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Overtourism

Overcrowding, incivility, depletion of resources and inhabitants, deterioration of the visitor experience... tourism would, for some destinations, be a source of unrest felt all too frequently by locals. Between myth and reality, what are the real issues? What do hotel activity figures say? What solutions are provided by some? Hospitality ON is launching a series of analyses on this subject, which has been a key topic in the news since the beginning of the summer.

As a result of mass tourism in some destinations, the subject of overtourism is constantly in the news. And for good reason, not so long ago a cruise ship crashed into a wharf and tourist boats in Venice, and Museum staff at  the Louvre went on strike following "unprecedented deterioration in visiting and working conditions". Too high a volume of visitors to certain destinations can have negative consequences on the human and natural environment as well as on the quality of the visit to a site.

This is how the island of Boracay in the Philippines suffered from its success. Known for its beaches, which are among the 25 most beautiful in the world, and even in the top-7 in Asia, the destination has a ratio of 66 tourists to one inhabitant. Such "overcrowding" has led to serious degradation of living conditions at the site, particularly due to the discharge of wastewater into the sea, so that some beaches contained extremely high amounts of bacteria (E. coli) that can cause sometimes serious human illness (gastroenteritis, urinary tract infections, meningitis, septicemia, etc.). Authorities had no choice but to close tourist access to the island for six months. The island has since reopened in October 2018. The number of visitors went from 40,000 (on average) before the quarantine to 19,200, a quota limitation set by the authorities. In addition to this measure, it was decided not to build any new hotels (all construction is prohibited), in addition to the ban on alcohol consumption and smoking on the beach.

In the same vein, the bay used in the movie The Beach by Danny Boyle, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Virginie Ledoyen -  Maya Bay in Thailand in the archipelago of Koh Phi Phi - has been closed since June 2018 and will remain closed until 2021. The goal of this is to restaure the local ecosystem, and the coral reefs in particular as they have been damaged by too high a volume of visitors.

 

There is also the example of the famous Mount Ayers Rock in Australia. Also known as Uluru Rock, this rocky peak formed 500 million years ago is sacred to the Anangu aborigines, while it is also a natural monument highly prized by tourists in Australia, who are not reluctant to climb to its summit along the route provided by the authorities. But this ascent will soon be only a distant memory, since it will be prohibited from next October 26th. For this reason, many visitors have flocked to enjoy the last few days before the site closed. The authorities recorded a 20% increase in the number of visitors between June 2018 and June 2019, for a total of 395,000. Stephen Schwer, Managing Director of Tourism Central Australia, said: "We have so much traffic in this particular area that don't have enough infrastructure to deal with motorists." Indeed, the accommodation facilities are full, so motorhomes end up parking outside the authorized sites. Stephen Schwer explains that people do not realize that when they leave the roads, they are actually "trespassing on pastoralist and joint-managed and protected land," which causes tension and damage to the natural environment.

Geographically closer, the phenomenon of over-tourism is also very real and present in Europe. This can be measured in part by a ratio of the number of tourists to the number of inhabitants on site. Hospitality On calculated this ratio and reported it on the map of Europe, displayed below. This map thus highlights European destinations that are under stress, where tourist flows are much higher than usual, namely destinations where the ratio is higher than 3 to one. Three countries stand out: Austria, Croatia and Cyprus.

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