January 11, 2018

Perhaps the biggest question for destinations and travel brands in 2018 and beyond will lay in managing the success of the industry and getting consumers to travel. For while mass tourism is important to many local and national economies, overcrowding is changing the perception of its benefits. 

According to Euromonitor’s Top 100 City Destinations Report, Barcelona, Venice and Santorini are high-profile examples of cities struggling with overcrowding. For Venice and Santorini, the main culprit is cruise visitors, with the latter city limiting the number of ships since early 2017.

An analysis of population density (inhabitants per sq. km) and traveller density (inbound plus domestic travellers divided by land area) by the report for the top 10 European cities shows how Amsterdam in particular is close to overcrowding.

In Turkey, Antalya is high on traveller density, but low for population, according to the Euromonitor report, while Istanbul is high on population density and low for travellers. Clearly, locals’ perception and traveller management play an important role in managing overcrowding.

Elsewhere, governments in places like the Balearics have already started to raise taxes, to discourage so many holidaymakers from returning.

A World Travel and Tourism Council, report in partnership with McKinsey, has pinpointed some of the destinations struggling most with overcrowding.  The report, called Coping with “Success: Managing Overcrowding in Tourist Destinations”, looked at a number of factors to decide which locations were worst hit. They included degraded tourist experiences, overloaded infrastructure, damage to nature and threats to culture and heritage.

The seven cities that had the highest scores in a combination of these different factors include Amsterdam, Dubrovnik, Kuala Lumpur, Macau, Rome, Venice and Warsaw.

The report has suggested that the different locations should spread visitors out across the entire year, instead of dealing with huge hordes at certain points like mid-summer and that tourists should be encouraged to visit lesser-known parts of popular holiday destinations in order to ease pressure on the busiest areas.

And that message is being taken up by many destinations. For example, Iceland is promoting the town of Akureyri, which features waterfalls and hot springs, to ease the burden on other areas of the country, while VisitBritain has also been working to attract tourists out of London and into other parts of the country.

The report has listed four best practices for all travel destinations - regardless of whether a destination is facing overcrowding:

  1. Build a comprehensive fact base and update it regularly
  2. Conduct rigorous long-term planning and encourage sustainable growth
  3. Involve all sections of society – commercial, public and social
  4. Find new sources of funding

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