Slow urban tourism growth

MADRID, 20 September 2018: The topic of how to deal with a runaway growth in tourism to urban destinations needs to be revisited amidst calls for a more concerted effort to introduce sustainable practices to minimise the adverse impact on urban communities.

A new World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) report calls for changes and aims to help manage growing urban tourism flows and their impact on cities and residents.

The study ‘Overtourism’? Understanding and managing urban tourism growth beyond perceptions’, was released during the 7th UNWTO Global Summit on Urban Tourism, in Seoul, earlier this week.

Examining how to manage tourism in urban destinations for the benefit of visitors and residents alike, the study presented 11 strategies and 68 measures to manage visitor growth.

The study was a joint venture between UNWTO, the Centre of Expertise Leisure, Tourism & Hospitality (CELTH), Breda University of Applied Sciences and the European Tourism Futures Institute (ETFI) of NHL Stenden University of Applied sciences.

Noting there are increased reports of negative feedback and sentiments among urban residents, due to perceived overcrowding, the study recognises governance is the key. It states that the key challenges facing urban tourism today are much more complex than was previously recognised.

Terms such as ‘overtourism’ and ‘tourismphobia,’ used extensively by media today, indicate the challenges that face urban destinations.

Dispersing the overflow of tourists to unprepared and emerging destinations to maintain rapid growth is not a long-term solution. Instead, the industry needs to create a sustainable roadmap to place tourism in the wider context of an urban agenda with checks and balances imposed by communities. Whether the industry likes it not growth will need to be sustainable for communities and that may require measures to cap visits to some urban districts threatened by ‘overtourism.’

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili noted: “We must also ensure local communities see and benefit from the positive aspects of tourism”.

To better understand visitor management challenges in urban contexts, particularly the relationship between residents and visitors, the report includes an analysis of residents’ perceptions towards tourism in eight European cities – Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Munich, Salzburg and Tallinn.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution to deal with ‘overtourism’. Instead tourism needs to be part of a city-wide strategy for sustainable development”, Dr Ko Koens of the Centre of Expertise Leisure, Tourism & Hospitality (CELTH) and Breda University of Applied Sciences concludes.

The report recommends a common strategic vision among all stakeholders involved, bringing residents and visitors together and adopting careful planning, which respects the limits of capacity and the specificities of each destination.

“The involvement and support of local residents is key in achieving sustainable tourism”, Professor Albert Postma of CELTH and NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences explains. “Building shared responsibility amongst stakeholders directly or indirectly involved in tourism development is a key for ensuring long-term sustainability”, involved researcher Bernadett Papp concluded.

Download the report:

UNWTO report ‘Overtourism? Understanding and managing urban tourism growth beyond perceptions