2020 Year in Review: Overtourism as a Distant Memory

Pipeaway blogger Ivan Kralj sitting in the backlight of the sunset behind the lighthouse in Chania, Crete, Greece, photo by Nikos Samartzis

When I reread my 2019 review the other day, I concluded the world could indeed change a lot in a year. Long gone were the days of overtourism when travelers fought to see the Santorini sunset or Angkor Wat sunrise, and downgraded Kanchanaburi sightseeing to shooting a sexy selfie on a graveyard. The highlighted word of the 2020 year in review should probably be ‘undertourism’.

The global pandemic of COVID-19 changed the world as we knew it, as well as the world of traveling we were familiar with. While a year ago I correctly predicted that traveling could become more difficult, the crises I’ve imagined producing this effect were connected to our poor politics towards nature protection and war conflicts. Only clairvoyants such as Nostradamus could have seen a tiny but mighty virus locking us in our houses, cities, and countries. The planet’s tourism came to a halt.

The 2020 impact on the world and its travel industry will be long-term. And like always, the fittest will survive

Economies that largely depended on income from tourists approached this unprecedented situation in radically different ways.

Locked-down Cambodia showed some awesome initiatives dealing with the effects of absent tourist dollars during the coronavirus spread, while accommodation providers used the standstill to plan the life of hotels after COVID.

On the other side, Croatia, encouraged by optimistic pre-summer epidemic numbers, generously opened its doors to the arrival of foreigners. I called this ignorant gambling with social distancing for the sake of generating income – the six feet under approach. Croatia did not use the summer to prepare for the autumn epidemic wave. The uncontrolled increase of infections positioned the country on unflattering negative European charts, and literally illustrated that boomerang is not just the shape of Croatia.

By the way, there were times when I was convinced that the world was shaped like Croatia! I revealed this in a featured interview for the break into travel writing website.

The 2020 impact on the world and its travel industry will be long-term. And like always, the fittest will survive.

Here’s Pipeaway’s review of the year 2020!

If you’re interested in previous year reports, you can find them right here:
2019 Year in Review: Does Exploring the World in Crisis Make Any Sense?
2018 Year in Review: Hiking Mountains, Volcanoes and Churches
2017 Year in Review: 3 Continents, 14 Countries and One Big Adventure

Highlights of Pipeaway’s 2020

The year of undertourism is not the best friend of travel blogs. For instance, Pipeaway lost 59 percent of its pre-pandemic traffic!

While I know some travel bloggers pulled their publishing brake in these uncertain times, this challenge could be approached as an opportunity. An opportunity for offering regeneration to the wandering spirits of the travelers of tomorrow.

Need inspiration? The Croatian wheelchair quadriplegic traveler Slaven Škrobot broke all stereotypes, conquering one milestone at a time. In an equally extraordinary story, the Canadian Bert terHart spent the majority of the pandemic alone on the boat, sailing around the world.

A flegmatic domestic cat sitting next to the hyenas in Harar, Ethiopia, photo by Ivan Kralj
It’s a thin line between a wild hyena and a pet cat in Harar

Wildlife encounters skipped his journey, which probably speaks a lot about that environmental crisis I mentioned earlier.

But there is good news for Canary Islands visitors; Tenerife is home to two dozen types of whales and dolphins! For those who prefer solid ground under their feet, the Botanical Garden in Puerto de la Cruz is highly recommendable.

Reconnecting with nature is a rewarding way of paying respect to life on this special planet. The hyena man of Harar introduced me to a very unique partnership of humans and Africa’s second-largest predator. While spotted hyenas serve as well-fed communicators with Harar saints, in Nara Deer Park, the Japanese feed the messenger of Shinto gods – the deer.

In 2020, I’ve written about quite unique places of worship. The Chicken Church of Indonesia has nothing to do with chicken, but it has everything to do with love. Lalibela churches in Ethiopia are carved in the mountain. This undeservedly less known world wonder is an important pilgrimage site for Orthodox Christians. The Vietnamese did not need to drill the mountains to build shrines; they just entered them. Am Phu Cave is one of these holy places, and vividly presents the afterlife in – Hell.

Favorite country – Greece

Naxos Chora as seen from Portara viewpoint, Greece, photo by Ivan Kralj
Naxos is often overshadowed by its popular neighbor Paros, but has so much to offer!

In 2020, the total number of countries I’ve visited didn’t change – it’s still 48. Besides a short summer trip to the coast of Croatia, I spent the majority of this lockdown year in my flat in Zagreb, with only (?) 83 days abroad.

Successfully navigating between changing COVID regulations, and with an intention to approach traveling only as a safe activity, I managed to visit Serbia, Greece, Hungary, Switzerland and Germany in those three months abroad.

Nearly two months of 2020 I’ve spent in my new favorite country – Greece.

In 2018, it was my first time there. I’ve been visiting Mount Athos, exploring the Delphi center of the world, enjoying Naoussa Paros and Cyclades Islands hotels.

