In some places the crowds became so intense it caused locals, environmentalists and even governments to complain that overtourism was pushing the region's fragile ecosystems to breaking point. Coral die-offs, vanishing marine life, damaged cultural sites and idyllic islands overflowing with plastic and human waste were all blamed on too many tourists -- and the unchecked development set up to attract and accommodate them.
Then the global coronavirus pandemic struck. Countries went into lockdown. International travel dramatically reduced. And the tourists were largely gone. For countries like Cambodia, where tourism contributes an estimated 30% of GDP, the effect has been devastating. Asia-Pacific is estimated to lose $34.6 billion due to the pandemic, the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) said.