Tourism

Could overtourism spoil European summers forever?

Laine Fullerton

After the 2017 ‘summer from hell’ in Europe, tourism officials are scrambling to make some much-needed changes to curb chronic overcrowding in major cities and hotspots.

With European summer just a few months away, it is yet to be revealed what solutions will be implemented to keep the locals happy without slashing the tourist economy too significantly.

According to The Guardian, World Tourism Organisation Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “What we are facing is the clear need to step up the governance of tourist flows on the ground.”

In 2017, there were 1.3 billion tourist arrivals around the world, virtually doubling since the year 2000.

Half of these arrivals were on the shores of Europe.

Europe welcomed 671 million international tourist arrivals in 2017, a record 8 per cent growth in comparison to 2016.

For the eighth consecutive year, the buzzing continent has maintained its position as the leading destination worldwide.

The latest European Travel Commission’s ‘European Tourism 2017 – Trends and Prospects’ report predicts a three to four per cent increase in tourism this year.

The fear is that many European destinations still lack a proactive approach to sustainable tourism.

After multiple protests in some of Europe’s tourism hotspots last year, the fate of this year’s summer season remains unresolved.

Polite protests in some Spanish cities quickly turned sour as locals boldly wrote: “Tourists go home.”

At the ITB travel convention in Berlin last week, prominent industry insiders came together in the world’s biggest gathering of its kind.

Dubrovnik’s mayor, Mato Franković, capped the tourist limit into the medieval city to 4,000 per day, half of UNESCO’s 8,000 recommendation.

“We don’t want to go with the maximum, we want to go lower than that,” he told The Telegraph.

After UNESCO warned Dubrovnik their world heritage status was at risk in 2016, Franković believes the city needs to “reset” and hopes 2018 will allow that.

Amsterdam has also banned beer bikes, touring cars, new tourist shops and cruise ships from its city centre, and Airbnb now pays tourist taxes in the diverse city.

Meanwhile, Barcelona’s Tourism Director Joan Torrella insists that officials work with digital upstarts like Airbnb as opposed to confronting them.

As per The Guardian, Spanish officials have already introduced an online ticketing system for the Islamic palace of Alhambra, offering pre-booked slots for its 2.7 million annual visitors in an effort to spread out crowds.

The Greek island of Santorini is limiting cruise passengers to 8,000 per day this year.

While some solutions to help ‘smooth out’ tourists have been implemented, many of them are yet to be tested.

And there may not be much time for ‘trial and error’ as co-founder and executive chair of Intrepid Group, Darrell Wade, told TW the issue is now at “critical” status.

“If we don’t get it right it starts to kill the golden egg,” he said.

“If travellers are only ever seeing over-sold destinations with poor experiences and jaded locals, then they will stop travelling.”

Some destinations may simply just have too many tourists, while for other countries like Iceland it largely depends on where and when.

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