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‘Lose-lose for everybody’: Major changes to party islands part of fight against overtourism

A barrier goes up to block the view of Mount Fuji

Source: NHK TV

Fancy sipping a beer while you wander back to your hotel on a balmy Ibizan night? Well, you’re out of luck.

Last call is coming earlier to Ibiza and Majorca as authorities try to clamp down on unruly travellers, the latest in a long string of tourist crackdowns around the world.

The parliament of Spain’s Balearic Islands has banned late-night alcohol sales in Ibiza’s San Antonio and Majorca’s Llucmajor, Palma and Calvia (Magaluf) – some of Europe’s top party hotspots.

Drinking on public roads in these areas is now prohibited, with offenders facing fines of up to €1500 ($2434).

Party boats are also banned from within 1.8 kilometres of any of these destinations, including to pick up or drop off passengers.

The measures come four years after similar crackdowns on alcohol in these areas, including a ban on alcohol sales in shops between 9.30pm and 8am.

Spain isn’t the only popular destination that has had enough of unruly tourist behaviour and overtourism.

Only on Wednesday, Japanese authorities began blocking a popular viewpoint of Mount Fuji.

Officials erected a large black fence to block the view of those on Instagram who have flocked to snap the perfect shot of the famous volcano.

Local authorities have also introduced tough rules – and fees – to help deal with the hundreds of thousands of tourists who flock to climb Fuji every year.

Elsewhere, tourists have been banned tourists from select Kyoto alleyways, Venice has introduced a daily visitors fee, and Amsterdam has launched an online campaign to deter tourists from seedy activities.

The avalanche of restrictions may seem sudden, but experts told The New Daily it is a result of years of locals’ needs being put last.

The effect of revenge travel

Covid lockdowns and border closures left many people with extra money to burn and a strong thirst for travel, leading to a trend coined “revenge travel”.

University of Queensland associate professor in tourism Gabby Walters said these pent-up tourists weren’t necessarily behaving worse than in previous years.

But the sudden and extreme influx of people in popular destinations amplified existing problems.

“Carrying capacity is the perfect number of tourists to maintain [a] sustainable tourism industry, and once that carrying capacity is exceeded, that’s when you see local residents start to get irritated and annoyed,” Walters said.

“That’s when you see the tourist experience start to be compromised, because there’s too many people, there’s too many lines, there’s too much queueing.

“It’s just a lose-lose for everybody.”

In this picture taken on March 10, 2024, people walk through a street near Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto.

Overtourism is a glaringly obvious problem in Kyoto, Japan. Photo: Getty

When alcohol and drugs are thrown into the mix, the situation deteriorates further, which is likely why top party destinations such as Amsterdam, Ibiza and Bali are trying to curb consumption of these substances.

Unfortunately, these regions may find it hard to shift tourists’ “anything goes” mentalities, especially with the livelihoods of locals on the line.

“Bali does want to be seen as a nature-based destination with a lot of cultural heritage where you go to relax, and they cater for that very well,” Walters said.

“But the industry in Bali, in particular, is very responsive to what it believes their key markets want.

“If these younger tourists are going there and wanting to party and wanting to drink, then [local small businesses] will also help facilitate that.”

Locals hit breaking point

Authorities are likely starting to act to appease local residents and industries unable to keep up with demand fuelled by increased travel options and social media promotion.

But they must do so while also trying to keep enough tourist dollars flowing in to sustain the local economy, Western Sydney University professor of sustainable tourism and heritage Joseph Cheer said.

“On the one hand, [local residents’] incomes rely on tourism,” he told The New Daily.

“On the other hand, their wellbeing and … quality of life is diminished because of the very things that give them a livelihood.

“It raises moral questions [like], do tourists have a responsibility to the communities they visit? And should they be made more aware of what are social norms and what is considered anti-social behaviour?”

Bali is one of the regions trying to educate tourists on local ‘dos and don’ts’.

But Cheer said efforts by authorities to turn the tide would take time, especially after years of focusing on increasing tourist numbers without managing their behaviour.

But failing to improve conditions could lead to complete closures of tourist favourites as seen with Philippines’ Boracay island, which was shut down for six months in 2018 after then-president Rodrigo Duterte declared it a “cesspool”; Boracay reopened with an emphasis on eco-tourism over partying.

Although the issue of overtourism may seem far away for Australians, it hits closer to home than many might think – we just get more frequent breaks than other holiday destinations.

“Even in Australia, we suffer [overtourism] as well, in places like the Great Ocean Road, the Blue Mountains,” Cheer said.

“But a lot of times … it might be busy during a short period and then it gets quiet; there’s peaks and troughs.

“Residents have the ability to rest and recuperate before it gets busy again.”

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