Overtourism policies: Overcrowded cities, unwelcomed tourists

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Overtourism policies: Overcrowded cities, unwelcomed tourists

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Overtourism policies: Overcrowded cities, unwelcomed tourists

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Popular destination cities are pushing back against the rising number of tourists threatening their local culture and infrastructure.
    • Author:
    • Author name
      Quantumrun Foresight
    • May 25, 2023

    Locals are growing tired of the millions of global tourists who flock to their towns, beaches, and cities. As a result, regional governments are implementing policies that will make tourists think twice about visiting. These policies may include increased taxes on tourist activities, stricter regulations on vacation rentals, and limits on the number of visitors allowed in certain areas.

    Overtourism policies context

    Overtourism occurs when visitors drastically outnumber and overcrowd areas, resulting in long-term changes to lifestyles, infrastructures, and the well-being of residents. Aside from locals observing their cultures being eroded and replaced by consumerism like souvenir shops, modern hotels, and tour buses, overtourism damages the environment. Residents also suffer from overcrowding and rising living costs. In some cases, residents are even forced to move away from their homes due to high rental prices and the conversion of residential areas into tourist accommodations. Furthermore, tourism often results in low-paying jobs that are unstable and seasonal, leaving locals struggling to make ends meet.

    As a result, some hotspots, such as those in Barcelona and Rome, are pushing back against their governments’ push for global tourism by staging protests, claiming that their cities have become uninhabitable. Examples of cities that have experienced overtourism include Paris, Palma de Mallorca, Dubrovnik, Bali, Reykjavik, Berlin, and Kyoto. Some popular islands, such as the Philippines’ Boracay and Thailand’s Maya Bay, had to close down for several months to allow coral reefs and marine life to recover from excessive human activity. 

    Regional governments have started to implement policies that will reduce the number of visitors to popular destinations. One approach is to increase taxes on tourist activities such as hotel stays, cruises, and tour packages. This strategy aims to discourage budget travelers and encourage more sustainable tourism. 

    Disruptive impact

    Rural tourism is an emerging trend in overtourism, where activity is shifting to small coastal towns or mountain villages. The adverse effects are more devastating to these smaller populations as amenities and infrastructures can't possibly support millions of tourists. Since these small towns have fewer resources, they can't constantly monitor and control visits to natural sites. 

    Meanwhile, some hotspots are now limiting the number of monthly tourists. An example is the Hawaiian island of Maui, which proposed a bill in May 2022 that would cap tourist visits and ban short-term campervans. Overtourism in Hawaii has led to high property prices, making it impossible for locals to afford rent or even own houses. 

    During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic and with the growing popularity of remote work, hundreds relocated to the islands, making Hawaii the most expensive US state in 2022. Meanwhile, Amsterdam had decided to push back by banning Airbnb short-term rentals and diverting cruise ships, aside from raising tourist taxes. Several European cities have also formed organizations to lobby against overtourism, such as the Assembly of Neighborhoods for Sustainable Tourism (ABTS) and the Network of Southern European Cities Against Tourism (SET).

    Implications of overtourism policies

    Wider implications of overtourism policies may include:

    • More global cities passing bills that would limit monthly or annual visitors, including raising visitor taxes and accommodation prices.
    • Booking of accommodation services, such as Airbnb, being heavily regulated or banned in some areas to prevent overcrowding and overstaying.
    • More natural sites like beaches and temples being closed to visitors for months at a time to prevent environmental and structural damage.
    • Regional governments building network infrastructures and subsidizing small businesses in rural areas to encourage more tourists to visit them instead.
    • Governments funding more sustainable and diversified local economies by encouraging a wider range of businesses and activities to lessen a region’s dependence on tourism.
    • Local governments and businesses reprioritizing the long-term interests of their communities over short-term gains from tourism.
    • The prevention of the displacement of residents and the gentrification of urban neighborhoods. 
    • The development of new technologies and services that improve the tourism experience without increasing the number of visitors. 
    • Reduced pressure to provide low-cost, low-quality services to tourists, so businesses can focus on providing high-quality jobs and services that support sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
    • Improved quality of life for residents by reducing noise and pollution.

    Questions to consider

    • Is your city or town experiencing overtourism? If so, what have been the effects?
    • How can governments prevent overtourism?

    Insight references

    The following popular and institutional links were referenced for this insight: