We’re not the final word—instead, we’re starting the conversation.
We spend all year gathering information to help advise our readers where to go in this weird and wonderful world for our annual Go List, which we released yesterday. Naturally, along the way, our editors take note of tourist destinations that we feel should be avoided. These decisions are informed by our personal experience as well as the events of the previous year and their effect on the next. As people who travel professionally, there are places we won’t be going in 2019, and we won’t be recommending them to our family, friends, or readers either.
At Fodor’s, we recognize that the reasoning for these sanctions are steeped in our own understanding and cultural relevance. We use travel as a means to broaden our minds and expand our humanity, and use our findings as a means to foster dialogue. We hope you’ll contribute to the conversation. Send us your thoughts at [email protected].
Top Picks for You
This Balearic island in the Mediterranean Sea has established a reputation for rowdy nightlife, partly due to the electronic dance music scene which originated on the island. But its hedonistic debauchery may be in direct conflict with sustainable tourism goals, and more regrettably, may have contributed to a string of misconduct that resulted in casualties.
There have been multiple tourist deaths this year in Ibiza, most of which were caused by over-indulging or aggressive party-goers. Most of them have been young British men: a 24-year old from Newcastle died while cliff jumping at an Ibiza cove; a 22-year old from Stafford died from a suspected drug overdose hours after arriving in Ibiza in July; the previous week, a 21-year-old from Birmingham died after he was punched while trying to break up a fight; also in July, a British teenager drowned during a 3 am swim in a villa pool. Meanwhile, another British tourist is fighting for his life with a serious head injury after he fell from the balcony of his Ibiza hotel room in early August. Ibiza is blaming the deaths on “British drinking culture.” While tourists are ultimately responsible for their conduct while abroad, the encouraged culture of partying and the lax system of regulation certainly contribute to the misfortune. And the measures being taken to curb excessive behavior—moving the club curfew from 5 am to 3 am, for example—may inadvertently contribute to the fracas.
“If you release 5,000 people suddenly in the street at three in the morning, they will continue the party,” one business owner told Diario de Ibiza. “They do not go to sleep. They mess about on the beach or the promenade.”
Ibiza has been attempting to rebrand the destination as a place for family travel, but Vincent Torres, President of Ibiza Island Council, told The Sun the island needed to find a balance between keeping locals happy and maintaining its status.
“There is this sense that we want to stop everything and get rid of everything. No way. Music is something that has attracted many people to Ibiza,” he said. “It is very important to us. One thing is music and the other thing is madness. It is finding that level between both music and madness.”
But he fails to mention any steps taken to manage the rowdiness. Until Ibiza can figure out how to promote responsible partying and prioritize safety along with revelry, the island’s main draw will also be its downfall.
This continues over from last year’s No List due to the Rohingya crisis. Although it’s gotten less press this year, the government has taken active measures to quash reporting. This year, while investigating the treatment of the Rohingya, two Reuters journalists were sent to prison for seven years for breaking the country’s Official Secrets Act. The two journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, exposed a military massacre of 10 Rohingya civilians by security forces and local Buddhists amid a military response to insurgent attacks last August and were convicted September 3, 2018. They pled not guilty, and a police witness testified in court that they had been set up. Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor of Myanmar and Nobel Peace Prize laureate (1991), has said the reporters had been sentenced for handling official secrets and “were not jailed because they were journalists.”
“It is not acceptable to have the journalists of Reuters being in jail for what they were doing,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters at the United Nations in response to a question about Suu Kyi’s remarks. “It is my deep belief that that should not happen and I hope that the government will be able to provide a pardon to release them as quickly as possible.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet demanded that the sentence be “quashed and for them to be released, along with all other journalists currently in detention for their legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression.” Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson also condemned the decision as a display of the government’s fear of the kind of “critical commentary customarily found in a real democracy.”
As we stated last year, Myanmar’s dynamic culture and beauty continues to draw our hearts and minds to visit. But as the persecution of the Rohingya people continues, and the suppression of the core tenets of democracy advances, we as members of the media and the human race cannot sustain a recommendation to visit Myanmar.
Visiting the island of Boracay in the Philippines poses logistical problems as well as environmental. The beaches of Boracay, which consistently rate as the top in the world, were closed six months ago when the Philippines president closed the island to tourists in an effort to fortify weak infrastructure—especially sewage treatment—and crack down on overdevelopment, including the tearing down of illegal structures.
What happened to this incredible island? Unprecedented tourism growth and unregulated development. Last year alone, almost 1.7 million tourists, including a significant number of cruise passengers, visited the island during a 10-month period, according to the governmental Philippines Information Agency. While that in itself is an incredible influx to an island with fewer than 35,000 permanent residents, the most objectionable result of the boom were pipes carrying “raw effluence directly into the sea.”
