Africa Travel Week

OverTourism: What is it and how do we address it?

What is overtourism?

Overtourism describes destinations where hosts or guests, locals or visitors feel that there are too many visitors and that the quality of life in the area, or the quality of the experience has deteriorated unacceptably.

Overtourism is the opposite of Responsible Tourism which is about using tourism to make better places to live in and better places to visit. Often both visitors and guests experience the deterioration concurrently.

Can we have too many tourists?

Many in the industry would probably say no. We often describe ourselves as travellers and visitors, in the same way that people complain about traffic without recognising that they are part of it.

Boissevain published Coping with Tourists: European Reactions to Mass Tourism nearly 20 years ago, since then major European cities have continued to experience rapid growth in tourism numbers.

Type “too many tourists” into Google and it offers a range of suggested searches revealing what others have looked for. This is what Google offered me this morning – Venice, Barcelona, Iceland, Paris, London, New York City, Prague, Thailand and Rome.

Below is a powerful short documentary exploring overtourism, featuring interviews with local residents and global experts:

Why is overtourism happening?

Overtourism is the antithesis of Responsible Tourism. Krippendorf, the father of Responsible Tourism, foresaw the growth of rebellious tourists and called for rebellious locals. Now those rebellious local are making their voices heard.

The label overtourism is disliked by many destinations more willing to consider the challenge of coping with success or Ken Robinson’s inadequately managed tourism. The public realm is a common property resource, better management of supply and demand can diminish the problem but there are real physical and social limits.

Overtourism is but one example of what happens when more and more seek to consume a common resource, particularly when that resource is a common property resource, many honeypot destinations are just that.

What are the effects of overtourism?

The limits are being reached in some destinations across the triple bottom line, there are cultural clashes because of different social mores and norms about behaviour, often fuelled by drink.

Local people are displaced by increasingly unregulated holiday lets, lawns are trampled to bare earth and beaches littered. Shops which used to meet the needs of residents are displaced by outlets selling expensive goods or tat to tourists.

Tourism makes extensive use of common pool resources in the public realm and takes advantage of, for example, museums and galleries, which are free or merit-priced initially for the benefit of citizens. The tourism commons are very vulnerable to crowding and degrading by tourism pressure. The industry enjoys free access to the public goods which are very often its core product.

The tragedy of the commons is at the heart of Lord Marshall’s description of the tourism and travel industry as “…essentially the renting out for short-term lets of other people’s environments, whether this is a coastline, a city, a mountain range, or a rainforest.” The problem is that they collect the rent externalising the costs to the public purse.

The video below explores the effects that mass tourism is having on Venice, a sinking city losing its soul:

Venice Tourism May Never Be the Same. It Could Be Better.
The pandemic crushed the tourism industry in Venice and other overtouristed cities. But many see this as an opportunity to rethink a “tourism monoculture.”   more
Addressing Overtourism: what can be done?

The problem of overtourism is not going to go away – we need to work out how to cope with it.

In Barcelona, a wide range of mechanisms is already being used to address the issue. It’ll be important to learn from their experience when developing strategies moving forward.

Many feel that changing the nature of tourism to attract visitors as ‘temporary residents’ will be key to improving the host-guest relationship.

Others feel that tourist taxes may be the answer. These taxes are typically too low to deter visitors, but they can help to fund the management of tourism including lawn repair and litter removal.

Demarketing is an interesting concept which can be used to discourage visitors in order to reduce negative impacts. This could include price rises, reducing promotional activities or spreading the word that the quality of the experience has deteriorated.

Some destinations have implemented strategies to discourage ‘bad tourists’ such as the banning of stag nights and hen dos.

I’ve created an entire page detailing several potential solutions to address the problem of overtourism here.

