Mass tourism has tainted some of the world’s most beautiful places, and many are no longer standing for it.
Major cities like Amsterdam and Barcelona have the backing of big government to implement strategic plans that halt destruction. But what about the remote, smaller cities?
One peaceful Himalayan town in India was having their way of life threatened by tourists seeking the Instagram worthy landscape, so they came up with their own plan – and it is genius.
Jibhi, in northern India, is a small town of only 150 people in the beautiful, rolling Himalayas near the Jalori Pass in Banjar and the Tirthan Valley of Himachal Pradesh, India.
Once upon a time only the most dedicated tourists made it to this diamond in the rough, because it took airfare, bus rides, and taxis to get to the destination.
As more tourists became aware of the affordable accommodations in the lush green mountains, social media helped spread the word like wildfire.
Breathtaking Instagram pictures let the world know that there was a small, private community in the middle of the Himalaya Mountains where you could enjoy a beer under a waterfall, rock climb, and watch a sunset like you have never seen.
The boost in revenue brought by tourism was happily welcomed in the beginning, but as guests began keeping the locals up late with partying and leaving their trash all around the small town, locals wondered if it was worth it.
So they came up with a plan to eliminate the kind of clientele that would leave an unsavory mark, and welcome the traveler that was looking for a calm escape from their hectic lives.
The Wall Street Journal reveals just how they have effectively accomplished what big metropolis can’t seem to do:
“It has shut down the local liquor store and tried to restrict loud music, smoking and barbecues. Residents are banding together to confront cavorting visitors. A host of rules posted in guesthouses tell visitors what they can and can’t do.”
Daleep Singh Thakur owns a popular Airbnb in Jibhi, and he has refused to allow guests to stay who leave bottles on the ground, or who ask him why there is no television.
“I told them this is a place for enjoying nature and asked them to leave,” he said. “We gave their money back.”
Jibhi is not your typical town, members are private and each caste and family owns a portion of the hills.
According to the Wall Street Journal, a villager was shunned for years for allowing a tourist to rent a room from him in the 1990s!
More recently, a big Bollywood film wanted to shoot there, which was approved provided the film never released Jibhi’s location.
With the convenience of smart phones, Jibhi is now put into the public eye whether they want to be or not, spiking tourism to 6,000 visitors last year.
The waterfalls, which are a sacred spot to the locals, are where visitors meet to hang out, litter gets piled up along the trails and river, and residents aren’t able to get enough energy for their heaters until the guests go to bed.
Hopefully the locals unique method of controlling tourism will help them maintain the peaceful existence they desire, and that travelers will become conscious of the impact they have on a destination.
If we all do our part to keep the towns we visit better than when we came, then amazing experiences like Jibhi don’t have to lose their charm.