[Stock Markets] The Most Popular Travel Attractions in the World

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Some of these famous tourist destinations are actually threatened by their own popularity

As many as seven million people annually visit the Colosseum in Rome, an average of about 19,200 a day. Fortunately, the ancient arena was built to hold 50,000 people, but the impacts of so many tourists still takes its toll. They’ve been caught causing damage like scratching their initials into the walls of the historic site, and Roman officials have had to ban tourist buses in the city center to help protect the historic landmarks from pollution.

This overtourism is straining infrastructure, displacing locals, damaging historic landmarks, and resulting in suffocating crowds, long lines, and harm to the visitors themselves.

This list is based on TripAdvisor’s most-booked attractions in the world in 2019. Many of the popular tours booked at these places are “skip-the-line” tours or “after-hours” tours, evidence of the overwhelming crowds. These tours can be expensive: private tours of the Vatican museum an hour before it opens go for around $440 a person, according to the Guardian, while a skip-the-line ticket to the Colosseum listed on TripAdvisor starts at about $70, in peak season.

A report by the World Travel and Tourism Council says as more people in the world get richer and travel more, more places will likely be threatened by their own popularity. 

Possible ways to mitigate this overtourism include spreading out visitors over time and across sites, adjusting prices according to supply and demand, and limiting access, the report says. As a tourist, being responsible, respectful, and traveling in the off-season are ways to reduce your own impact.

These are TripAdvisor’s most popular destinations in the world:

1. The Colosseum

Rome

The ancient gladiator arena was completed 2,100 years ago and sits in the heart of Rome. As many as seven million people visit this monument each year. Seeing it from the outside is free, and a good part of the experience. Roman officials have banned souvenir stands and snack bars outside the structure, in the hopes of reducing congestion, according to media reports.

The Colosseum

Inside the Colosseum, you can see the underground passageways that were beneath the arena. TripAdvisor says you can book a behind-the-scenes experience, or an underground tour, to gain access to restricted parts of the Colosseum.

The Colosseum

The arena was once a wooden floor covered with sand that covered the elaborate underground structure. It was connected by tunnels to places outside the Colosseum, so that animals and performers could be brought in.

2. The Louvre

Paris

In 2018, 10.2 million people visited the Louvre, an increase of 26% from the previous year, making it the most popular museum in the world.

The Louvre

Last year, fed-up museum workers walked out on the Louvre, complaining of the suffocating crowds that have made the world’s largest museum unmanageable, The Atlantic reported.

The Louvre

Remarkably, despite the fact that most people have access to millions of pictures of the Mona Lisa at their fingertips every day, many visitors spend the bulk of their brief time in front of DaVinci’s masterpiece photographing it, instead of savoring the once-in-a-lifetime experience of simply looking at the real painting, in person.

3. Vatican Museums

Rome

About 6 million people each year visit the Vatican and its vast complex of museums, a trove of artworks and artifacts amassed over the past 2,000 years.

Vatican Museums

Crowds can swell to as many as 30,000 people within its seven miles of narrow halls, often inducing fainting and panic attacks, according to the Guardian.

Vatican Museums

Workers at the Vatican fear overcrowding could cause a stampede, and there are concerns of protecting the artworks from the dust, humidity and perspiration of so many people. Private tours of the museums are offered an hour before it opens, for about $440. The pope holds regular papal general audiences on Wednesday mornings. They are free, but tickets are required and should be requested far in advance. Above, crowds watch Pope Francis at an audience in St. Peter's Square.

4. Statue of Liberty

New York City

About 4.5 million people visited this New York landmark in 2016, according to the National Park Service. Last year, commercial private tours of the New York’s Statue of Liberty were banned, CNN reported, to help reduce overcrowding.

Statue of Liberty

A gift of friendship from France to the U.S., the Statue of Liberty has become a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. You can take a one-hour boat cruise that offers unparalleled views of city skylines and other landmarks.

Statue of Liberty

A new museum on Liberty Island opened in 2019 that houses the statue’s original torch, along with other exhibits. Above, pictures of immigrants who passed through Ellis Island.

5. Eiffel Tower

Paris

One of the most recognizable landmarks in the world, the 1,063-foot tower sees 7 million visitors a year. Of course, it’s free to see the Eiffel Tower from virtually any part of the city, or walk directly below it.