There is a lot to fall in love with in Greece, and I fell head over heels for the Cycladic archipelago! The cheap flight ticket to Crete and convenient ferry connections enabled easy island hopping that in 2020 included Santorini, Kimolos, Syros, Paros, Naxos, Mykonos, Amorgos, and Donousa.

While it’s hard to pick one favorite, and I definitely have many, I will mention the one that positively surprised me the most, and made me pick the best things to do in Naxos. While all mentioned islands deserve a visit, Naxos blends quite an intriguing mixture of nature, culture, gastronomy, history, mythology, and archeology.

Favorite city – Basel, Switzerland

"Burghers of Calais" sculpture by Auguste Rodin in front of the Kunstmuseum, one of the best museums in Basel, Switzerland, photo by Ivan Kralj
Basel is the city of museums

In my reduced yearly travels, I did manage to pick a favorite new city! Basel is located just on the border of the three countries (Switzerland, France and Germany).

It is considered the Swiss cultural capital, and the museums in Basel are especially worth visiting. I explored them for four weeks, and couldn’t get enough!

The city is also home to Basel Zoo, the most visited paid attraction in entire Switzerland! Zolli is praised for its successful breeding program for endangered species. In the end, your enjoyment will depend on your stand towards the whole idea of animals in captivity, which I thoroughly discussed in my review.

I will be definitively publishing more content on Basel in 2021, so watch this space!

Favorite hotel stay – The Menjangan Resort, Bali, Indonesia

Beach villa at The Menjangan Resort in Bali, Indonesia, photo by Ivan Kralj
Menjangan’s beach villa between the jungle and the sea

While hotels worked very little in 2020, I still picked a favorite from those I wrote about. This year’s winner of my humble attention is The Menjangan, a resort located in the West Bali National Park, Indonesia.

I already wrote about this beachfront accommodation in 2017, recommending it as one of the Bali top resorts. But two years later, I decided to pay it another visit, for a dedicated review.

The Menjangan did not leave space for disappointment again. At the meeting point of the jungle and the sea, this hotel is a wonderful and wonder-full destination for everyone interested in nature and wildlife.

The Menjangan is a member of the Lifestyle Retreats, together with boutique hotels such as The Santai or The Bale Bali. If you are traveling to the island of gods, you could also check these luxury escapes in Bali!

For the best prices, book your stay at The Menjangan here!

Favorite food experience – Room delivery

Bento breakfast in The Santai villa in Bali, Indonesia, photo by Ivan Kralj
Japanese bento is just one of many breakfast options you can order to your villa in The Santai, Bali

Whether you spent 2020 in your house or even found a moment to check-in at some hotel, there is one food experience that dominated the gastronomy business in the time of COVID-19 restrictions – delivery of food to your door. Spending time in restaurants with a group of strangers suddenly became a hazard.

From the room delivery experiences Pipeaway wrote about in 2020, I’d like to highlight the one at The Santai Bali. While this small resort has its in-house restaurant, eating in the privacy of one’s spacious villa is a valuable alternative. Japanese bento breakfast, mie goreng, or any-style eggs go well together with delicious morning boosters. There is a solid vegetarian menu too. Plus, you get a jar of cookies!

At Aria Villas Ubud, they were bringing surprises all day long! Floating breakfast in the morning (if you want to try eating in your villa’s plunge pool), refreshing ice-cold popsicles in the afternoon, and Balinese pancakes as a midnight snack will make you wanna keep your villa doors always open! Aria Villas is also a clear winner of the most liked images on our Instagram account (four out of the top 9 were taken exactly there!).

Hotel Tugu Lombok is the third name I’d like to mention here. While your food can actually be delivered anywhere on its vast territory, I was especially thankful for the room service of traditional healing tea when I checked in with food poisoning I got at some restaurant in Bali.

Pipeaway’s top articles of 2020

Here’s the top list of Pipeaway’s articles published in 2020! They have attracted the most attention in the last year! Check if you’ve missed them!

Baengnokdam crater lake inside of the Hallasan volcano, Korea's highest mountain, Jeju Island, South Korea, photo by Ivan Kralj1. Jeju Island Attractions: Visit the Korean Island of Love and Lava!

The southernmost part of South Korea is often called Korean Hawaii. Jeju Island has a fantastic landscape sculpted by volcanic activity, providing hiking opportunities, cultural and entertainment parks, and fertile ground for tasty tangerines you cannot find anywhere else!

Dramatic trench in front of Bet Gabriel-Rufael, the twin church cut out of a solid rock in Lalibela, Ethiopia. Photo by Ivan Kralj2. Lalibela Church Guide: Rock-hewn Churches of the Ethiopian Jerusalem

A strong bastion of Orthodox Christianity, Ethiopia has a number of churches you will find where you least expect it – in the mountains! One of the larger complexes of such rock-hewn churches is located in Lalibela, a town in northern Ethiopia and the famous pilgrimage site.

3. 14 Best Things to Do in Malta Before It Sinks

The sinking island of Malta is an example of how climate change affects our planet. With its megalithic temples, Roman catacombs, medieval forts, defensive walls and spectacular coastline, Malta offers a lot of content worth preserving.

