Are Instagram fame-seekers ruining picturesque Santorini? Social media is our new travel agent, and it’s changing the places we go. Next time you’re scrolling through Instagram enviously looking at photos of uninterrupted views and dramatic landscapes, console yourself with the fact that behind this secluded view there are at least a handful of other people holding their selfie sticks, waiting to get their magic shot. In some cases, the newfound fame brought about by social media platforms has helped to boost local economies and bring tourists to places they might never have discovered otherwise. In other cases, it’s creating problems for countries and cities that are simply not equipped to deal with the influx of tourists. Omolola Itayemi writes about some of the countries facing challenges in this regard
Many travellers want the opportunity to Instagram photos of themselves in Iceland. This island nation has seen a dramatic surge in visitors over the past few years. One reason for that is the so-called “Game of Thrones effect,” as dramatic landscapes that appeared in the series. This, combined with the availability of cheap flights and some very effective marketing campaigns, has made Iceland a popular travel destination. The number of tourists almost doubled from 566,000 to over 1 million between 2011 and 2015, according to Iceland’s tourism board. In 2016, the number of Americans visiting the country outnumbered the Icelandic population.
Iceland was recently likened to Disneyland by a local politician who complained that the area is now swarming with tourists. While this influx of visitors has brought a much-needed boost to the economy post-recession, it has also pushed up prices for residents and put pressure on the infrastructure. Locals complain of tourists destroying the fragile ecosytem and leaving a mess behind them as they trample over the formerly untouched natural sites.
According to Cuba’s ministry of tourism, four million visitors went to Cuba in 2016, an increase of 13 per cent from the year before. The tourism boom has had some consequences for the country’s residents, The New York Times reported in December 2016. The surge in visitors has led to a food shortage, and basic food items have become completely unaffordable for locals. Local hotels and restaurants are buying up supplies in bulk for guests, pushing up prices and leaving limited amounts for locals. The situation has been acknowledged by the Cuban government, who put caps on prices to make them more affordable for residents. This has only encouraged sellers to put products on the black market, according to The New York Times.
Santorini gets about 10,000 visitors in one day during the peak summer months. This town is known for its white-washed hilltop houses overlooking the sea. These have now become an ideal backdrop for Instagrammers and travel bloggers. In 2015, a record-high number of cruise ships was recorded there. This summer, the local authorities have instituted a limit of 8000 visitors a day.
Pig Beach, The Bahamas
Swimming pigs have long populated an island in the Bahamas, and they recently became a major tourist attraction. They have even made it into the Instagram posts of Donald Trump Jr. In February 2017, seven of the pigs were found dead, and initial reports claimed that the pigs had been given alcohol and food by visitors. National Geographic later reported that the pigs’ deaths were most likely caused by eating sand, but that tourists were not completely without blame. An inspector from the Bahamas Humane Society claimed that these swimming pigs had become so reliant on snacks from humans; it had completely altered their lifestyle.