Mass tourism has deeply impacted the Mont-Saint-Michel monastery, which is France’s most visited destination after Paris and has been protected by the World Heritage site since 1979.
The overcrowded destinations during the summer destinations while completely quiet off-season, are common in Europe and are impacting the local economy.
This monastery alone welcomes around three million visitors annually, with one million being recorded in the summer alone. The destination has less than four square kilometres of space, indicating it can be limiting for tourists. Last year, Mont received 36,000 visitors in one day, enough to fill a small city in France.
The city peaks from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., as most of the tourists organise their visit in the same way; arriving before lunch, going to a restaurant or having a picnic, visiting the site and leaving around the middle of the afternoon. Tourists visiting during this period lead to overcrowding during this period and not even exploring the whole site, which has 132 hotel rooms but remains empty in the evening.
France 24 reveals that the destination has implemented several measures this summer, including communication – advising tourists to visit before 10:00 a.m. and after 4:00 p.m. to regulate the frequency of buses to the site, including free parking from 6.30 p.m. except for two months of summer.
Thomas Velter, director of the foundation, said it would be great if people came out of season.
“The rest of the time, Mont-Saint-Michel is a place of calm and contemplation,” he said, as visitors have been already required to park their cars on the mainland and come by bus to the site.
Between 2005 and 2015, almost €230 was invested in returning the site to the sea, including flushing out excessive sand and substituting the road with a wooden bridge.
Tourists have already started to follow the advice, and they are not complaining so far.
“We wanted to stay until the evening and to take some photos when the sun goes down. And we hoped that the most people left the area already in the evening, so we came late today,” said Matthias, 56, a tourist from Dortmund in Germany.
France is working on a plan to regulate visitor flows at popular sites and combat over-tourism. In addition, the Calanques national park near Marseille will implement a gree reservation system that was initially introduced during the pandemic in the next five years.