What do Venice, Italy & Big Sur, CA have in common?

Several people over the weekend brought my attention to an article in the Guardian, which I usually read in any event. This article, however, is not about the politics I usually read, it is about how tourism is destroying Venice, Italy.


Here is the link to that article: Guardian Article

To entice you to read it, here are a few tidbits:

“Earlier this month an estimated 2,000 Venetians marched against a tourism industry they argue has eroded their quality of life, that is damaging the environment and driving residents away: Venice’s population has fallen from about 175,000 in the post-second world war years to 55,000 today.”

Here in Big Sur, the tourist industry and media accounts are still referring to the same “3 million visitors a year” model that they were using in 1985 when I first moved here. No update on the number of visitors Big Sur is expected to entertain has been provided in the 32 years I have lived here, and it has tripled, quadrupled, or more, in my  conservative estimation, during that time. If Nepenthe is serving 1000 meals a day in normal years, as has been claimed in all the recent news articles, then every single one of the  3 million people coming to Big Sur plus a 1/2 million more, are stopping at that establishment each year, and we know that while Nepenthe is an icon, everyone does not stop there. In fact, most do not.

“… Residents were hoping that Unesco would send a strong signal to the authorities by following through with a threat to place the world heritage site on its endangered list. Instead, the organisation recently granted the city another year to come up with measures to protect its monuments and preserve its fragile environment.

‘It feels as if we’re at a point of no return because it’s already out of control,’ said Beltrame. He would like tourist numbers to be limited, while focusing on improving the quality and promoting the city as a hub for scientific and maritime research.”

Here, we already have the Aquarium, the Marine Sanctuary, and maritime research, and more research on the fragility of our environment, the endangered species that call Big Sur home is needed.

Has the degradation of the experience of Big Sur for locals and tourists alike reached the point of no return here, as well? If we were a UNESCO site,  would we be put on their endangered list?

Come to the Big Sur Multi-Agency Advisory Council’s next meeting on August 11th, 2017 and share in the conversation. Details and Agenda will be posted when made available.

11 thoughts on “What do Venice, Italy & Big Sur, CA have in common?

  1. This is an old story all too common on the Monterey Peninsula. In Carmel, older homes are either upscaled beyond recognition or if not on the historic register, leveled and rebuilt using every square inch of the lot for the house. Downtown is great for buying a piece of Art, Gold Chain, T-Shirts etc. but try to buy a light bulb. Big Sur is heavily oversold along with Carmel bringing lots of money…and those that can afford to buy property and not necessarily live on it. Enter the VRBO. We seem intent on killing the Goose that laid the golden egg. It is the natural beauty of the area and those residents who get it …who are subject to watching yet another pristine area serve as a circus for the tourist industry.

  2. Well said Karl! It seems so obvious how our beautiful area is being overrun, overdeveloped, exploited and destroyed all in the name of $$$. If only our County Represenatives could see past that and realize how quickly things are changing for the worse. It’s time to put residents and our living environment first and tourism/visitor industry somewhere lower on their priority list. Our roads and infrastructure are not designed for the millions that visit this fragile coast each year.

  3. I completely agree with the thrust of your post. Certainly there were far far far more visitors to Big Sur in 2016 than when I moved here in 2005.

    However, a note on your math: you’re off by a factor of 10:
    365 days/year * 1000 meals/day = 365,000 meals (visitors) at Nepenthe, not 3.5 million.

  4. Too many visitors for a small road and a limited capacity land. Businesses don’t want to hear this, but just stop ALL marketing, let things quiet down. Maybe even make it a toll road on weekends for non locals. In short, discourage visitors, don’t invite them. The people who really love the place will still come, the casual tourists can go someplace else.

  5. Porta- potties are the ugliest stinkiest things I’d ever want to enter and I don’t want to pay for them with my tax dollars! (I would prefer a bush over one of those nose pinching, bluish chemical after-tasting germ bins.)
    Have people stop in at the businesses to alleviate themselves and spend some money at the establishment doing it. We could have peeping toms’ patrolling the coast and fine anyone caught leaving scat.
    SERIOUSLY, I think the HWY ONE EASEMENT should become a state park used by locals and their guest for free a la Pebble Beach 7-mile drive and paying/measured/limited/sustainable numbers of tourists, a la Pebble Beach, traveling through. Bathroom services could be like permanent rest-stops one finds along HWYs. The travel/entry tickets over HWY One would need to generate the $s for enforcement rangers and permanent building toilets.
    it is time to seriously consider this option as one of the solutions to manage this ugly invasive reality.
    Regine said this on July 21, 2017 at 9:38 pm

    70 MILE DRIVE! Point Lobos to Hearst Castle (as the bird flies).
    Tomorrow, July 22! Sobering SOBERANES DAY!
    from the web: “Rancho Los Coches was a 8,794-acre (35.59 km2) Mexican land grant in present day Monterey County, California given in 1841 by Governor Juan Alvarado to María Josefa Soberanes. The name means “the pigs”.”
    Regine said this on July 21, 2017 at 9:58 pm

  6. As to annual Nepenthe meals: 365,000 meals X $10.00 = $3,650,000 receipts and we all know that one person ticket is most likely double! , so keep on multiplying!

  7. Just to point out the disconnect the County Visitors Bureau has with the realities in Big Sur. They are advising people to stop at Bixby Bridge and take pictures when there are 20 parking spots and 200 cars trying to park there on weekends. Maybe that’s a bad idea? Also, on their 4 page brochure they were handing out to tourists on the Southside ,when they opened the trail, the second paragraph was telling people “to stay for an unforgettable sunset and sleep under the stars” when there is not one legal campsite to do that. Dangerous!

  8. Marcus’ comment on the tourism brochure is really important! I haven’t seen the brochure but this is classic malfeasance— a local agency ( funded and overseen by whom, I do not know) is giving tourists instructions to engage in dangerous, outrageous and illegal behaviors, instead of educating them about the sensitivity of the environment, and how to tread lightly, leaving only footprints behind. This is outrageous and deserves some intense focus, IMHO

  9. Recommend reading “If Venice Dies” by Salvatore Settis. Interesting parallels & lessons to learn from for our area’s future. The changes to Venice from mass tourism are painful to see.

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