The topic of overtourism has received its fair share of airtime this year.
But we’ve reached the end of the year now, so rather than haranguing on about the damage overtourism is doing, let’s focus on the future, and the changes we could make to help locals and travellers alike.
Thankfully, that is exactly what a recent report from World Travel and Tourism Council in partnership with McKinsey is attempting to do.
Titled ‘Coping with Success: Managing Overcrowding in Tourist Destinations‘, one of the biggest takeaways from the report is its proposition of establishing travel limits.
Filtering tourist numbers, or as the report calls it, ‘Smoothing visitors over time’, could be our best bet for easing the tense situation.
According to the report, “Many destinations suffer from imbalanced influxes of visitors from one season, day of the week, or time of day to another”.
“It is particularly important for destinations facing a degraded tourist experience, overloaded infrastructure, threats to nature, or threats to culture and heritage to develop tactics to “smooth” these imbalances,” it adds.
It details the multitude of ways destinations are already establishing limits or ‘daily caps’ to help curb numbers.
“While in some instances it makes sense simply to limit the number of visitors, for example, through a daily cap, we increasingly also see destinations establishing reservations and ticketing systems, using real-time data to nudge visitor behavior, and changing promotion strategies.”
For the Tourism Council and World Travel, the key is establishing ‘arrival limits’.
“Restricting tourism is a tricky business, and it is likely to provoke opposition from those who may lose income—or fail to see growth—as a result.”
“Perhaps surprisingly, many of the private-sector leaders who spoke with us agreed that some destinations are hitting their limits.”
“What they want is to operate within clear, consistently enforced regulations. Several destinations have implemented arrival limits and quotas to protect their natural and cultural assets,” it adds.
It uses the Galápagos Islands as a good example of how implementing tougher limits on travellers can be instrumental.
“Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands, a veritable time capsule of plant and animal species and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, were placed on UNESCO’s “in danger” list in 2007.”
“The number of visitors to the islands had grown from 40,000 in 1990 to more than 145,000 in 2006, and the resident population had doubled in approximately the same period.
“Among other initiatives, the Ecuadorian government established regulations over the arrival and movement of visitors around the islands.
“In 2012, the government established a visit limit of 15 days and 14 nights per cruise ship, during which the ship may not visit the same site twice (with the exception of the Charles Darwin Research Station).”
The report then casts its eyes towards Dubrovnik, a city which is making a lot of noise in the overtourism space.
“Dubrovnik, Croatia, has also seen massive growth in tourist arrivals. In 2016 alone, the city’s walled old town, which is home to just over 1,000 people, welcomed 800,000 cruise-ship passengers.
“The city’s World Heritage Site status is at risk as a result, and the local community is restive.”
In August of this year, Dubrovnik decided to drastically cut the number of visitors allowed into its historical town centre, as well as looking at stripping back cruise allowances to help lighten the load.
The Croatian city announced it would ignore UNESCO’s recommendation to the number of entrants inside the medieval walls, choosing to halve it instead, as highlighted by the report.
“UNESCO has recommended that Dubrovnik allow a maximum of 8,000 visitors at a time—and the mayor has pledged to cut that maximum in half, to 4,000.”
“Enforcement mechanisms, which currently include visitor tracking via surveillance video cameras, will expand in 2018 to limits on cruise ship arrivals during peak times and day-trip facilitation by tour operators.”
Cruis ships were, and remain to be, a particularly common source of concern for port cities such as Dubrovnik, as detailed by the report.
“In 2014, public protests over cruise ships in Venice’s Giudecca Canal led to restrictions on the size and number of such ships,” it said.
“Although these restrictions were overturned, the cruise lines have taken voluntary actions; the Venice Port Authority is expecting 11.4 percent fewer passengers in 2017 than in 2016.”
“The city government, tourism operators, and residents are still seeking a long-term approach that balances the contributions of cruise ships with their drawbacks.”
Do you have something to say on this issue? Get in touch with Travel Weekly Editor Daisy Doctor here to share your thoughts.