TOURISM can provide a much needed economic boost to a location, creating jobs and encouraging investment in services and facilities for visitors.
But when tourist trails become well worn, idyllic destinations and attractions find themselves overwhelmed and unable to support the growing needs of visitors or sustain and protect the surrounding environment.
To maintain a balance between the good and bad, a number of tourist hotspots in the Asia-Pacific are choosing to limit visitor numbers. Here are a few.
Located in the Eastern Himalayas, Bhutan is best known for its breathtaking mountainous landscape and Buddhist heritage.
Although the region has been welcoming foreign visitors since the ’70s, it has a strict policy of “high-value, low-volume tourism” to ensure the preservation of both the environment and culture.
For this reason, tourists are required to get a visa and pay a minimum daily package fee to cover the cost of accommodation, amenities, tax and a contribution to improve services in the community.
To ensure these standards are maintained, visitors are only permitted to book a trip to the region through a licensed Bhutanese tour operator.
The Milford Track, New Zealand
The Milford Track trail is one of New Zealand’s most popular hikes. It begins at Glade Wharf in the Fiordland National Park and finishes 53 kilometers later at Sandfly Point in Milford Sound.
Beyond the obvious appeal of ancient forests, lush valleys and a rugged mountain trail, there are many impressive sights to enjoy along the way like the towering Sutherland Falls.
But due to high demand during the walking season, the one-way route is now limited to 40 independent hikers a day with booking required in advance during these months.
Koh Khai Islands, Thailand
The picturesque, uninhabited Islands of Koh Khai Nok, Koh Khai Nui and Koh Khai Nai can be found off the east coast of Phuket. They were once renowned for their beautiful waters and untouched beaches, but excessive tourism has since disrupted the delicate marine ecosystem around the islands.
Speedboats and water activities have ravaged the corals, and as much as 80 percent show signs of accelerated bleaching and other damage.
Although the islands remain open to visitors, they are in a sleep-like state while they recover. Restrictions are in place on many activities, and things like sun loungers and beach umbrellas have been removed.
But if the situation worsens, the islands may have to close indefinitely as has already happened at Koh Tachai.
Lord Howe Island, Australia
Lord Howe Island off the coast of Australia would fulfill most people’s idea of a paradise. Its pristine sandy beaches and turquoise waters are popular with snorkelers and divers, but it is also known for its plants and wildlife.
The island was established as a Permanent Park Preserve and a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its immense natural beauty and biodiversity. For this reason, only 400 visitors are allowed at any one time, and facilities are purposely limited to prevent any increase.
Hang Son Doong, Vietnam
Son Doong – the world’s largest cave spanning 200 meters high, 150 meters wide, and five kilometers long – has been the talk of adventure seekers from the world over.
The cave has its own fast-flowing subterranean river, jungle and climate, all of which give way to incredible sights.
To preserve the natural formations of the cave, tours are limited and authorized only by a single operator, Oxalis Adventure Tours.
However, only those who are very fit are let in, as the trip involves a trek of 50 kilometers in a jungle or mountain, elevation of up to 400 meters between roads and valleys, 40 river crossings, 10-kilometer caving including rope climbing, as well as an 80-meter descent with ropes and harnesses.