit Copenhagen again. It reinforces its image of sustainable tourism by mandating the hotels and tourist agencies to comply to its norms involving eco-friendly and sustainable practices like recycling, procuring organically grown food, energy efficiency and renewable energy usage, etc.
The extensive strategy developed by Copenhagen to this end can be read in its report Tourism for Good.
Glimpses of Copenhagen and Roskilde
One minor ingredient which seemed to be lacking from this prodigious and intricate recipe of Sustainable Tourism is the lack of promotion or distribution of Metro Card – an important catalyst towards the use of public transport and taking advantage of the increased mobility options in Copenhagen.
Here, in my honest opinion, Copenhagen authorities might want to learn a thing or two from their counterparts in Berlin and Rotterdam, considering the fact that all these three cities want the public to extensively use public transport for intra-city and inter-city commute.
Which is why, it becomes imperative that we take a walk through the efforts put up by Berlin Administration to help combat over-tourism.
In Berlin (from my experience in Schönefeld Airport), the tourist is almost invariably led to Berlin Metro kiosks. And even on the way, there are several decks containing tons of materials which are aimed at literally converting a tourist into an avid traveler. The materials cater to offering not just the “products” or the tourist destinations in Berlin one might want to visit, but also “experiences” to have – ranging from organically grown food, opera, music shows schedules, culinary delicacies, sport events and a lot more.
Any tourist who wishes to stay for 5 days or less in Berlin immediately gets a feeling that the length of his / her stay in Berlin is insufficient – even before the trip began. Berlin has thus successfully created a repeat tourist even before the tourist begins his / her trip.
Next, in the Metro kiosk, one can purchase the much needed Metro Card (€23 for a 48 hour validity Multi Transport Card) – a key element to promote the use of public transport (This I found to be lacking in Copenhagen). The officials on duty are quite friendly in explaining the transport map, routes, suggesting tourist or “experiential” destinations and offer as much help as possible to help the visitor navigate through Berlin, seamlessly. And did I mention that a separate set of traveling materials are made available for you to read, upon purchasing the Metro Card? One will definitely be planning for his/her subsequent visit to Berlin, even before beginning the first one.
Thus, in my opinion, the difference between Copenhagen and Berlin (Rotterdam as well) can be summed up like this:
- In Berlin (or Rotterdam), the officials on duty in transit hubs like airport, Central Train station, Metro station help or suggest the traveler plan out his/her itinerary or navigate through. And going the extra mile towards enhanced tourist satisfaction seems to be more of a norm than an exception for the officials in these two cities. In Copenhagen, quite surprisingly, this work is carried out by the local people, voluntarily. In terms of marketing, I believe that efforts of such active “evangelists” who are present almost everywhere in the city, go a long way towards ensuring that Copenhagen stops at nothing short of tourist “delight” and not mere “satisfaction”.
- Secondly, Berlin tries to attract tourists by giving them a buffet list of innumerable experiential tourist categories to choose from, each having a large number of options within that category. So practically, the tourist is unable to exhaust the options ever, which makes him/her a repeat tourist to Berlin, and effectively driving tourism towards the lesser known arenas. As far as Copenhagen is concerned, a repeated footfall is ensured by unveiling the experiential options post completion of the trip. This is partly achieved through extensive use of social media campaign of Copenhagen Tourism (Berlin is not present so aggressively on this space yet – maybe that is a conscious decision).
Both these approaches are quite effective in helping combat over-tourism through multi pronged strategies. And in my opinion, both seem to be working quite well on the ground.
Some Concluding Remarks
A person might have several bucket lists which he or she might have been preparing since his / her childhood, when it comes to visiting iconic places like the Eiffel Tower. Ticking such things off might thus be construed to be a “significant achievement” of life.
However, judicious use of a such bucket list becomes imperative once things are conjectured maturely as an adult, which subsumes the filtering out of the real memorable experiences from the hype.
All this is aimed to help extract the maximum level of delight one may achieve via traveling, sans the unpleasantness, parallelly helping the local communities and preserving the surrounding environment as well.
Who knows that one fine day, the very same tourist may want to revisit a particular destination? The experience the repeat tourist might seek from the destination should definitely NOT be a mere “normal” one, but an enhanced one.
© Abirbhav Mukherjee