The inspiring resilience of the world’s most majestic travel destinations is the main theme of the 2020 Go List and No List unveiled by Fodor’s Travel, the leading name in travel recommendations for over 80 years.
On the eve of the travel 2020, the lists provide expert editorial travel guidance for new year, highlighting must-see travel destinations that should be on every travel enthusiast’s bucket list while calling out places to avoid in the upcoming year.
Travel destinations No List
The highly cited Fodor’s Travel destinations No List enters its fourth year of surfacing destinations that should be avoided due to ethical, environmental, or sometimes even political concerns. Thirteen places make up the 2020travel destinations No List, including Bali, Barcelona, the Matterhorn, and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
“Every year, we use the No List to highlight issues that we’re thinking about before, during, and long after we travel,” Tarr said. “Being featured on the No List is hardly a scarlet letter. Rather, it’s a promise that when Fodor’s covers the travel destinations on the list, we’ll be doing so responsibly – warts and all.”
In addition to specific destinations, the travel destinations No List recommends travelers take pause when considering certain types of travel destinations, such as “Places to Be Cautious About Drinking” (in Mexico and Central America) and tourist attractions that offer elephant rides.
These are top travel destinations to – avoid:
Barcelona’s overtourism issue isn’t just about inconvenience–there’s literally no room for the numbers who just keep coming. According to Forbes, “No number of pavement expansions and bus rerouting can solve the fundamental issue that tourism is the number one problem for the city.” In many major tourist sites–Sagrada Familia and Parc Güell, for example, which are in residential locations–there is physically no space to expand. Airbnb has made matters worse for locals by flooding the market with short-term rentals, which has had the negative effect of skyrocketing rents for locals. These issues contribute to and compound environmental destruction, community breakdown, and a general degrading of residential quality of life. With an activist mayor and a plan for 500 superblocks (groups of streets where traffic is reduced to close to zero and the road space is instead granted to pedestrians and play areas) to tackle these issues head-on, Barcelona needs time and space to create and preserve its access for all.
In California, in what is perhaps the most iconic natural splendor in a state known for superlative environmental majesty, Big Sur is becoming overwhelmed. Between the free publicity from the massively popular award-winning HBO series Big Little Lies and Monterey County’s hospitality association and tourism campaign, the once bucolically secluded area within Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park staked its future on the completion of Highway 1, a dual-line highway–and now the chickens have come home to roost. Locals lament the lack of public bathrooms and the disgusting roadside consequences of the scarcity of these facilities, not to mention the illegal camping occurring in a state where the deadliest and most destructive wildfires get deadlier and more-destructive each year. The county visitors bureau as well as the Community Association of Big Sur are “working to develop a destination stewardship plan with sustainable travel at the forefront”–though it’s too early to tell how it will continue to positively develop the area.
The temple complex of Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Cambodia’s most visited attraction, is suffering under its own popularity. The literal wear and tear brought on to the 900-year-old temples is having damaging effects on its foundations and structural integrity: steps are slippery because of the many tourists who have walked them and bas-reliefs are worn down by the number of tourists who have touched them. Concerned about damage to the temple, the agency charged with overseeing it is limiting the number of visitors to 300 at any time who are allowed at the top of Phnom Bakheng hill, a popular spot for sunsets. A less obvious impact on the area is the water shortage brought on by this year’s drought and exacerbated by hotels in the Siem Reap area, which continue to draw heavily from the province’s water table. In 2019, Angkor Wat’s moat lost more than 10 million liters of water, the equivalent of four Olympic-sized swimming pools. A call to further restrict and enforce the limitations of tourists visitations in both numbers and access (placing bas-reliefs behind glass, building wooden staircases and footpaths), as well as government regulation of the hospitality industry’s water use, and encouraging tourism growth in other areas of the country, are key steps to reducing the damage brought on by overtourism.
