As tourism grows, so does stress on most popular destinations

WTTC's report identified Dubrovnik as a city at high risk of suffering the effects of overtourism.
WTTC's report identified Dubrovnik as a city at high risk of suffering the effects of overtourism. Photo Credit: Jane Barrett/Shutterstock

The booming travel sector puts in-demand destinations in peril, according to a new report on overtourism from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

"Some places capture a significant share of the travel and tourism pie, and may be threatened by their own popularity in environmental, social or aesthetic terms," said Gloria Guevara, WTTC's CEO.

Produced with McKinsey & Co., the report, "Coping with success: Managing overcrowding in tourism destinations", looks at ways that destinations can identify and prevent overcrowding as well as tools to control where it is already a problem.

Noting that the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) predicts that international tourist arrivals will grow to more than 1.8 billion by 2030, the report says that those arrivals are very concentrated in certain destinations.

"If travelers spread out evenly across the planet, this influx would be relatively easy to absorb," the report said. "Of course, that is not the case."

It notes that France, the most visited country in the world, drew 82 million international arrivals in 2016, while neighboring Germany got less than half that, and Portugal a quarter. Tourism is also uneven within countries, with Paris welcoming triple the number of visitors per capita as the Champagne region.

"This concentration of international travelers in a handful of countries is likely to continue," the report predicts. "By 2020, Euromonitor projects the top 20 countries will add 121 million arrivals, while the remaining 59 countries ... will add around 72 million arrivals combined."

Overcrowding results in alienated locals, degraded tourist experiences, overloaded infrastructure, damaged nature, and threats to culture and heritage, the report contends. Dubrovnik and Venice were identified as cities most at risk.

The report identifies ways destinations can prevent or alleviate overcrowding by spreading visitors across sites, adjusting pricing to balance supply and demand, and regulating accommodation supply and limiting access and activities.

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