THE LEX COLUMN: Tourism hotspots cracking under pressure
Chinese people will make more than 180-million visits abroad in 2019
Huge cruise ships menace Venice. Mount Everest’s perpetual snow cover incorporates permanent trash. You cannot get close enough to the “Mona Lisa” to judge whether she is smiling or smirking. But you can see something as notable at the Louvre in Paris: several hundred fellow tourists taking selfies, with Leonardo’s masterpiece a dot in the middle distance.
Intolerable pressure on famous places reflects two trends. First, social networks such as Instagram have intensified the desire of travellers to show they visit locations with celebrity status. The Empire State Building. The Alhambra. Angkor Whatever. Second, the world’s middle class has expanded. It now includes more than 100-million well-off Chinese people. They have as much right to eat ice cream in Florence or lobster in Maine as anyone. But their arrival means tourist destinations have to find fair, flexible ways to allocate access, or become unlivable.