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Many of you may have read the headlines that tourists will need to purchase tickets this year to have access to the Cinque Terre, but don’t panic just yet. While the announcement was made that tourists numbers are to be drastically restricted this year nothing has yet to be put into action. As with any controversial topic, there will be much debate and more time needed to put verbal plans into physical action.
In a well put article by the Europarc Federation, the importance the of need for control is explained.
Safeguarding the natural and cultural values of European parks whilst enhancing the quality of tourism is the main aim of the ECST (European Charter of Sustainable Tourism).
… For instance, while many parks are eagerly working to increase the number of tourists, Cinque Terre NP is working to better managing the current visitors’ flow. Limiting the daily number of accesses is one of the measures that will better preserve the sensitive hiking trails on the steep cliffs and will also improve the safety conditions for tourists. Finally, the measures will enhance the perceived uniqueness of the Park and the quality of the tourists’ experiences.
Quality of the experience, this is what is now missing. This is what needs to be treasured. Along with safety. Preservation.
How did it come to this? I believe this has been a slow boil that began over 20 years ago and has been escalating as the magic and beauty of the Cinque Terre captured the world’s attention. The classic Catch 22; where the highlights of the area become the epic downfall. I have watched this with piqued interest since I feel in some small way connected with these lands. I first set foot on those paths at nineteen, have brought my family and daughter here over the years, and now help my clients fall in love as I did. This last year was hard to watch as the full force of the cruising and tour industry bore down on these villages. Glossy adverts featuring ports accessing the once unreachable villages for the casual day tripper. From across the ocean I have been following reports, scanning photos and shaking my head at decisions made without thought of the land and people. Without a true and honest care for the soul of this place; with eyes on bottom lines and pocket books.
2.5 million tourists descended upon these villages last year. Not cities or even towns but villages. We can all agree that sounds like a ton of people, but what does 2.5 million people look like? Let’s see how this compares to Italy’s most popular destination: Rome.
Rome sees approximately 17 million tourists annually (the number was fairly difficult to pin down but this is the one I will be using). Rome has 3.7 million residents. If we were to ask every Roman to personally escort their fair share of tourists around town over the course of the year, they would be responsible for 4.3 out-of-towners.
The Cinque Terre has a mere 5200 residents combined between all five villages and if given the same task they would be utterly exhausted from entertaining 480 tourists annually each.
Oh wait, they already are.
How do these numbers impact the resources and facilities? The 2.5 million travelers had to vie over 172 restaurants. Roman tourists had their pick of over 10,000 places to dine. That’s 14,534 people that were fed on average at each place of business versus 1,000 in Rome.
Tripadvisor reports 1035 sites in Rome to keep people entertained and spread out across the city while the Cinque Terre has a reported 52 official things to do (although I think that might be a stretch). In reality, most people are all doing the same things at the same time.
How does 2.5 million tourists change the Cinque Terre? I think these pictures show it all.
Tourism is vital to this community but this must be managed in a way that perserves and maintains this absolute treasure. Save Vernazza made a statement on their FB page that put the situation in perfect perspective.
Travelers are vital to support the local economy and everyone in the Cinque Terre recognizes that tourist are the key to a robust local economy. Cruise ship tourists are welcome but Save Vernazza believes that the key is to find a balance. Dialogue between stakeholders is vital to find a solution that will have a positive impact on locals as well as travelers’ expectations and experiences.
Mindful travel needs to be the mantra, not just in the Cinque Terre but throughout our beautifully fragile world.
Go Travel, and Travel Fearless.
Andi Brown, Once in a Lifetime Travel
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