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Published on Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Politicians accused of using over-tourism to win votes

Politicians in some cities are clamping down on 'over-tourism' to win votes, claims the founder and CEO of one of the world's largest sightseeing businesses.

Enrique Ybarra of City Sightseeing Worldwide told the ABTA Convention that people should see mass tourism not as a problem but as a challenge.

"We can't put up barriers to tourism, I think tourism needs to keep growing, it is a big employer, we just need to manage properly in different cities the flow of tourism," said Ybarra. "In some cities it is a political issue, politicians use it to gain votes."

Whilst citing Barcelona as a city trying to restrict tourism, Ybarra said others such as Amsterdam were attempting to 'de-centralise' tourism by taking visitors by bus and by boat to less over-crowded areas, reducing pressure on the tourist hotspots and spreading the benefits of tourism.

Stuart Leven, vice president EMEA and MD of RCL Cruises, said Dubrovnik was another example of a city that was working with operators to successfully reduce over-crowding.

He said the city, which has suffered from its association with the hit TV programme Game of Thrones, began working with visiting cruise lines last year to smooth out arrivals and divert passengers to different locations within the city to prevent everyone arriving in the same place at the same time.

"The real solution [to over-tourism] sits with the destination itself, but it has to be done in partnership," said Leven. "Politicians and locals and tourists can all benefit, but it can only be done if we all work together."

Leven told the conference that two-thirds of world tourism goes to just 20 countries, half of which are in Europe, many in the Mediterranean. "We need to open up the rest of the world," he said.

ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer said that while peer-to-peer platforms such as Airbnb weren't to blame for over-crowding, they were part of the problem.

"We are beginning to see some of the adverse effects," said Tanzer, which include rent increases for locals as people choose to put their homes on Airbnb instead of making them available for long-term lets, tourists making a noise late at night in residential areas, and rental cars taking up scarce parking spaces in cities.

Ybarra said it was important for the industry to work with locals and politicians to find a solution, but when delegates at the Travel Convention were asked if the travel industry was doing enough to address the challenges of tourism growth, 83% said no.

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