While Boracay’s commitment to clean up is wholly commendable, and the strict laws enforcing sustainable action going forward will hopefully create an environmental boost on the island, the full rehabilitation could take up to two years. Even Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat requested that tourists should “manage expectations” during this period.
The soft opening of Boracay began October of 2018, but will not be fully open until December of 2019. Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP) president Jose Clemente said, “If [tourists] insist on visiting Boracay, just don’t expect a fully restored Boracay as it is still a work in progress.”
Virunga National Park
Africa’s oldest National Park, Virunga, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has made its name as a UNESCO heritage site due to its incredible variety of landscape, which in turn produces an exceptional collection of biodiversity. Its most notable and famous residents are a population of critically endangered mountain gorillas, a major tourist draw.
But a rash of violence has broken out in the park, with at least 12 rangers murdered in clashes with militia and smugglers in Virunga in 2017 and 2018. In May, after a park ranger was shot dead, a Congolese driver wounded, and two British tourists were held by militia overnight, the park “reluctantly close[d] Virunga to tourists until the end of the year to allow a thorough review of security precautions and reinforcement of the 700 rangers deployed to keep animals and visitors safe.”
Fodor’s contacted the park to ask when it will be opened and they cannot commit to a date in 2019. Specifically, we asked their operations office about re-opening dates as well as measures taken to ensure the protection of park visitors, and received a generic response and dodged the question:
“Tentatively we are looking to re-open beginning 2019. Please feel free to check www.visitvirunga.org from time to time as we’ll be posting any updates related to park opening there. We’d love to be able to give you more concrete answers but what I can tell you for now is we’re still on track for opening 2019.”
Until Virguna National Park is able to provide a transparent plan for greater safety measures, we cannot recommend planning for a gorilla trek at any point in 2019 (if the park reopens as scheduled). While the closure of the park will ultimately reduce operations and revenue—perhaps decreasing protections for the animals as well—we cannot recommend that anyone consider visiting upon its reopening next year without accountable answers to questions of safety.
Maya Beach, Thailand
Made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach, Maya Beach was closed in 2018 due to pollution and overcrowding and it was announced that it will remain closed indefinitely. Ko Phi Phi Leh island in Thailand is famous for its crystal waters and silky sand beach, but Maya Beach has “sustained extensive environmental damage in recent years, receiving up to 5,000 tourists and 200 boats a day.” So while it won’t actually be possible to visit currently, don’t make plans to go anytime soon. Litter, boats, and sunscreen (those that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate kill coral) have destroyed more than 80 percent of the coral in the bay, and even though the location generates about 400 million baht ($12.14m) in revenue a year, Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation have determined the situation to be unmanageable, restricting access until the ecosystem “fully recovers to a normal situation.” Let’s give this incredible marine habitat time to make a full recovery.
Looking for an alternative in Thailand, and even a way to help the coral reefs? Take a look at how scientists are partnering with resorts to restore the reefs of Koh Samui.
Places That Don't Want You to Visit
Similar to what was included in our list for 2018, there are some places in the world who are capping tourism or whose residents have spoken out about how it’s detrimental to their home. Last year, destinations such as Amsterdam, Machu Picchu, Venice, Santorini, and Koh Tachai were all examples of places that were overwhelmed by their own tourism industry. This year, more are begging tourists to reconsider how and when they travel.
Residents of Isle of Skye, Scotland, have complained about traffic and congestion clogging up roads and blocking throughways, especially near famed ethereal Fairy Pools, and hope that if tourists do come, they will look beyond one site with respect to the locals. Chile’s remote and ancient Easter Island, with its World Heritage Site monolithic human sculptures, have drawn curious tourists who are overstaying their welcome—they could once stay for 90 days, but it’s since been curtailed to 30. “Foreigners are already taking over the island. They’re damaging the local idiosyncrasy, the 1,000-year culture is changing and not for the good,” said mayor Petro Edmunds. Ana Maria Gutierrez, the local government’s environmental adviser, warns that, “Environmentally, the island is very fragile” and basic services are under strain–not least, waste management. 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. In Dubrovnik, where Game of Thrones fervor has reached a fever pitch, with locals claiming Old Town has become “Disneyland,” especially due to multiple cruise dockings on the same day. And most alarmingly, in Mallorca, a local campaign to protest mass tourism led to a “summer of action” where campaigners vandalized hotels, demonstrated at the airport, and tagged graffiti proclaiming “ “tourism kills the city.”
In all these cases, the residents and locals emphasize that it’s not necessarily the tourists themselves who cause the frustration that comes from living in a tourism economy, but often poor management of resources from the region’s governmental and business leaders who exploit the situation. Feel like you just have to visit? Consider off-season, veer away from tourist hot spots, and make sure to be considerate of the people who live in your vacation destination.
