The term over-tourism came to global attention slightly over two years ago and has since continued to make the headlines. The phenomenon is not new – we have been discussing the negative impacts of mass tourism in recent years but using different terminology. The name over-tourism was coined by the founder of the Skift publication, Rafat Ali, and is self-explanatory as well as alarming in its nature. Hence, from the very beginning, it received significant press attention and is now used by tourism professionals all around the world, looking for ways to solve the problems associated with it.
The current state of over-tourism globally
According to the McKinsey report ‘Coping with success: Managing overcrowding in tourism destinations’, there are ten countries that account for almost two-thirds of all arrivals internationally. The European countries on that list are France, Spain and Italy. France is the most visited country in the world. The problem is not the large amount of tourists who are visiting the county, but rather the uneven spread of tourists and their concentration in particular areas, and there is therefore significant urgency to solve this problem.
Many articles have been written about over-tourism. I read them with great interest to understand how destinations are coping with the high influx of tourists, what measures are being taken, how it affects the local population and what else can event and tourism professionals do to reduce its negative impact.
To solve the problem, we need an integrated approach that involves all stakeholders. The recent UNWTO report ‘Overtourism? Understanding and Managing Urban Tourism Growth Beyond Perceptions’ suggested that ‘Tourism congestion needs to be addressed through cooperation: tourism and non-tourism administrations plus private sector, plus communities plus tourists.’
I agree with the suggestion that more companies within the private sector need to get on board to combat over-tourism, and sell products and services which help spread the tourism flow to less crowded areas and off the high season. Additionally, private travellers need to take more educated decisions and understand the pros and cons of visiting crowded locations.
The report went on to list 11 strategies to manage visitor flows in urban destinations. These approaches include focusing on hosting events in less visited parts of the city, promoting events and experiences off peak seasons, promoting new itineraries highlighting hidden attractions, reviewing regulations such as opening times and capacity to improve tourist flow at peak times, analysing current visitor segmentation and placing a focus on attracting low-impact target audiences, engaging local communities in developing local products and creating city experiences that benefit both travellers and locals, improving local infrastructure, engaging with local stakeholders, creating awareness and educating visitors. Such strategies will require monitoring with data. You can find the full list of strategies and further examples here.