Tourism is on the rise in a big way - at times bringing with it overcrowding, high rents for locals, pollution, a general reduction in liveability, and a reduction in the quality of the destination itself. Fines for eating, drinking or sitting on historic fountains have been increased in Rome, and in Barcelona the tyres of an open-top bus were slashed and spray-painted across its windscreen was “El Turisme Mata Els Barris”: Catalan for “Tourism Kills Neighbourhoods.”
It’s becoming clear that unchecked tourism is getting to a point that it’s become harmful and is threatening communities as well as the future of tourism in the area. The issue of overtourism is not going away. Since tourism is growing exponentially, problems will only magnify - now is the time for leaders in the travel & tourism industry to take action.
How Much Has Tourism Grown In Recent Years?
The World Economic Forum recorded 1.2 billion international arrivals last year. European cities have been hit particularly hard with arrivals due to the growth of low-cost airlines such as Ryanair, which offers some flights for less than a meal at a pub. It’s no surprise then that anti-tourism protests by locals have mainly been centered in Europe, including Barcelona and Venice. These rankings of the worst cities for over-tourism in Europe in 2017 paint a picture of which urban centers have been hit the hardest:
What’s Fueling The Growth of Tourism?
We can point to many factors for fueling the growth of tourism, including changing family structures and the shifting nature of work. Arrivals by air and sea continue to grow, but the size of the destinations, medieval streets and museums remains the same. Here’s a breakdown of some of the main contributors:
#1. Low Cost Airlines and Cruise Ships
Tax exemptions on aviation fuel mean that airlines are able to keep fares low and increase the number of flights and destinations they can offer. This has inevitably lead to a boom in air travel. Cruise travel has also been on the rise, and is worth 35.5 billion USD per year. Cruiseliners burn one of the cheapest and most polluting diesels, allowing them to offer extremely low deals to passengers and increase marketing expenditure - pollution from these cruise ships has been making international headlines.
#2. A Rising Middle Class, Especially in India & China
Further fueling the rise of tourists is an increase in disposable income among the middle class. Particularly in highly populated China & India, the middle class has been gaining ground and is now using their disposable income, at least in part, to travel internationally.
#3. Technology & Social Media
Allowing us to connect like never before, social media and the widespread availability of the internet has helped to increase the desirability of travel. Hyperpopular travel instagrams and the rise of travel bloggers have inspired more and more people to spend their disposable income on jet-setting.
How Can Travel & Tourism Leaders Help Manage Overtourism?
We know that overtourism is a problem that needs to be better managed, but how can this be accomplished without reducing the many benefits that tourism brings?
#1. Spread out visitors throughout the country and away from hotspots
Taking cue from one of the most burdened cities, Venice has introduced a campaign titled “DETOURISM” to help spread visitors throughout the region and off the beaten paths. They’re promoting alternative routes and ideas for tourists including exploring "The Other Venice: the Lagoon Islands”. This tactic also appeals to the growing trend of tourists who are looking for a more authentic experience.
#2. Attracting Visitors Outside Peak Season
Another great tactic that’s being used to manage overtourism comes from Norway, who has focused marketing on alternative times to visit aside from the peak season. With peak season visits often being a main cause of overcrowding, encouraging tourists to visit outside of these times can help to alleviate the main negative effects of overtourism and even help sustain jobs year round.
“This has become a very relevant issue in certain destinations in the fjords. While we do still market our iconic destinations, our marketing only promotes alternative times to visit, trying to encourage tourists to come outside of the high season,” said Kristian B. Jorgensen, CEO of Fjord Norway. “When it comes to high-season marketing, we only present new or lesser-known destinations, trying to spread traffic throughout the region and decrease high-season pressure on our most popular icons.”
#3. Quality Vs. Quantity Approach
Other regions who have dealt with overtourism are taking a different approach: quality vs quantity. Instead of playing a numbers game, they’ve been focusing on offering more to the luxury market, which prices out a lot of travellers, but has the potential to maintain revenue levels with fewer crowds.
Luxury properties are popping up all over Reykjavik, such as the The Tower Suites, which includes a high-end collection of 8 exclusive 20th floor suites featuring the highest panoramic views of the city.
#4. Reducing Tourist Influx To Historic Sites
Cities that have been plagued by large hordes of tourists, including numerous docking cruise ships, have started enacting laws to limit cruise ship arrivals, especially during peak times. Dubrovnik, with a staggering numbers of visitors in recent years is considering this along with other reduction measures such as limiting the number of tour operators for day trips. This model of imposing limits mirrors what is currently done in high profile destinations like Machu Picchu.
Overtourism is a hot button issue, and there is a lot that can be done by travel & tourism leaders to improve the sustainability of tourism and reduce negative effects. Are you looking to learn more about travel & tourism? Check out our upcoming programs.