Impact of Overtourism


Tourism is not the problem

If you are an avid traveller and have read the first and second articles on overtourism you might be tempted to think that the negative effects of tourism discussed are severe enough that tourism should be curtailed to a minimum. However, that cannot be further from the argument made: Tourism can be a great force of development and prosperity.

We acknowledge that exploring the world and what it has to give and exposing oneself to different cultures and nations are one of the best things one can do for self-growth and improvement, and there’s nothing more rewarding after months of hard work, than a week on a beautiful beach in a far-flung destination. Yet, the growth of anti-tourism sentiment in many European countries in recent years, has shown that when tourism is not managed properly, it can have the potential to cause great harm and instabilities to the local communities of the destination countries.

Therefore, in this final part of the “Overtourism” series, we wish to explore how people can continue to enjoy their long-awaited vacations, while avoiding (or at least minimizing) the damage to the environment, the host country, and its communities.


Solutions on an individual level

There are multiple steps one can take when planning a vacation to make sure they are a responsible future tourist and traveler. Firstly, study the destination you wish to visit, research its inhabitants, their local rules and regulations, what they think of tourists, and how overtourism is affecting their daily lives.


Travel off-peak

Off-season is basically the opposite of peak season, so before buying a plane ticket and booking a hotel stay, check the peak season for that destination, and simply avoid it. Traveling off-peak can sometimes come as disadvantageous, as some hotels, theme parks and popular sights and attractions might be closed, and one might miss out on certain seasonal events, e.g. festivals. Many countries also, don’t enjoy a year-round great weather. In some places, winters can have severe weather conditions, like hurricanes and storms, while other places, can have scorching hot summers. For example, hikers can be subjected to slippery tracks and tourists to heavy downpours. Yet some adventurous folks seem to enjoy these natural weather conditions when on vacation and find them equally exciting and more daring. But not only will one save on flights and accommodation [1], but going when it’s least popular, they can enjoy empty streets, less overcrowded tourist spots, zero queues and more freedom to move around, and they will often get to see a side of the country that the regular tourist never gets to see. But most importantly, the impact on rush hours will be a lot less and the implications on the local community going about their daily lives will diminish by folds.

But let’s say one still wants to visit Venice in its best season or enjoy a summery vacation on a lively beach in Spain, then they ought to consider the “shoulder season”. It is typically those couple of months between off-season and peak-season and it is purely the best of both worlds. Planning a vacation in this short time-frame, offers a chance to experience decent weather, fewer crowds, and a local tourist industry that is fully operational and ready to serve.

Besides, when vacationing out of peak-season, any money spent can help small businesses thrive and compete in an industry dominated by global corporations, and overall support the host country’s economy be more stable between seasons.


Support local business

When planning their vacation, tourists should minimize booking at expensive hotels and large tour companies with their prepackaged holiday deals, as though some have regulations on sustainable water & energy consumption and green-friendly policies, their profits rarely do, if ever, go to local communities.[2] This issue can be rectified by trying out a family-run small restaurant serving authentic traditional food or going on tours operated by a private local tour guide. By getting behind these small businesses and local entrepreneurs instead of relying on large international enterprises, one can add a richer cultural experience to their vacation and contribute to the local community.


Respect for local culture

While on holiday, one should learn all about the local customs and norms, and make sure they adhere to and respect them. Accepting that they are an outsider to the realm they are in, and they are only there to experience it, not dominate it or ruin it.


Stay longer at destinations and in central hotels

Many travelers these days go on weekend vacations, this means they now have very cramped schedules and their exploration is restricted to one to three days. This creates a haste and abuse of public transport hampering the smooth commute of locals going about their daily business. So, staying longer and staying in central hotels, reduces noise pollution in quiet neighborhoods and allows tourists to have more casual strolls instead of putting extra pressure on public transport to get to their destinations. Also, using hotels minimizes reliance on Airbnb and such services. This will lessen their contribution to locals’ displacement, rising real estate prices and non-availability of long-term lease contacts. [3]


Be environmentally mindful

her thing to keep in mind is, if one is an environment-conscious person that cares about their carbon footprint in daily life, they should not neglect that mindfulness when abroad. But simply make sure to keep the overall consumption to a low and aim for a green-friendly vacation.


On an industry level

In November 2017, UNWTO co-organised, The World Travel Market ‘Minister’s Summit’, in London which reflected and summarized the situation with: “Overtourism: growth is not the enemy, it is how we manage it”. [4]

It is crucial that corporations, governments, NGOs, and local committees collaborate to establish new management policies and programs for tourism in their areas and raise awareness of controversial and important issues. [5]

One of the easiest ways for the tourism industry, corporations and online travel agents to minimize the effects of overtourism, is to start offering more appealing off-season packages for tourists to choose from. [6] This would stimulate events and activities during the off-season and reduce the seasonality of tourism. Which is considered as one of the main causes of Overtourism’s undesirable complications.

Tourism companies and businesses can work on hosting more events in the less visited parts of the destination country, to distribute tourists and dilute overcrowding. They should work on developing facilities and promoting attractions in locations currently not popular with tourists. As travelers will start showing interest in these off-the-beaten-track locations and visit them simply because they now can.

The industry should also study the feasibility of introducing timeslots to overcrowded attractions, to essentially cap the amount of tourists in these locations at a specific time. This may feel undesirable to the business, but it can do the opposite. When Overcrowding is eliminated both the tourists and the locals can have a better experience and it would translate into better reviews and revenues for the tourism industry. [6]

However, not all the steps the tourism industry have to take will benefit their bottom line. Global corporations in the tourism industry need to realize that their net profit rely on the sites remaining intact, the locals having decent lives, and the host nation’s economy remaining in good standing. These corporations need to concede that they must invest more in the local communities they affect with their industry and should focus on the long-term benefits of a stable and reliable host community.