Oldies, but goldies

Articles from South Korea published in 2019 jumped into the most-read posts top list and kicked out some of the all-time favorites. Here’s the top three in 2020!

1. Korean NSFW: Jeju Loveland Sculpture Park in Pictures
2. Selecting a Plane Seat: 5 Reasons why Last Row should be First Choice
3. 7 Best Korean Desserts to Try in Seoul: From Sugar Ball to Bingsu

With more than 57 thousand views, the article on the benefits of sitting at the back of a plane remained the most popular post on Pipeaway.

Social media

Readers still find Pipeaway.com mainly through the organic search (73,8 %) or direct visit (13,3 %). The social media acquisition slightly grew from 8,3 to 11,1 % in 2020.

The most widespread way of reaching Pipeaway through social networks in 2020 was Facebook (68,3 %). Pipeaway’s Facebook page still has a significant number of 12k followers and publishes content on a daily basis.

The second-largest social media traffic was channeled through Pinterest (20 %). Pinterest follows grew from 718 in 2019 to 763 in 2020, with 20k monthly viewers, and 227.500 people who have seen or engaged with our pins.

The third most important network in 2020 was Twitter (6,1 % of social media acquisition came from there). Pipeaway’s Twitter account is currently followed by 1394 users, compared to 1238 in 2019.

Top nine of the most popular images on Pipeaway's Instagram account in 2020
The Chicken Church of Java attracted the most attention on Pipeaway’s Instagram in 2020, followed by some traveling moments in Bali, South Korea, Croatian Istria, and Vietnam

Instagram brought only 3 % of social media traffic, and even Pipeaway’s Instagram followers’ base decreased by 9 % in 2020. We have 6369 followers at the moment.

Pipeaway’s Youtube channel is out of my regular focus, but it has still grown from 77 to 105 subscribers last year. The most popular video there was again Cambodian New Year celebration with Songkran water fights, now with 12k views. This event was the reason for an invitation to talk about the New Year celebrations on Croatian Radio.

Pipeaway’s newsletter is a bimonthly wrap-up, coming directly to your mailbox. Please subscribe if you would like to be up to date with Pipeaway’s best content. In its third year, the newsletter had 1,4k subscribers!

Social responsibility

In 2020, we finished our Circus of Postcards project, the fundraising for Arba Minch Circus, an Ethiopian social circus group working with children and youth at risk. We managed to collect 1k dollars for them.

Thank you

Blogs do not happen just magically. Besides an invested effort, the support of others is a crucial ingredient for a successful outcome.

That is why I need to express my gratitude to the management of all hotels, restaurants, tour operators, and activity organizers who recognized the value of working with Pipeaway.

My biggest ‘thank you’ goes to people who generously shared their time and space and everything during my longest away-from-Croatia periods. In 2020, those were definitely Nikos in Greece, and Mladen in Switzerland. Thanks for being family.

There are also friends, new ones and old ones, who contributed to my journeys by letting me surf couches in Belgrade (Aleksandar), Athens (Thanasis, Christos), Budapest (Jonnathan, Kasidid, Arian), and Rovinj (Corrado). Thanks for coping with me!

Thank you all for supporting Pipeaway’s journeys!

Where next?

Can anyone predict anything after 2020 has happened? The vaccine will probably lower down the defensive guard of countries and traveling will eventually resume. In which way, we will still have to see.

Traveling is sometimes the worst enemy of travel blogging. Maybe we should appreciate lockdowns as blessings for our ‘to do’ lists

Before this happens, I imagine going back to the keyboard and typing down many stories still waiting to be written. Paradoxically, traveling is sometimes the worst enemy of travel blogging, and maybe we should appreciate lockdowns as blessings for our ‘to do’ lists. Or at least for reflection time.

Nevertheless, I’m sure at least some travels will happen in 2021, and I will be here to report it.

If you have any idea on where should I go, please leave a comment under this post! I’d love to hear about your plans for piping away too!

Safe travels!

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The year of 2020 was the year of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the year with practically no tourism. Only some of us managed to travel, and the world we traveled through changed radically - from overtourism to deserted beaches, the jump was extreme.This is Pipeaway's 2020 year in review!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you click on them and make a purchase, Pipeaway might make a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting our work!
Ivan Kralj

Editor

Award-winning journalist and editor from Croatia

4 Comments
  1. This post definitely made me think about the issues in the world and the oversaturation of tourism all around the planet. On the one hand it’s lovely to travel and see the world, yet on the other nature has really made a bit of a comeback during Covid such as with the return of life in the coral reef.

    I’m glad you’ve been socially responsible with your travelling during these unprecedented times even at the potential cost of your content. It sounded like you still had a productive and enjoyable time exploring the few countries you did!

    I was meant to go to Korea last year so the korean articles sound right up my alley.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Annie!
      The Earth definitely needs some rest from us travelers, and hopefully, the effects will not be just short-term.
      As for South Korea, I definitely miss it, and would love to return soon!
      I wish you a safe and fulfilling 2021!

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the whistling signal for the ship about to
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Pipeaway is a travel blog mapping the extraordinary people, places and passions.
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