Bali, Indonesia’s most-visited island, has suffered the effects of overtourism in the last few years to the point that the government is weighing a tourist tax to help combat some of the more sinister effects on the environment. In 2017 a “garbage emergency” was declared over the amount of plastic on beaches and in waters; the Bali Environment Agency recorded that the island produced 3,800 tons of waste every day, with only 60% ending up in landfills–an obvious observation to anyone visiting the island. A ban on single-use plastics (shopping bags, styrofoam, and plastic straws) went into effect in December 2018, and this year, the Bali legislature has debated imposing an extremely negligible “tourist tax” of US$10 per visitor. Water scarcity, brought on the development of luxury villas and golf courses, has impacted the profits of local farmers. And besides negative environmental impacts, authorities are now working to enact guidelines mandating respectful behavior from tourists who are visiting religious sites in bathing suits, climbing over sacred sites, and generally disrespecting customs and cultural norms.
In 1902, French colonists built a railway that runs through Hanoi and Hai Phong and through the northern provinces of Vietnam, and to this day it still carries passengers and cargo across the land. In one neighborhood in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, the rail line snakes through a densely populated neighborhood, literally passing behind houses and shops on either side. Dubbed Hanoi Train Street, the photos captured of the area are, predictably, stunning. But because the tracks are still operational, they come with a dangerous price. That hasn’t stopped the Instagrammers, who gather along the line vying for the optimal shot. Vendors now cater to the tourists with snacks and drinks, and cafes have popped up, encouraging crowds to linger. Recently, a train had to make an emergency stop in order to avoid hitting the tourists snapping selfies and loitering on the tracks, and eventually was rerouted. In response, the municipal government of Hanoi has ordered that all cafes along the tracks to close. New signs have also been installed in the area warning passersby not to take photos or videos near the tracks. While the ban is intended to protect the tourists (who have predictably already begun to complain about it), it also seems inappropriate for visitors to inconvenience the operations of the rail line and anyone riding it.
More people are dying in attempts to climb Switzerland‘s Matterhorn. In 2019, seven climbers died on the mountain, and 11 lost their lives in 2018. A geologist with the Swiss Alpine Club has said that warmer conditions and thawing permafrost have led to more dangerous conditions on the mountains, Fodor’s reports. In January 2018, 13,000 tourists were stuck in the nearby town of Zermatt amid a heightened avalanche risk. The Matterhorn remains open to the public.
The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which stretches for 360 miles off the coast of southeastern Florida, is dying. A disease known as “stony coral tissue loss,” which was discovered in 2014, has affected more than 150 square miles of reef and affected close to half of its resident stony coral, Fodor’s reports.
The land of giant tortoises and blue-footed boobies is a bucket list travel destination for many, and an increasing number of people are checking it off their lists. Airbnb rentals, inexpensive flights, and cruise ships have all contributed to an increase in visitors over the past few years, says Fodor’s.
To put a cap on the number of visitors, the Galapágos is currently considering increasing the visitor fee relative to how many nights visitors spend on mainland Ecuador, according to the New York Times. A representative from the island’s government council told Fodor’s that the $100 per visitor fee hasn’t changed in 20 years.
Like the Galapágos, Indonesia‘s Komodo Island is on high alert for damaging effects to its ecosystem. The island’s infamous Komodo dragons have become a target for poachers and have become accustomed to tourists feeding them, even though signs remind tourists that they can’t feed the dragons.
The government of Indonesia is considering a visitor cap and imposing a tourist tax upwards of $1,000, the BBC reports. They had previously been contemplated closing the island altogether, a plan that was officially scrapped in late September.
The Places to Be Cautious About Drinking
While it goes without saying that drinking alcohol can be a risky behavior no matter where you consume it, certain occurrences emerging out of particular resorts in Mexico and Central America have travelers a bit on the defensive. While the tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic have been cleared of tainted alcohol theories, others in Costa Rica and Mexico are still under investigation. The Costa Rica Ministry of Health released a national warning regarding several alcohol brands tainted with methanol, while the U.S. State Department finally revealed the details of its investigation into the multiple deaths and illnesses of American tourists who drank alcohol at Mexican resorts in the last few years.
