Easter Island limits tourism in preservation efforts

It's a five-hour flight to Chile's Easter Island (Rapa Nui) from the nation's capital of Santiago....

Posted: Aug 14, 2018 7:50 AM
Updated: Aug 14, 2018 7:50 AM

It's a five-hour flight to Chile's Easter Island (Rapa Nui) from the nation's capital of Santiago.

Mysterious, hard-to-get-to and isolated, the volcanic island in Polynesia automatically makes it a dream destination for intrepid travelers who long to get off the beaten path.

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The island is famous around the world for its iconic moai -- enormous paleolithic structures in the shape of human heads. Rapa Nui National Park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 1995.

But now, the island is one of many destinations around the world trying to balance popularity with preservation.

A new initiative both limiting the number of people who can visit the island as well as length of stay for said visitors has changed the accessibility factor further.

Lonely Planet's Alex Butler reports that tourists can only stay on the far-flung Easter Island for a period of 30 days; previously, a 90-day stay was permissible.

This new rule applies both to international travelers and to Chileans who are not a part of the indigenous Rapa Nui people.

While the 30-day rule went into effect August 1, Chile has not yet established how many visitors will be allowed on the island.

Chile is far from the only destination placing limitations on the number of travelers who can visit their most famous attractions.

Bhutan's "high-value, low-impact" model has been cited as an example around the world -- there, visitor numbers are strictly capped and visitors must pay a daily fee that goes toward maintaining the country's infrastructure.

And some cities with huge tourism numbers, like Barcelona and Venice, have moved to greatly limit or control how many people are able to visit.

Most recently, there have also been calls to pull back the number of visitors to the world's highest peak, Mt. Everest, as human waste has become a significant issue.

The Chilean government has not yet issued a formal statement on their reasons behind the changes to tourism on Rapa Nui.

CNN Travel has reached out to the Chilean embassy in the United States and will update with additional information as it's available.

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