Easter Island: Saving a Thousand-year-old culture

Located 2,000 miles off the coast of Chile, Easter Island is an iconic tourist destination that holds history and culture that dates back all the way to the 12th century. It is no surprise that Easter Island is popular amongst the tourists. In fact, it’s too popular.

An estimated 100,000 people crowd Easter Island each year to visit the famous Moai Heads. Though having plenty of tourists flocking the island each year, this is causing some unintended consequences. Other than the physical damage caused to the environment, the island’s culture and ancient way of life is dissolving slowly as the years go by, losing its cultural identity.

Authorities are starting off by limiting the days tourists can stay on the island. Previously visitors could stay for up to 90 days but now it has been reduced to 30 days. The number of visitors that comes in to the island will also be restricted, but as for now, there is no definitive number that has been announced.

In addition to the social and environmental concerns, Easter Island is reported to be seeing far more waste left behind by the foreign visitors. A decade ago, the island produced about 1.4 metric tons of waste per year, but now it produces nearly double the amount at 2.5 metric tons per year.

Those who wish to stay on the island permanently will now face difficulty to do so. As of now, the island has a population of 7,750 people. Double the population 20 years ago. Those who want to move to the island will have to show proof of relations to someone from the native inhabitants of Easter Island, the Rapa Nui people.

The island’s mayor, Petro Edmunds, still believe that these restrictions are not enough. Despite wanting a ‘total’ ban on all new residents, Edmunds think that this small step is a start.

Easter Island is not the only destination hotspot that’s experiencing the unfavourable effects of tourism. In 2016, the scenic town of Cinque Terre in Italy announced that it would also limit the number of visitors that tour around the community in hopes of protecting it. The island Capri is also deliberating on how to deal with its increasing tourism population.

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