Tourism

Nose-picking selfies on Easter Island raise concerns of overtourism

A slew of nose-picking selfies from tourists has contributed to concerns by experts that Easter Island is suffering from overtourism.

A wave of bad behaviour by travellers to Easter Island, which is famed for its enormous statues known as moai, has spurred new conversations about how visitors to the island should behave.

As a matter of fact, it’s a recent trend by Instagrammers that has experts scratching their heads about visitors to Easter Island (and its statues displayed in museums around the world): nose-picking the moai.

Jo Anne Van Tilburg is an archaeologist, director of the Rock Art Archive at the University of California, Los Angeles and the Director of the Easter Island Statue Project. Speaking to CNN Travel, Tilburg said that, these days, she spends more time educating visitors on proper behaviour than study.

“Because of the ubiquitous nature of photography in our community, people take the same picture repeatedly. Once one person picks a nose of the moai, you can be sure there will be multiple thousands [of photos], because people are lemmings,” she said.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Easter Island is a Chilean territory and part of Polynesia. Since the 1980s the island has seen a huge surge in tourists, to the tune of nearly 100,000 visitors annually.

With only 6,000 permanent residents on Easter Island, CNN Travel reports that the surplus of travellers visiting the island is a “huge burden”.

As a result of the increase in popularity, visitors to Rapa Nui National Park – home to the moai statues – are now restricted to designated paths.

Bad behaviour is, reportedly, not a new phenomenon to the island.

In 2008, a Finnish man who climbed one of the moai and chipped a piece of ear off was arrested, fined $17,000 and ordered to leave the island and never return, as reported by CNN Travel.

What’s more, if travellers visiting the island aren’t Rapa Nui, they are restricted to 30-day travel visas, compared to the previous 90-days, as reported by Lonely Planet.

On the flipside, visits to the island have steadily become more accessible, with direct flights now available from Santiago, Chile to Easter Island – taking approximately five to six hours.

Van Tilburg told CNN Travel that if travellers are interested in visiting the island, they should exercise the following tips:

“Read and prepare,” she said. “Once you show your guide you have a serious interest, they will take you seriously. Make your questions deserving of answers.”

She also said that by studying up on Easter Island it means recognising the island as a living site – not a museum.

“There are 1,000 statues and there are 5,000 people,” Van Tilburg said. “Their faces are just as important.”

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