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New Mandatory Reservations For Most Major Attractions Becoming The Norm

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Gone are the days of spontaneous travel – at least for those looking to visit major tourist attractions.  Many popular sites around the world are now capping daily admissions and requiring advanced reservations, making it more crucial than ever for travelers to think ahead for their vacation plans.

Crowds of tourists standing around the Colosseum in Rome Italy

Many famous world attractions began experiencing issues regarding overtourism prior to the pandemic, putting in restrictions such as daily capacity limits or requiring timed tickets. Machu Picchu is one such example, with pretty strict requirements. Not only do you need to purchase your ticket in advance in the city of Cusco (no tickets are available onsite), but entry is limited to only 3500 visitors, scheduled at intervals throughout the day.

Covid only exacerbated the situation. Places such as museums and even national parks began implementing passes and reservations during the pandemic as the world was met with new social distancing standards. Now as travel returns to normal, visitors are flocking back to major tourist destinations in full force, but boundaries remain in place.   

Crowds of tourists at Machu Picchu in Peru

The Impact Of Overtourism

Tourist destinations suffered a blow to their economy but also saw benefits to the environment due to the lack of human impact. Overtourism brings a myriad of issues. Tourists contribute to trash, graffiti, and even erosion of historical and natural sites. The resort island of Boracay in the Philippines was affected so badly that the entire island had to close for six months in 2018 to recover from the damage tourists were inflicting. 

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Huge crowd of tourists at the Acropolis in Greece

On top of this, the visiting crowds can push local populations away.  Among other issues affecting Venice lately, much of the population has left over recent years.  Locals say tourists don’t contribute to the economy because they only stay a few hours, many disembarking from cruise ships. The local government’s answer to this is to charge an entrance fee and to cap visitors at 40,000 per day, although this has yet to take effect.

Authorities are optimistic about the boundaries being set in place, saying it is more sustainable and will create a better experience for all involved while also protecting natural environments and cultural sites.

Crowded gondolas on the Venice canals

What It Means For Travelers

It appears that advanced reservations are here to stay, so travelers will need to adapt and plan ahead.  If you are planning to visit any popular sites during your vacation, it would be best to look into online reservations, availability, and operating hours.  Although some places still offer onsite tickets, many do not.  Additionally, even if tickets are available onsite, you may have to wait in long lines, and capacity limits are still in place. 

For example, it's possible to buy a same-day ticket for The Louvre Museum, but the maximum capacity for one day is 30,000 people.  This may sound like a lot. However, pre-Covid visits were nearing 45,000 per day, so you’re better off guaranteeing your spot with a reservation.

Man looking around in a museum

While you may be thinking only of museums and landmarks for timed-entry tickets or online reservations, it’s important to know that whole cities are proposing capacity limits for daily or yearly visitors.  As mentioned before, Venice is one such city, and following suit are the incredibly popular Cinque Terre, Italy and Santorini, Greece.  

These are also popular cruise ship stops, which create a massive influx of tourists all at once in a relatively small area.  However, since these guests aren’t spending the night, cities see less revenue from hotels and restaurants.

Huge crowds of tourists in Santorini Greece

Other destinations limiting its visitors are safari and wildlife parks.  Chances are, if you’re planning a safari, you’ve put some thought into your trip.  However, you may not know that in addition to reservations, there are capacity limitations as well.  Many game reserves are limiting tourists during the peak season to discourage overcrowding at this time and instead encourage travel throughout the year.

Two onlookers at a game reserve with zebras grazing in the distance

With so many places adopting advanced reservations as the norm, travelers will want to be familiar with their next destination and be sure to research the location far in advance.  If you’re planning to visit any popular city, landmark, or tourist attraction, it would be best to make your reservation as early as possible to ensure you get to see everything on your bucket list during your vacation.

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

Al LeFeusch

Wednesday 1st of March 2023

Nah, I'm good. Luckily for me I saw a large majority of those huge attractions/popular cities long ago. But, even for the ones I haven't seen, I'll stick with spontaneity. If I can't see it, I'll find something off the beaten path that will very likely be even better. I'm simply not a reservations kinda guy-- even for the Roman Coliseum, the Parthenon, or the entire city of Venice. I'm happy to pivot. Happy to find new accomodations. Happy to jump on a random bus or train and find what I find. Chances are, that little empty town a few hours away is more magical than the one everyone is flooding. I'll find that little town. Planning ain't my thing.