Eiffel Tower

With just four elevators and the stairs, management teams estimate that they have reached the saturation point of visitors, according to one report.

Eiffel Tower

TripAdvisor says you can take a night tour of the famous Eiffel Tower, or purchase a priority pass to avoid the long lines. At night, every hour on the hour, the tower sparkles with golden lights for five minutes while the Eiffel Tower's beam lights up the city.

6. Basilica de la Sagrada Familia

Barcelona, Spain

This unfinished Roman Catholic basilica is perhaps the best work of the famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. Construction started in 1882. Today, more than 135 years after the laying of the cornerstone, construction continues on the basilica and is expected to be completed in 2026.

Basilica de la Sagrada Familia

Barcelona is experiencing a strain on its infrastructure due to tourism, property owners are evicting locals so they can rent to tourists, and Barcelona residents have been protesting tourists, according to Forbes.

Basilica de la Sagrada Familia

More than 30 million tourists arrive in Barcelona every year, and the population is 1.6 million. Pictured is a detail of the Passion facade of the basilica, an austere carving using harsh straight lines to resemble the bones of a skeleton.

7. French Quarter

New Orleans

This is the heart and cultural center of New Orleans, famous for its jazz clubs, Cajun food, and lively nightlife. Residents have formed a task force to reduce the destructive effects of unmanaged mass tourism, and their report says the French Quarter may have already exceeded its carrying capacity.

French Quarter, New Orleans

If you go, TripAdvisor recommends a small-group walking tour that ends at the legendary Café du Monde, or discover the neighborhood’s bawdy side with a salacious history tour, capped off with a traditional burlesque performance.

French Quarter, New Orleans

According to the New Orleans sustainable tourism task force report, while tourism is an integral part of the city, placing the needs and concerns of the community above the entertainment of visitors is the best way to manage a runaway problem.

8. Anne Frank House

Amsterdam

The home of the young diarist sees about 1.3 million visitors a year, and rising. Anne Frank hid from the Nazis in the attic for two years before she was taken to the Bergen-Belsen extermination camp in 1945, where she died.

Anne Frank House

One TripAdvisor reviewer describes the place as overcrowded, with epic lines, with visitors taking pictures against the rules. You can take a walking tour past the house, and follow Anne Frank's path through the city’s the Jewish Quarter, or take a private guided tour that visits several Jewish landmarks in Amsterdam.

Anne Frank House

Pictured is a reconstruction of the desk in the room of Anne Frank and Fritz Pfeffer in the secret annex. The house and museum is a powerful and emotional experience and a must-see for most travelers to Amsterdam.

9. Skydeck Chicago – Willis Tower

Chicago

The Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, is the tallest building in the Western hemisphere, standing 1,450 feet and 110 stories tall.

The Skydeck is a series of glass boxes that extend out 4.3 feet from the Willis Tower's west side on the 103rd floor, with unobstructed views of the city —and straight down.

While there are crowds, this is one of the places that isn’t overly harmed by excessive tourism (assuming they don’t let too many people out on the ledge). According to TripAdvisor, you can take your visit to another level with a Skydeck dinner  on the 103rd floor. They recommend a Go Chicago Explorer Pass that provides access to 3-5 activities of your choosing such as the Skydeck, Lincoln Park Zoo or the Field Museum, pictured above.

10. Piazza San Marco

Venice, Italy

Venice may be the poster child of excessive tourism. It has enough problems already — suffering the effects of rising seas, with flooding inundating the city more frequently. In November, Venice experienced its highest water levels in more than 50 years, the BBC reported. More than two-thirds of the city was underwater, and damages were estimated at more than a billion euros.

Piazza San Marco, Venice

Tourists, unfazed by the high waters, are actually displacing locals, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council report. The city’s population is now just 55,000, half of what it was 30 years ago, as locals move away to escape the influx of tourists. Large cruise ships are no longer allowed to use the city's terminal, as locals worry that the ships threaten the foundations of the centuries-old buildings, Forbes reported.

Piazza San Marco, Venice

Piazza San Marco is the largest square in Venice, and home to the Palazzo Ducale and the Basilica of San Marco, pictured above. You can take an after-hours tour, or visit in the off-season to avoid the crowds. 

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