After featuring as a hot topic at the ITB trade fair, it looks like over tourism is back in the news cycle.
Last year, we saw cities across Europe rebelling against the endless influx of tourists, from Dubrovnik culling cruise ships to Amsterdam banning new hotels souvenier shops, the issue has definitely taken its toll on the industry.
Overtourism doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon and is predicted to get much worse in the future if the industry doesn’t start coming up with some innovative and decisive actions soon.
Trailblazers Intrepid Travel have been onto overtourism for a while now, so we had a chat with their CEO, James Thornton, to find out what can be done to counter the threat of over tourism.
“It’s important to ensure that the growth in travel is sustainable,” said Thornton.
“There are certain places in the world where tourism is causing a detrimental impact in cities like Dubrovnik or Barcelona, where you’ve got big cruise ships turning up and people going through a city and not spending any money and then getting out again”
“Tourism needs to be beneficial to local communities and local economies and local people because if it isn’t sustainable then in the very nature of it, it won’t continue.”
Thornton believes the key to stopping tourism from having a detrimental impact on local communities is to provide unique experiences that engage with the local economy.
“Countries have so many fantastic places to go and visit, I was recently lucky enough to travel through South America and you find that sometimes, the iconic tourist sites aren’t the best places to visit,” he said.
“The best places are often off the beaten track, so in a place like Nicuragua you’ve got Granada, the cultural centre, then half an hour down the road there are fantastic volcanos on tempe island where you can get out, really meet the local communities and stay in some very local accommodations have some very fantastic local experiences.”
“It’s about making sure tourism dollars get spread out into different areas, that’s very important.”
He emphasised Intrepid’s focus on engaging the local community.
“90 per cent of Intrepid’s travellers go to developing world countries and in those developing world countries it’s often not a cultural expectation for females to be seen in the company of foreigners, definitely not foreign men for instance, especially not on trips that go overnight,” Thornton said.
“So we have a real focus on encouraging female tour leaders to be able to work in our roles, especially in countries where it really isn’t culturally acceptable, like India, like Morocco, we are working actively to try to encourage more female leaders to take roles in those countries with us.”
“And we’re doing that by recruiting specifically in universities, recruiting in the local beauty salons, and its proven to be quite successful.”
“In India two years ago we had no female leaders apply for an intake of leaders so our local general manager went out and started advertising specifically for female leaders and in the first year of having done that 11 of our 66 leaders were female which was great.”
“It’s got to the point where this year 22 of our leaders in India are female.”
“So it’s about changing the mindset and rising above cultural norms I suppose.”