On the government level

Our hope for positive change can’t fully rely on large corporations and the tourism industry. This is where the local government of the host nation can step in to protect the interests of its citizens and the future of its tourism industry.

It has become evident that governments need to rethink their ways in measuring success when it comes to tourism so their policies don’t focus merely on increasing numbers of visitor arrivals, but on the value these visits bring to the destination, in terms of lucrative profitability, local employment, cultural enrichment or even fair pay. [7]

The European Policy Department wrote a long 260-page report [7] on overtourism where they provided recommendations and guidelines to the European parliament regarding what policies can be implemented to resolve its negative effects. In their report they suggested several solutions and interventions that involve several parties to mitigate overtourism. One of them was the taxation of visitors so they support the cost of local infrastructure, public transport and municipal services like street lighting, in an objective to ensure that visitors pay their fair share of the services provided by the government.

This also highlights the necessity of socio-economic policies that alleviate the burden placed on residents, for example, entities like Airbnb and similar businesses could be better regulated. A reduction in its capacity through introducing a cap on bed numbers in specific areas and refusing licenses for new hotels is something to be investigated. [7] And in efforts to better distribute tourist pressure by managing tourist numbers through “De-marketing” and stopping all advertising of all the overvisited hotspots and promote other places that might instead need increased numbers of visitors. [8] Also, reducing the negative impact of tourist transport, which can be done through expansion of pedestrian zones and the development of more bicycle tracks.

Croatia now slams huge fines on misbehaving tourists and a tourist can be fined with around 700 euros for various offences like consuming alcohol in the streets or walking around with their shirts off. Cruise ships are now being diverted and banned from sailing past St Mark’s square, the city centre of Venice. [9] Government officials announced that, Botswana has introduced a £22 tax in attempt to raise some money to support conservation efforts of its safari hotspot. And in February 2018, Maya Bay in Thailand announced that it will close for three months to try and reverse the damage caused to its coral reef. [9]

Other strategies have to be implemented for the monitoring and resolution of overtourism long-term, like better data collection so future policy makers can better identify problematic effects of overtourism. As a result, they can surgically target such areas more effectively with special policies. In their report they advocated establishing a “European Overtourism Task Force”, that involves, private, public and third sector stakeholders, organizations and transport sectors, to provide annual reports on trends and monitoring of destinations at risk of overtourism, and to address the lack of attention given to them. All in the hopes of maximizing the benefits and minimizing the negatives of this rampant industry. [7]

Perhaps the answer is redressing the socio-economic balance in favor of the places being visited, by reducing the numbers to manageable levels, and perhaps swinging taxes on tourism is the answer. Whatever it may be, we can all agree that sustainable travel, being the concern of the local individual and the liability of the responsible traveler, should not remove any moral obligation from the government and state. As its ultimate goal should not only be to achieve lucrative income but to improve the economic welfare of its residents and to respect the lives of its people.

References

  1. [1] How to save money and avoid crowds while traveling [Internet]. CNN Travel. 2017 [cited 13 April 2019]. Available from: https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/off-season-travel-avoid-crowds/index.html
  2. [2] Theobald W. Global Tourism, Third edition [Internet]. Educatererindia.com. 2005 [cited 13 April 2019]. Available from: http://educatererindia.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Global-Tourism-3rd-ed.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0w3u-tUc8kMJjqFRvpkfFVS8aKdn-IQBs3dsGstQBq6LiotokWwylIzG0#page=107
  3. [3] Goodwin H. The Challenge of Overtourism [Internet]. Haroldgoodwin.info. 2017 [cited 13 April 2019]. Available from: http://haroldgoodwin.info/pubs/RTP'WP4Overtourism01'2017.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0qQlLPUvwqLU0g_oNnVmB9B2Gi6Ch6MIQW774EEH2aS6m_5O_T2VxBTZA
  4. [4] Oklevik O, Gössling S. Overtourism, optimisation, and destination performance indicators: a case study of activities in Fjord Norway [Internet]. Taylor & Francis. 2017 [cited 9 April 2019]. Available from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09669582.2018.1533020
  5. [5] Overtourism Has Travel Advisors Telling Their Customers to Please Go Somewhere Else [Internet]. Skift. 2019 [cited 9 April 2019]. Available from: https://skift.com/2019/03/05/overtourism-has-travel-advisors-telling-their-customers-to-please-go-somewhere-else/
  6. [6] ‘Overtourism’? Understanding and Managing Urban Tourism Growth beyond Perceptions [Internet]. E-unwto.org. 2018 [cited 9 April 2019]. Available from: https://www.e-unwto.org/doi/pdf/10.18111/9789284420070
  7. [7] Research for TRAN Committee - Overtourism: impact and possible policy responses [Internet]. Europarl.europa.eu. 2018 [cited 9 April 2019]. Available from: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2018/629184/IPOL_STU(2018)629184_EN.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3gwFOddPt8bkWNOmTYU9zf5FbtolHhX5RnoA4VhFd3HRtY5a5Vy7H1ZWE
  8. [8] Demarketing – Responsible Tourism Partnership [Internet]. Responsibletourismpartnership.org. 2019 [cited 13 April 2019]. Available from: https://responsibletourismpartnership.org/demarketing/
  9. [9] Hugh Morris. Hotels targeted in Majorca as anti-tourist protests hit airport [Internet]. The Telegraph. 2018 [cited 9 April 2019]. Available from: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/spain/majorca/articles/protests-airport-graffiti-hotels-majorca/