Destinations in Asia you might want to avoid in 2018
TOURISM has a numbers problem and the problem isn’t a lack of tourists.
In fact, it is quite the contrary: the world is seeing too many visitors flooding popular destinations.
These destinations are struggling to cope with overtourism and its local residents are screaming, “Too many tourists!” due to overcrowding. The influx of tourists has also had its negative impacts on the environment, the ecosystem, and heritage sites.
As such, various authorities are considering either charging higher admission fees for attractions or limiting visitor numbers in order to preserve the sites.
From centuries-old wonders of the world to the only country in the world that measures prosperity by gauging its citizens’ happiness levels, here are five places in Asia that tourists might want to avoid in 2018.
Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar is a sovereign state in Southeast Asia.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that Myanmar opened up to tourism, a move that landed the country on every traveler’s bucket list. However, it wasn’t to last.
In 2017, Myanmar welcomed a record-breaking two million visitors.
But the tourism rush has caused some of Myanmar’s flagship sites such as Bagan, Inle and Kyaikhtiyo environmental and social pressure from negative impacts. And pressure is mounting on the sustainability and capacity at those places.
India: Taj Mahal
One of the seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal is an ivory-white marble mausoleum that’s truly a sight to behold.
It was built between 1631 and 1648 by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to house the tomb of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, at a cost estimated at the time to be around INR32 million.
About eight million tourists visit the nearly 400-year-old Unesco heritage site every year, with international visitors making up around half. Visiting the Taj Mahal is truly chaotic, with crowds jostling to get into the grounds.
On top of the facade struggling with age, air pollution, and acid rain, overtourism has also begun to wear down the marble walls and floors. So much so that authorities are considering capping daily visitor numbers.
China: The Great Wall of China
Built as early as 7th century BC, the centuries-old Great Wall of China is made of stone, brick, tamped earth, wood, and other materials.
Its main purpose was to protect the Chinese states and empires against the raids and invasions of the various nomadic groups of the Eurasian Steppe.
Over various dynasties, it has been rebuilt, maintained, and enhanced. It spans so many thousands of kilometers long, from Shanhaiguan to Jiayuguan, so much so that there was a myth the Unesco heritage site could be seen from space.
Throughout the years, however, around 30 percent of the Great Wall has eroded and disappeared due to adverse natural conditions (wind, rain, plants growing in the walls) and reckless human activities, including overtourism and the stealing of bricks.
Thailand: Phang Nga Park
There’s no denying that Thailand is home to many paradise islands, and these islands are arguably the star attractions for travelers from colder climates.
The islands have also become the perfect idyllic “stages” for film sets, such as 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun (the ninth of the James Bond series) and 2000’s The Beach, contributing to the influx of tourists.
However, the rush to the islands has overwhelmed Thailand.
The country’s beaches have suffered damage from overtourism from tourists and pollution, forcing the Thai government to initiate rehabilitation and recovery steps by closing off to visitors.
The only country in the world that measures its nation’s progress and wellbeing by a happiness index, Bhutan is shrouded by mystery but of the good, magical kind. Enough to intrigue travelers.
Known as the last great Himalayan kingdom with a rich history in Buddhist traditions, the isolated country first opened its doors to foreigners in 1974 in order to promote the country’s unique culture and traditions to the outside world.
Getting to Bhutan is a bit of a challenge. Tourists who wish to visit Bhutan require a visa and must book their holiday through a Bhutanese tour operator. But that hasn’t stopped tourism numbers from increasing.
The Bhutanese people are now concerned about the environmental impact on its fragile ecosystem. The government has also been attempting to minimize the impact of tourism by charging travelers a daily fee.