Overtourism is a relatively new term in the travel industry, but one that is impacting major destinations. The World Travel and Tourism Council released a report ‘Coping with Success: Managing Overcrowding in Tourist Destinations’ in which the challenges and detrimental impact increased tourism are discussed. This includes alienating local residents and families, reducing the quality of overall tourists experience, an overloaded infrastructure, damage to nature and threats and to the destination’s culture and heritage.
Impact of overtourism
Rafat Ali wrote in a Skift article, ‘We are coining a new term, “Overtourism”, as a new construct to look at potential hazards to popular destinations worldwide, as the dynamic forces that power tourism often inflict unavoidable negative consequences if not managed well.’
The most drastic case from 2018 showcasing the impact of overtourism, has been on the island of Boracay Island in the Philippines. President Rodrigo Duterte announced on 4th April 2018, his decision to close the island to all tourists for six months. For context, the island was to close just 3 weeks after his announcement.
This decision was made due to pollution from sewage dumping of local hotels and
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources claimed that around 195 businesses and 4,000 residential businesses were not connected to the islands sewer system. The closure time would be used to build better infrastructure to welcome more visitors in the future. This includes a new garbage and sanitation system, marine conservation, zoning and construction.
The impact of this closure is estimated to have caused 36,000 job losses, and a €861m loss of tourism-related revenue. Hotels on the island instantly lost bookings and airline companies have had to reroute or refund fares.
“The phenomenon of a popular destination or sight
becoming overrun with tourists in an unsustainable way.” Collins Dictionary Definition
Everything for a better place
Roy Cimatu, Secretary of the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said that visitors will be able to enjoy a “Better Boracay” when the resort island reopens. With South Korea accounting for 356,000 arrivals to Boracay in 2017, the department seems confident that they will see more visitors by the end of 2018.
The island re-opened on 22nd October 2018.
Given tourism is such a lucrative sector, it will be a fine balance for destinations to benefit from the thriving income, whilst also protecting the destination and its residents.
Read more interviews and industry trends in our Travel Trends Report 2019.