News: How can we put a stop to the damaging rise of the ‘Insta-tourist’?
With pastel-painted houses and not a car in sight, Rue Crémieux has long been one of Paris’s most romantic streets. The warble of Edith Piaf’s Non, je ne Regrette Rien practically rings in your ears as you wander its cobbled length (all 160 metres of it).
However, since the rise of Instagram and its integral ‘geotagging’ function, Rue Crémieux has become overrun with social media pilgrims travelling to get that picture. And as is the case on many residential streets across the world, the locals are hitting back.
One resident, Antoine, is lobbying for gates to be introduced to protect the privacy of the road. “It may be a photographer’s paradise but for us it’s turned into hell here. At weekends we often get 200 people outside our windows. Our dining table is beside the window, and there are people just outside taking photos. Frankly, it wears you down,” he told the Telegraph.
Antoine puts up barricade tape to keep amateur photographers away from his pastel blue house, and has approached the 12th arrondissement town hall with a request that they close the street on weekends and in the evenings.
Another resident, Anne, believes things have got out of hand. “Hundreds come every Saturday and Sunday and they seem to think it’s a public space and they don’t have to respect our privacy,” she said.
Dozens of tourists, most of whom travel to photograph the street, turn up every day and more than 31,000 have posted on Instagram with #ruecremieux tagged. Thousands more have geotagged the street so that people can locate it on a map at the click of a button.
This is not the only residential street to have been ‘liked to death’ thanks to its photogenic qualities. Hanoi’s ‘train street’, the beautiful village of Ola in Santorini, and indeed the remaining residents of Venice are all impacted by tourism and specifically, the relentless rise of the ‘Insta-tourist’.
So influential is the platform that there is now a word, ‘Instagrammable’, which has entered popular parlance to describe places that you ought to go and snap. The Google Trends graph over the last five years shows the explosion in searches for ‘Instagrammable’ places around the world.
So what is the solution? While Rue Crémieux and Venice are taking steps to limit the number of daily tourists through barring or putting a cap on visitor numbers, what is perhaps a more viable option would be to encourage people to stop geotagging their photos without express permission.
Justin Francis, CEO of Responsible Travel, told Telegraph Travel: “Overtourism is caused by intense pressure being placed on a relatively few global ‘tourism hotspots’. This super saturation creates problems for residents, the environment and also other travellers – who probably didn’t imagine sharing their special moment with thousands of others.
“Geotagging Instagram photos comes with a consequence. It either drives overtourism, or perhaps shares new places that might welcome more – well behaved – visitors. Generally, I’d suggest avoiding geotagging. If you want to share a place or experience with a friend do so privately.
“The only exception might be if you’ve spoken with local people or conservationists who have actively encouraged you to do so to encourage more visitors. If in doubt, don’t tag!
“Perhaps the old adage that the journey is as important as arriving is worth remembering. Travel is about discovering new things and places for yourself more than being led to them.”
There are various other organisations that lobby for people to stop geotagging their images. Leave No Trace, an American organisation which seeks to protect the great outdoors, advocates “tagging thoughtfully”. In the social media guidance on their website, they say: “Avoid tagging (or geotagging) specific locations. Instead, tag a general location such as a state or region, if any at all. While tagging can seem innocent, it can also lead to significant impacts to particular places.”