Yesterday activist travel company Responsible Travel launched Crowded Out, a documentary about the growth of overtourism which is a consequence of exponential growth in travel and tourism bumping up against the economic, social and environmental limits to growth. The issue is being raised primarily by local communities, angered by the behaviour and social impacts of mass tourism, and by the economic impacts on rental property and the retail offer in high streets and markets. The environmental impacts of the untaxed and unconstrained growth in air travel is of concern to those only too well aware of the consequences of climate change.
The limits to growth are not just an issue for travel and tourism as the Wall Street Journal has described tourism as currently “generating a global backlash”. Watch the film to see Justin Francis and Responsible Travel’s take on the issue.
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. It 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.
I discussed the issues with Justin Francis a few months ago. The problem is not going to go away – we need to work out how to cope with it.
The challenge for businesses and destination marketing organisations is that they no longer have a free hand to use the places that people live and work in to attract visitors. The residents, whose place it is, are beginning to rebel and consumers are all too aware that some destinations are not what they were. The challenge now is to develop ways of “Coping with Success”.
In September there will be a conference in Plymouth, Loved to Death? with protected area managers and academics addressing the challenge in national parks and on reserves.
At WTM London in November, we have high level panels with destination cities, and Barcelona will be offering a workshop – your opportunity to learn about which initiatives have worked there.
Coping with Success
We need to share knowledge about how to cope with success. If you know of destinations which are coping with success or are dealing with it as a destination then enter the World Responsible Tourism Awards this year – closing date 6th August
The Best for Managing Success category is looking for destinations and attractions which have engaged in managing tourism when experiencing a level of growth which threatens to undermine local acceptance of tourism or where the quality of the tourist experience is threatened. There has been mounting concern in the media around the world over the last two years about “overtourism”. We are seeking to avoid using this language and to rather focus on the success which destination and attraction managers have had in managing their success in attracting significantly larger volumes of tourists and day visitors.
 For more on the causes, antecedents and management of overtourism see The Challenge of Overtourism