Overtourism is coming to a destination near you

Overtourism is putting immense pressure on destinations around the world. From Bali to Phuket and from Venice to New Orleans and Ibiza, popular places are creaking under the weight of millions of visitors. 28 million people visited Venice last year, swamping (excuse the pun) the local population of 55,000.

Venice has for years considered limiting the those who enter the city and recently set a cap on the number of cars allowed in and provides ‘tourist only’ routes for accessing the most popular destinations.

15,000 people call the Greek island of Santorini home. Last year they ‘welcomed’ 2 million visitors. The mayor recently announced that only 8,000 can visit each day in an attempt to help retain its uniqueness.

In Bali, the government is trying to take back control of an out of control industry that is threatening to destroy the very island that has made it what it is. One estimate has it that 300 tonnes of waste enters the waters around the island every single day. Little wonder then that attempts to reclaim land for yet another mega project in the island’s Benoa Bay were met with fierce resistance from locals.

But potentially the most dramatic changes are happening in Ibiza, the hedonistic destination for mostly young, British holidaymakers looking for 2 weeks of mayhem. 3 million visitors arrived on the balearic island in 2017 and it seems as if the tiny island’s population of 150,000 has had enough. Earlier this year, Airbnb and other accommodation platforms were banned, open air bars must now close at midnight and club closing times are now 3am instead of 5am.

The tourist board has also taken steps to address the impact of tourism on the island, with its new ‘Love Ibiza’ campaign focusing on sustainable travel. Tourism has made Ibiza what it is today. Whether that is good or bad, only the locals can say. The Facebook page states, “We want to return to the peace and quiet of the traditional Ibiza.”

I was fortunate enough to visit Ibiza in 1980 when it was peaceful and traditional. Relatively anyway. it was a beautiful place with only a hint of the hedonism that was just around the corner.

My concern is that it will take a lot more than a quaint video to change it back to the peace and quiet of the traditional Ibiza. I believe that to reverse overtourism, or at least stall it, without impacting the economy of the destination, there needs to be the buy in of the local population. The Ibiza video suggests some buy in as it talks about sustainability but there doesn’t appear to be a clear direction on how this will be achieved.

Overtourism is a real threat to many destinations. A well thought out destination brand road map would make this a more compelling offering. Otherwise it becomes nothing more than a (well meaning) dream.

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