Easter Island, the tiny island located 2,000 miles off the coast of Chile, is a popular tourist destination. In fact, it’s too popular, according to local authorities.
According to The New York Times, an estimated 100,000 people flock to the island each year to visit its famed moai heads and to feel a bit closer to history as the island was first settled in the 12th century. But all those visitors are causing some unintended consequences, including eroding a culture and a way of life that has survived for hundreds of years.
"Foreigners are already taking over the island," mayor Pedro Edmunds recent told AFP. To combat further loss of cultural identity and physical damage to the environment, the island has decided to restrict the number of days tourists can stay on the island. Until now, visitors were welcome to stay for up to 90 days. Now, they are allowed to stay just 30.
"They're damaging the local idiosyncrasy, the thousand-year culture is changing and not for the good," Edmunds added, noting that "customs from the continent" were beginning to permeate the island and "that's not positive."
In addition to traditions, Digital Journal reported that the island is starting to see far more waste left by tourists than before. For example, a decade ago, the island produced 1.4 metric tons of waste per year. Now, it produces nearly twice that amount at 2.5 metric tons a year.
According to The Independent, beyond how long people can stay, the number of people visiting the island will also be restricted. However, that exact number has not been announced.
Additionally, those wishing to move to the island permanently will now face an uphill battle. As The Independent noted, 7,750 people currently live on Easter Island, which is nearly double the population of 20 years ago. Edmunds called that “3,000 too many.”
Now, those who want to move to the island will have to show proof of relation to someone from the Rapa Nui people, the native population of Easter Island.
Still, Edmunds said this isn’t going far enough. "I don't agree with these rules, it's not enough because it doesn't reflect all the aspirations of the island," he said. Edmunds noted that he'd rather see a "total" ban on all new residents. But, as he said, it’s a start.
Easter Island isn’t the only popular destination experiencing the adverse effects of tourism. In 2016, the picturesque town of Cinque Terre in Italy announced it would also limit the number of tourists visiting the community in an effort to protect it. The island of Capri is also mulling over just how to deal with its tourism population boom.
“We don’t want to limit arrivals and we are very reluctant to talk about a fixed number of people being allowed to visit the island each day, but we do want people to come at a less frenetic pace,” mayor Giovanni De Martino told The Telegraph. "We welcome tourists, but 2 million a year is a bit too much."