Tourism is what we make it

Tourism is what we make it, Barcelona and Venice do not inevitably have to be dominated by tourism, they are victims of mass tourism. Increasingly, residents are raising the issue and it is moving up the political agenda in the city governments. What can be done to manage tourism so that it does not overwhelm the cities – Venice, Barcelona, Paris, London, New York City, Prague, Berlin, Rome – where the sheer mass of tourism is beginning to be seen as a problem?

Tourism has reached a point where either the hosts or guests and often both, are dissatisfied.  The challenge is to make all destinations sustainable and to avoid spreading the problem. For local government and protected area managers, the key question is:  Will the destination use tourism or be used by it?

Below is a replay of Sr. Harold Goodwin’s presentation titled “Overtourism is a global challenge, people are looking to Barcelona for solutions”

Tourism is what we make it, hosts and guests, we can make it different.

In Amsterdam, there is a  broad movement of citizens pushing to control tourism numbers and improve tourist behaviour.

Amsterdammers have launched a petition to tackle overtourism. Launched on June 9th by 28 June there were close to 30,000 signatures. This proposal will now have to be considered by the city council. There is a broad citizens’ movement to control tourism in Amsterdam. more
In Amsterdam, the mayor urged extreme caution in reopening to tourists, while nonprofit group Amsterdam&Partners believes the tourist hiatus pushes to the top of the agenda plans to cut numbers, give Amsterdam back to locals and attract the “right” kind of visitor, and has launched a sustainability taskforce to map the way forward. “The main focus is that we want a sustainable visitor economy that doesn’t harm the livability of our city. If you have the right balance between living, working and visiting, you can have the right visitor economy. That’s what went wrong in the last years in the old city centre, and we have to entice locals to discover their city centre again.” more

Goodwin H (2017) The Challenge of Overtourism 
Francis J (2018) Overtourism Solutions
Goodwin H (2019)Overtourism: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Tourismus Wissen – quarterly April 2019 pp 110=114
Goodwin, H., 2019. Barcelona–Crowding Out the Locals: A Model for Tourism Management?. In Overtourism: Issues, realities and solutions (Vol. 1, pp. 125-138). De Gruyter Berlin/Boston, MA.
Goodwin H (2019 ) Managing Tourism in Barcelona 3rd Edition Responsible Tourism Partnership Working Paper 1

In this video, Responsible tourism pioneer Harold Goodwin and CEO of, Justin Francis, discuss the issues around Overtourism and travelling responsibly in the modern age:

23 July 2019 How should cities and resorts deal with overtourism?
18 June 2020 in The Guardian Christopher de Bellaigue, a journalist and author who has covered the Middle East and South Asia since 1994, wrote a long read: “The pandemic has devastated global tourism, and many will say ‘good riddance’ to overcrowded cities and rubbish-strewn natural wonders. Is there any way to reinvent an industry that does so much damage?” The end of tourism?

Social Media
Learn more on Twitter by visiting or using the hashtag #touristgohome. You can also visit the Pinterest Board: Overcrowding.

Costing the Earth: Tourist Tide 
Moral Maze: The Morality of Holidays

More relevant links:

25 Places that silly tourists spoilt for all of us 
Anti-tourism Protests
Assembly of Districts for Sustainable Tourism (ABTS)
Croatia  Dubrovnik 
General Articles
Nederlands, Holland
Indonesia – Komodo 
Italy   Venice   Venice    Venice 2016 Venice Protests 2016 Cinque Terre 
South America  Peru Machu Picchu  Colombia: Caño Cristales starts with a rulebook
Spain   –  Barcelona  Balearics
South Korea Jeju Island 
Thailand Maya Bay
United Kingdom

Article created by Harold Goodwin. To view the original article click here.

Africa Travel Week

Africa Travel Week (ATW) focuses on inbound and outbound markets for general leisure tourism, luxury travel, LGBTQ+ travel and the MICE/business travel sector as well as travel technology. Shows include: ILTM Africa, WTM Africa, EQUAL Africa, ibtm AFRICA, Travel Forward, Sports & Events Tourism Exchange and African Tourism Investment Summit.