In Costa Rica in 2019, 25 people have died and 59 have been hospitalized from methanol poisoning. Methanol, a chemical found in low amounts in beer and spirits, is not harmful until it reaches higher concentrations–usually occurring when someone adds it to drinks or bottles. Adding methanol not only increases the volume of the liquid, but also increases the potency, according to SafeProof, an organization that helps identify fraudulent liquor and aims to keep consumers safe. The Costa Rican Ministry of Health has placed a warning on consuming the following brands: Guaro Montano, Guaro Gran Apache, Aguardiente Estrella Roja, Aguardiente Baron Rojo, Aguardiente Timbuka, and Aguardiente Molotov, and Costa Rican health officials have confiscated over 55,000 bottles of alcohol suspected to be poisoned, and closed 10 supermarkets and vendors selling the tainted alcohol.
“The Costa Rica Tourism Institute reaffirms that no tourists have been affected by adulterated alcohol in Costa Rica, and that visitor safety is priority,” Thalia Guest, a representative for the Costa Rica Tourism Board, said in a statement. “The local authorities continue to monitor the situation and work to understand and remain transparent about the investigation.”
The Tourist Attraction That Needs to Stop
Reflection and reevaluation come to every industry. At travel destinations, we have to constantly reevaluate our behaviors in order to better interact with the world in which we explore, including the other creatures that we share the planet with. One of our role models in accountable travel, Intrepid Travel, partnered with the non-profit World Animal Protection to commission a study into elephant conditions on-the-ground in countries like Thailand, where elephant riding is widespread.
This was an exhaustive investigation into hundreds of wildlife projects and businesses, conducted by impartial animal welfare experts. The results were beyond conclusive. In the 118 elephant venues assessed, we found over 1300 animals suffering in terrible conditions: taken young from the wild, separated from their familial groups, broken again and again using sharp hooks and other tools, chained up at night and denied good nutrition. All for the sake of 10-minute tourist ride, or a circus-like show where animals were made to stand on their hind legs, or juggle, or paint pictures using their trunks.
The demand for elephant rides, especially in Thailand, has surged in recent years due to an influx of tourism, and with the opportunity for profit comes the opportunity for corruption and cruelty, giving rise to exploitative camps that use chains, whips, and minimal downtime. These conditions create stress and exhaustion for the highly intelligent animals. Conscientious travelers who want to interact with animals because they love them should remember the hidden cruelty that can come with the set up and reconsider participating in these activities. Abstaining altogether would reduce the demand for attractions where elephants are exploited for human amusement.
The City Safe for Tourists, Deadly for Residents
South Africa’s crown jewel and legislative capital city, Cape Town, is without question one of the most beautiful metropolises in the world. Blessed with a sparkling harbor, geographical landmarks such as Table Mountain and Cape Point, and rife with history and culture, it’s a premier jumping off point for exploring beaches, vineyards, and heading inland to Big 5 safaris. It consistently wins accolades proclaiming it the best or top city in the world. And for tourists, this all rings ostensibly true year after year. But for the residents of Cape Town in 2018 and 2019, a wave of crime has launched the destination to the top of the list of the world’s most dangerous cities: more than 2,800 murders in 2018 with a homicide rate of about 66 killings per 100,000 people. In August, the military were sent in to stanch the gang violence, who are engaging in a turf war over drugs, weapons, and illicit goods like shellfish abalone. Driving the rise of gang warfare are overarching issues of corruption and unemployment, especially in the townships and suburbs of the city, particularly in the area of Cape Flats.
While tourists might never see the neighborhood just southeast of the Central Business District (CBD), “apartheid‘s dumping ground” is home to much of the population of Greater Cape Town. For comparison’s sake, Nyanga in Cape Flats had 308 murders in 2018 and the Mitchells Plain suburb had 140 murders, while central Cape Town, where tourists stroll, eat, and shop had just eight. Taken as a whole, there have been almost 1,000 murders in the first six months of this year alone.