Arrivals by international tourists have virtually doubled since the year 2000, with 1.2 billion travellers crossing borders for leisure in 2016.
Overtourism is by no means a silly fad, it’s a very real threat to the travel industry as we know it.
And now, US travel trade publication, Skift, has created a framework for how the industry could potentially address the overwhelming issue that all these global tourists are presenting to the world’s most fragile and sought-after attractions.
Drawing from what certain destinations have successfully implemented to slow and limit the influx of tourists, Skift has identified way responses the industry would be wise to take note of.
Let’s take a little peek at some of their solutions, and if you want to read their comprehensive framework, you’ll find the full article on Skift here.
1. Limiting transportation options
More flights, global cruise access, and the expansion of Low Cost Carriers means the world has never been so open to tourists.
Per Skift, the CEO of European Tour Operators Association, Tom Jenkins, said tourism is “not normal”.
“Cities are designed for tourism to disrupt normal activity,” he said. “When you get foreigners arriving somewhere exerting financial influence over supply, you get a phobia.”
Skift suggests making it more difficult to access destinations, by limiting cruise ship tenders or access of LCCs to airport terminals, hence less visitors can enter.
Earlier this year, the Mayor of Dubrovnik put his foot down when he announced he would be limiting the number of cruise lines coming into the city, and tourists entering the historical Old Town.
Citing the maximum recommendation of 8000 people entering Dubrovnik’s walls each day, the mayor said they would be cutting it to just 4000.
He also insisted he’d be cutting cruise ship arrivals in peak times of weekends, limiting numbers of passengers allowed into the town at any one time, and imposing restrictions on local tour operators as well.
Intrepid Travel’s co-founder Darrell Wade, told Travel Weekly that tourist taxes is one alternative to preserving destinations.
“Maybe the cruise passengers should be paying a port tax of $50 a person as well so that they leave some value behind for the town they are visiting?” he suggested.
2. Making it more expensive
Skift explained Iceland tourism officials said the best way to slow growth is to create more luxury offerings targeting the high-rolling travellers.
The luxury tour operators and cruise lines are, in their words, “better positioned to provide experiences outside of the traditional tourist areas in a destination”.
3. Better marketing and education
As Skift explained, many destinations haven’t worked out how to keep tourists from wrecking their cities, and the same goes for tour companies educating travellers on what they’re buying into.
They use the example of London, which has laid out a plane for the next 10 years to manage tourism growth, marketing outer regions like downtown and Westminster. New York’s also done the same with plans to take tourism into Brooklyn.
Wade told TW, “New York is a huge city and has very large capacity for tourism if managed properly.
“But when certain demand bubbles emerge then it creates stress points even in a city as large as New York.”
Wade added that education of places beyond the typical tourist traps is essential.
“Croatia is not a small country, with hundreds of beautiful islands and fantastic towns. So why is it that 90 per cent of tourists go to Dubrovnik?” he asked.
4. Better collaboration among stakeholders
Instead of tourism boards purely being responsible for promoting tourism, Skift claimed they should collaborate better with stakeholders to ensure they’re also planning and managing tourism.
Speaking to Skift, Megan Epler Wood, Director of the International Sustainable Tourism Initiative at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard School of Public Health, said it’s about measuring the impacts of tourism itself.
“It’s well-known tourists want to go to specific places at certain times, so we have to think of other ways of managing their use [of destinations],” she said.
Citing a local initiative, Skift talked about Tasmania and how they offer travellers free smartphones to track their movements and better understand traveller behaviour.
Another approach, Intrepid’s Wade told TW, is to think about what people really want when they travel, and then building products around that.
“Customers are not stupid and rather than regurgitate the same tired old icons we need to create products that we are proud of.
“Overtourism is everyone’s problem. Agents, tour operators, cruise ship operators, CEOs, travellers, local communities and government all have roles to play.”
5. Protect overcrowded areas
“It takes a lot of work and very quickly these smaller communities can be overrun, much quicker than a city like Barcelona,” G Adventures Vice President of Buying and Contracting, Yves Marceau, told Skift.
Having detailed future-proofing plans to really rein in tourism, like the Galapagos Islands or Machu Picchu, is something that needs addressing if cities are to cope with heavy influxes of tourists.
Intrepid’s Wade told TW of a somewhat controversial solution he’d come up with.
“Most of the industry disagrees with me, but I think taxation has a significant role to play,” he revealed.
“If there was a $50 a night city bed tax in hotspots like Venice, Barcelona and Split, then tourist numbers would start to fall away a little, locals would start to be able to live in their cities again, and balance would start to be restored.”