Last Friday, TimeOut reported on eleven “travel destinations that want tourists to stay away.” They reported: “Mass tourism is back, but these spots are fighting against the rising tide.”
TimeOut reports eleven examples. There are many more, from Seoul to Scotland, Sardinia to Skye, and Monterey to Majorca. A host of management strategies have been developed and tested.
The concept of overtourism has been with us since at least 2008 when it appeared in an integrated coastal zone management paper about Vietnam. Rafat Ali, who claimes that Skift coined the concept, wrote on Skift earlier this month that “The phrase “Overtourism” did its job since we coined it in 2016. Now it’s time to move on for more nuanced solutions.” Ali that its purpose was alarmist and “inducing fear wasn’t a side effect, it was the intent…”
Ali is right. The concept “is reductive and doesn’t bring out the nuanced solutions that are required.” He refers to O’Regan’s argument that it demonizes tourists whereas the focus should be on managing tourism to make it sustainable. Before Skift had even mentioned the concept, Barcelona was studiously avoiding demonizing tourists.
There are now a host of different tried and tested ways of managing tourism to avoid overtourism, just as there are a host of tried and tested ways of treating different kinds of cancer.
“Overtourism describes destinations where hosts or guests, locals or visitors feel that there are too many visitors and that the quality of life in the area, or the quality of the experience has deteriorated unacceptably.
Overtourism is the opposite of Responsible Tourism which is about using tourism to make better places to live in and better places to visit. Often both visitors and guests experience the deterioration concurrently.”
Overtourism exists, it is a problem that needs to be addressed destination by destination.
Overtouirsm, like cancer, remains a useful generic concept as the eleven examples cited in TimeOut this month demonstrates. We cannot expect to remove overtourism by ceasing to use the word. We need to apply the tried and tested solutions and manage tourism better.
Last March the city ran a campaign, particularly targeting British tourists “often considered the city’s rowdiest and most disruptive visitors. Brits who search for terms like ‘stag party Amsterdam’, ‘cheap hotel Amsterdam’, or ‘pub crawl Amsterdam’ are met with a video advert, like this one, warning them about the consequences of drinking too much, taking drugs, and causing trouble with their antisocial behaviour.
President Dolores Corujo has been vocal about wanting to attract a ‘higher quality’ of visitors who will spend more and, presumably, drink less. The island declared itself a tourist-saturated area early in 2023, although Ms Corujo quickly faced backlash from tourist reps like Jet2.
The Indonesian government is debating introducing a tourist tax as it looks to move from quantity to quality on the visitor front. Bali is also planning to ban tourists from renting motorbikes.
TimeOut reported back in May on plans to introduce a tourist tax, the “city will eventually launch a ticketing system to help prevent overtourism.” Initially planned for 2023, the introduction of the tax has been pushed back again, this time into 2024.
The city recognised that it had a problem in 2015 and it has arguably had more success in managing overtourism than any other city. It had been particularly pioneering and innovative in managing overtourism.
The Himalayan state enforces a daily minimum tourist spend of €182, although this does not currently apply to Indians, Bangladeshis, and Maldivians. Although in 2019 there was a discussion about requiring them to pay a ‘Sustainable Development Fee’ and a ‘permit processing fee’.
In 2019, cruise passenger numbers were capped at 8,000 per day, and tourists weighing over 100kg were banned from riding donkeys.
8. Amalfi Coast
In 2022 on the “Amalfi Coast took the measure of imposing a number plate system to stay on top of visitors. Under the new rules, cars with number plates ending in an odd number were allowed access to the coast’s 35km of beauty on one day, while cars with number plates ending in an even number were permitted to enter on the next. Local residents and public transport were exempt.”
9. Machu Picchu
Visitors can enter only during one of two designated time slots each day and “time spent at the citadel is capped at four hours (six if hiking up). They have introduced a very sophisticated ticketing system. The Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu is the one that runs out the fastest and they recommend that tickets are purchased three or four months in advance.
Since 2017 their marketing strategy has focused on the value of experiences over value for money. Boats were banned from Maya Bay, to restore nature and hundreds of dive sites were closed to tourists.
Malcolm Bell, the (outgoing) head of Visit Cornwall said in November last year: “said that visitors “fall into five unofficial categories: “At one level you have friends, then you have guests, then you have tourists, then you have bloody tourists, then you have f***ing emmets. You can quote me on that.” He explained that the aim was to attract “the right people at the right time of year.” He added: “The challenge we have is to get the friends, guests and tourists, who get us, then try and convert the bloody tourists, but forget the awkward people who are, ‘Why haven’t you got this?’, ‘Why haven’t you got that?’”