The quaint alpine town of Hallstatt, situated in the Salzkammergut region of Austria, is home to just 780 residents.
A World Heritage Site for its pristine waters, otherworldly charm and historic structures, the town is also rumoured to be the inspiration for the fantasy kingdom of Arendelle in Disney’s Frozen.
Now, Hallstatt is being overrun with around 10,000 visitors a day desperate to snap the perfect Elsa-inspired selfie. And while tourism has its benefits to any economy, the town is at breaking point with the Mayor begging travellers to ‘let go’ of their Instagram aspirations and stay the hell away.
Since the 2013 release of Frozen, the village has been operating at breaking point. ‘Bouncers’ were hired to guard churches and stop tourists from wandering in during services and some residents even reported passers-by entering private homes without an invitation.
Seeing an opportunity to boost the economy, supermarkets and retailers began stocking souvenirs, but prioritising these items only resulted in fresh produce becoming more expensive to residents.
“It’s a catastrophe. Many visitors seriously think this is a theme park,” Verena Lobisser, a hotel owner in Hallstatt, told the Washington Post.
At this stage, most tourists are arriving by bus — around 20,000 per year. As part of new initiatives to reduce visitor numbers by one third, only 54 buses will be allowed to park inside the town each day from May 2020.
Tourists using the public transport system are also causing major strain to residents who are unable to get around on the limited services designed predominantly to accommodate the small number of actual residents.
It’s a problem that should see ease in strain once limitations to tourists come into effect, however, even the mayor admits it’s impossible to keep visitors from dropping in altogether.
Perhaps, though, the responsibility ultimately falls in the hands of the traveller. While visiting the landmarks and sites that inspire us undoubtedly bring joy, the bigger picture should always be taken into account, and when it comes to our impact on the environment, it’s key to understand the detrimental effects are travel habits are having.
One such way to reduce impact is by visiting second cities. According to Booking.com’s annual Travel Predictions Survey, more than half (54%) of respondents want to reduce over-tourism by venturing out to second-cities while 51% would swap a major city for a similar destination if it meant less environmental impact would be had.
More on the biggest travel predictions for 2020 in the article below.