Overtourism and how destinations get smarter about solving it is one of fifteen megatrends predicted to define travel in 2017 according to Skift.
The travel intelligence publisher said a global surge in tourism, driven by the growth of low-cost carriers and middle class families now holidaying overseas, has had deep ramifications for the world’s most popular destinations.
This includes overtourism, which it defined as “a potential hazard to popular destinations worldwide as the dynamic forces that power tourism often inflict unavoidable negative consequences if not managed well”. (see box).
Last year Skift took a deep dive into Iceland – an island nation “with the spectre of overtourism lurking on the horizon”.
It identified issues around environment, infrastructure, housing and the impact on residents’ quality of life, presenting striking parallels with other bucket-list locations including New Zealand.
Responses such as tariffs, taxes and regulation are being discussed by political and industry leaders of the Nordic nation where 350,000 played host to circa 1.6m foreign visitors last year.
The report also mentioned Venice as suffering from overtourism noting that in November locals rallied in the Italian city’s cobbled street protesting dramatic population loss, cruise ships, and rapidly declining quality of life.
On the solutions side, a policy of directing travellers out of hubs and city centres to suburbs and lesser known neighbourhoods was illustrated by New York.
For the last few years, the perennial US favourite has balanced its influx of tourists by pushing a five-borough strategy that gets visitors out of Manhattan and into Queens and Brooklyn neighborhoods they wouldn’t have set foot in 10 years ago.
It’s a release valve that spreads the tourist wealth, and disruption, around the city, according to the report.
Tourism body, NYC & Company, has done it “through compelling content and partnerships with local stakeholders, many of which have helped revitalise public spaces throughout the city”.
Skift also recognized the role played by Airbnb in getting visitors to new neighborhoods and demonstrating to hoteliers that smaller properties in previously ignored neighbourhoods may be a good idea after all.
A political response to the phenomenon was identified in Spain where in Barcelona the current mayor rose to power on a populist wave that demanded action.
So far this has included limits to approvals on new hotel construction and a crackdown on vacation rentals and Airbnb.
“As strategies go, it’s more reactive than prescriptive, but it’s a response that locals have rallied behind” the report said.
Skift concludes that the jury is still out on whether destinations such as these will be able to effectively manage tourism, or whether they will continue to struggle in the face of mounting backlash from their citizens.
Overtourism represents a potential hazard to popular destinations worldwide, as the dynamic forces that power tourism often inflict unavoidable negative consequences if not managed well. In some countries, this can lead to a decline in tourism as a sustainable framework is never put into place for coping with the economic, environmental, and sociocultural effects of tourism. The impact on local residents cannot be understated either.