While violence is rampant worldwide, Acapulco had a homicide rate of 103 per 100,000 inhabitants, one of the highest in the world. But when those charged with keeping people safe are complicit or even participants in the destruction–to the extent that the entire Acapulco police force was disarmed: and taken for background checks–marks the turning point in clemency. According to the Associated Press, law enforcement duties are now run by soldiers, marines, and state police “because of suspicion that the force had probably been infiltrated by criminal groups” and due to “the complete inaction of the municipal police in fighting the crime wave.”
The complacency of tourists turning a blind eye to such horror in favor of their holiday also sparks alarm. In October, two men were shot on a popular Caletilla beach resort in front of vacationers. Footage shows the tourists lounging unfazed as the crime scene is closed off (warning: graphic). In April, a body washed up at the same beach, with photos of spectators on the shore watching officials remove the corpse. Vacationers should be vigilant against contributing to an atmosphere of tacit approval of such atrocities.
Central America tends to carry an erroneous reputation for being unsafe, but Nicaragua doesn’t suffer from gang or crime problems—its unrest stems from its government’s tampering with human and civil rights. Protestors of President Daniel Ortega and his government have been targeted, and according to a U.N. report, illegally arrested, tortured, including “extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, rape with rifles, and torture with Taser guns, barbed wire, tubes and attempted strangulation,” and prosecuted in closed trials. Amnesty International has reported that the government had instituted a “shoot to kill” policy in dealing with protesters, and found that the authorities had “implemented and maintained a strategy of repression, sometimes intentionally involving loss of life, throughout the weeks of protest.”
The United Nations reports the months of unrest in Nicaragua are a comprehensive effort of repression by the government that extends from the streets to the courts.
“The level of persecution is such that many of those who have participated in the protests, defended the rights of the protesters, or simply expressed dissenting opinion, have been forced to hide, have left Nicaragua or are trying to do so,” states the U.N. report. The latest death toll reports 448 dead at the hand of Nicaraguan security forces and armed supporters of Ortega, with at least 2,000 others injured.
Places That Give Us Pause
In debating which destinations to add to the No List this year, there were several that we felt could easily be included, but for various reasons weren’t. That being said, we feel it’s important to highlight them. Here are four others that we’ve had our eyes on in 2018 and will continue to in 2019.
Brazil: Last month, Brazil elected far-right Jair Bolsonaro as their new president. Bolsonaro has announced plans to merge the ministries of agriculture and environment, which critics fear will have grave effects on the Amazon. But, while all of this is dire, we don’t yet know what will happen—Bolsonaro will be sworn in on January 1.
China: It has been reported that the Chinese government is holding up to a million Muslims in internment camps, with the alleged purpose of converting them by various means, including forcing them to eat pork and drink alcohol. The United States has called it “the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today” and the United Kingdom has confirmed the reports as “broadly true.” The Chinese government admits such a facility exists, however, has denied the purpose—instead calling them vocational training centers. Amnesty International has called on the UN Human Rights Council to find out the truth and hold any human right abusers responsible, as does a bi-partisan bill currently in Congress.
Romania: In August, protests erupted in the streets of Bucharest. The demonstrators were calling attention to the continued corruption within their government, which is considered one of the most corrupt in Europe. In response, police reportedly attacked as many as 400 individuals, including several tourists from Israel who were merely bystanders. While concerning, this appears to have been an isolated incident—travel to Romania is largely safe. The European Union has been investigating and continues to investigate the allegations of corruption—especially as Romania takes over as head of the EU in 2019.
United Kingdom: On March 29, 2019 there will either be a Brexit or there won’t. And if there is a Brexit, it will either be soft or hard. And if it is a hard Brexit, there could be several worrisome realities for those who live in the UK and those who are visiting. One specific concern for travelers: if there’s a hard Brexit, you may not be able to fly a UK or EU carrier to Europe. Similarly, you may not be able to take Eurostar from London to Paris. But, all of this is rampant speculation, posturing, and politicization—as of now, we do not know what will happen next year. We do know, however, that as of yesterday there is a draft agreement between the UK and the EU. Although, many within Prime Minister Theresa May’s own party have criticized it, and ultimately it will need to be approved by parliament–and what parliament will say is, according to the BBC, anyone’s guess right now.
A Final Note
As a U.S. based company we make these recommendations with humility, acknowledging that there are concerns for travelers here as well; most notably, gun violence and hate crimes. At the time of publication, there have been 310 mass shootings, and over 12,000 gun deaths in the U.S., according to the non-profit Gun Violence Archive. Simultaneously, hate crimes are on the rise, with the latest numbers showing 7,175 incidents of crimes targeting people because of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation in 2017, up from 6,121 in 2016. We encourage all travelers, and especially minorities, to exercise the same caution they would traveling anywhere: before departing, research the gun laws and hate crime statistics of your destination, and, while traveling, be aware of your surroundings and cooperate fully when interacting with local law enforcement officers.