Published on Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Top tourism destinations ravaged


Peak overtourism? Or is it just globalisation at work?

This week there has been yet another spate of wild stories about 'overtourism' in destinations.

All over the world the mass media are complaining about mass tourism hordes wrecking precious destinations. Venice and Dubrovnik are sinking under the weight of cruise passengers who denude the destinations of cheap Chinese souvenirs and clog the cities works for real local citizens.

In Lisbon and Barcelona short term 'Live like Locals tourists' push up rents for real locals, gentrify city centres and leave a homeless problem behind them.

In Florence and Prague and Bologna herds of tourists on fat-tired pushbikes and Segways swerve past locals in an effort to do sightseeing against the clock and get to the next iconic site to snap instagrams and consume fast foods.

The same type of horror story is told in hundreds of other destinations like Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, in Bath and in London and now in the USA too.

The travel industry has been forecasting this problem for at least 40 years to my personal knowledge and I've certainly been writing about it for 20 of those. So now it's arrived none of us can say that we couldn't see it coming. Like Graham McKenzie says in his US story.

There is no point in blaming Priceline ( etc) or Airbnb. They are just the instant cash machines that saw the opportunity and sucked everything they could out of it. Wouldn't you grab a quick easy !00bn bucks if you could?

Everybody has, of course, a complex solution to the problem - all the pundits and academics can tell destinations, tour operators and travel agents what to do for a fee

But the simple fact is politicians are responsible for making the lives of their voters better not worse. Destinations are governed by politicians - it is up to them to manage their own tourism. And those that have slapped on big taxes and reduced their tourism inflows of coaches and cruisers are doing exactly the right thing. They are taking the opportunity to make money just like Airbnb - but for all of their citizens, rather than just their tourism community.

For years the destinations have characterised their success in numbers, and the travel industry has been happy to play the numbers game too.

We all thought that more pax, more movements, more aircraft, bigger cruisers, better load factors, lower prices, better occupancy rates would deliver much, much more money.

And it has. But it isn't sustainable it it? And the next overtourism problem?

The airlines still spurt 80% of tourism-related emissions into the atmosphere. Here ICAO has happily kicked the problem into the long grass. No overtourism caps for them as they still fill up on tax free fuel in the quest for ever more big big numbers.

And the cruisers whose emissions are off the charts and whose year on year pax increases have been unreal.

Valere Tjolle

Ps Cards on the table - I'm  joint founder of the Top100 Sustainable Destinations. 


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  • Tourism Invasion

    As you note, this is a serious problem and many - if not most - the over-tourism is the result of deliberate government policies to increase revenues. The problem is that for every $100 spent, only $5 stays in the destination. We are fighting a battle in Georgia - especially in Kakheti and in the mountains where busloads of tourists breeze through from Tbilisi and never stay in villages for more than a couple of hours. Local residents recognize the problem and we've had a very good reception when we talk about community control and sustainable practices. The promotion of mass tourism is detrimental to the environment and local cultures. But, national governments - especially in Tbilisi - are not getting the message so it needs support from the bottom-up.

    By Richard Shepard, Wednesday, June 6, 2018

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