While governments and destination marketing organizations
are revamping policies and promotions to tackle overtourism, private travel
companies are launching new destinations that take clients away from the crowds
and help spread tourism wealth.
Intrepid Travel, for one, has launched several tours
designed to redistribute its guests. Leigh Barnes, Intrepid's chief purpose
officer, said that as travel becomes "more affordable, accessible and more
sought-after than ever before, new product innovation is crucial to the
prevention of overtourism."
"We regularly test out new destinations, trips and
themes," he said last fall at an overtourism conference at George
Among the products are Intrepid's first adventure cruises,
such as a Croatia sailing that visits smaller communities in the Peljesac
peninsula and remote islands like Jakljan, which helps distribute tourism
around the country and beyond Dubrovnik and Split.
"The reality is that most travelers want to visit the
familiar highlights of a country and cross famous landmarks off their bucket
list, such as Dubrovnik's Old Town," Barnes said last week. "But what
we can do is try to create similar offerings in less-visited destinations and encourage travelers to visit those
Intrepid believes it can help create demand for new
"As we grow, we've recognized that we have some
influence on tourism demand through our marketing," he said.
Next year, Intrepid is launching a sailing tour in
Montenegro in response to overtourism concerns in Croatia.
An aqueduct in Perugia, the capital of Umbria, one of the stops on an Avanti tour. Photo Credit: Avanti Destinations
"We can offer this alternative in the country's
lesser-known next-door neighbor," he said. "In this case, they're a
two-hour drive from Dubrovnik, but they can get a really unbelievable coastal
Adriatic experience while not contributing to Dubrovnik's crowding issues."
Intrepid is also responding to overtourism by offering
alternatives to popular destinations with lesser-known and more sustainable ones,
like Komodo instead of Ubud in Indonesia and the Similan Islands instead of
Maya Bay in Thailand.
Barnes said demand indicates that people want to be led off
the beaten path.
"We've seen a 24% increase in global bookings to
Montenegro over the last year and a 45% increase in bookings from North
Americans specifically, so the appetite to visit new destinations is definitely
there," he said.
G Adventures has also created itineraries it hopes will take
pressure off popular destinations, including a Northern Peru trip that begins
and ends in Lima and skips Machu Picchu, a Tuscany tour from Rome that does not
visit Venice or Florence and a Southern Tanzania trip that skips the Serengeti
and Ngorongoro Crater.
Sean Benner, G Adventures' product manager, said, "If
we can help people stretch out of their comfort zone and live more like a local
in these fascinating and more remote destinations, while spreading benefits and
alleviating crowds in popular places, we're proud to do it."
Avanti Destinations teamed up with Italy's national tourism
board to promote the less-visited regions of Piedmont, Puglia, Sicily and
Umbria to help relieve pressure on Venice, Rome and Florence.
A new e-brochure, Italy Reimagined, available on Avanti's
agent portal, features 16 customizable FIT itineraries, some in towns and
villages Avanti has never before offered.
Paul Barry, Avanti's executive chairman, said Italy is its
most popular destination and one with great potential for repeat visits. "Many
people think that if they have been to Rome, Venice, Florence and the Amalfi
Coast, they've 'done' Italy when, in fact, they've only scratched the surface
of this diverse country," he said.
The timing of the new tours was ideal: Barry said Avanti
experienced a "huge surge of passengers this summer." June, he said,
was the best month in company history, with 20% more bookings than in any other
Barry said that the growth of middle classes around the
world and the increase in large cruise ships across Europe is creating
challenges for the Continent's popular cities. In response, Avanti is promoting
more trips across Europe that go beyond the big cities and are offered in
"What we are finding is growth in what have
traditionally been the least-traveled cities has been our biggest increase all
over Europe this year," Barry said.
For example, in the U.K. Avanti is promoting Liverpool,
Manchester and Wales.
"We've been focusing very closely on promoting travel
outside of London," Barry said. "And we have seen a significant
increase in our bookings. In Britain alone, we've seen a 30% increase in
bookings outside of London."
'Let's spread the love a little'
Sif Gustavsson, CEO of Iceland Cool, a social impact
marketing and communications consultancy, said suppliers and marketers can and
should change consumer travel habits.
"We have to tell the travelers what they want,"
she said. "They've been doing the same thing over and over, because that's
what we've been offering. But there is no reason why everyone should go to the
same spot on this island when every part of it is mind-blowing. Let's spread
the love a little."
Iceland Cool helps suppliers create and market tours in
remote, less-visited parts of Iceland as an antidote to the crush of travelers
that pushed visitor numbers from 433,000 in 2010 to 2.2 million in 2017.
"There's not a lot of growth in product there, and that's
what I'm trying to do," Gustavsson said. "Every time I work with a
supplier, it's about creating a new product that makes sense for what is
happening [with overtourism]."
G Adventures tours takes guests to the fortified city of Kuelap, often called the Machu Picchu of northern Peru. Photo Credit: G Adventures
For example, Iceland Cool helped Into the Glacier create a
day tour to the highlands region, which is visited by fewer than 1% of
travelers to Iceland.
Gustavsson also helps suppliers work with the government to
create the infrastructure necessary to launch products in remote regions.
Iceland Cool and Hotel Husafell received a grant to build up the hiking
infrastructure and promote the Husafell Nature Reserve as a hiking destination.
Gustavsson helps persuade clients to launch new products
with her 30 years of experience in marketing to consumers in the U.S., Iceland's
top source market.
"People are afraid to try something new and take a
risk," she said. "I tell them, 'If you try this, I swear it will be
worth it, and I will promote it for you.'"
Jeri Clausing contributed to this report.