Costing the Earth
Tourist Tide Can beautiful places welcome mass tourism without environmental destruction? Tom Heap reports. Amsterdam, Barcelona, Orkney & Venice

Moral Maze
The Morality of Holidays

For the crowds of holidaymakers flocking to Spain, it must have come as a shock to see “tourists go home” daubed on buildings in Barcelona and Majorca. You’d think the locals would be more grateful for the millions of euros they bring with them to spend. The resentment is not just about belligerent and under-dressed Brits drinking all day and yelling all night. The anti-tourist graffiti, tyre-slashing and window-smashing are protests against the economics and morality of mass tourism, which – according to activists – impoverishes the working-class. Yet in other parts of the world, the tourist trade is seen as vital to the livelihood of local people. Does that make the decision about where to go on holiday a moral one? Even if we are aware that tourism can have negative impacts, and that our money may not end up in the pockets of the poorest, it’s easy not to think about it. Can’t we just rely on the tour operators to behave ethically? Does it really matter if tourism is trashing the planet as long as we’re spreading prosperity and everyone (or almost everyone) is having a good time? Or do we have a moral duty to think carefully before we book our all-inclusive package holidays? Is it ethically defensible to live it up in a country with a lousy record on human rights? And what about the environmental damage caused by all those air miles? Perhaps it’s our patriotic duty to reach for the umbrella and enjoy a staycation in soon-to-be post-Brexit Britain? Witnesses are Dr Steve Davies, Prof Xavier Font, Dr Harold Goodwin and George Monbiot.

Tourism is what we make it, Barcelona and Venice do not inevitably have to be dominated by tourism, 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.

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. Put “too many tourists” into Google and it offers a range of more detailed searches revealing what others have looked for. This is what Google offered me this morning – Venice, Barcelona, Iceland (yes I was surprised too), Paris, London, New York City, Prague, Thailand, Rome.

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. It 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.

Events in 2017 


13th  International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations

Working Symposium 29-30 September 2017 – University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland
26th October 2017 Dublin Coping with success – facing the challenge of overtourism and redistributing tourism. 

6 & 8  November 2017 WTM London two panels on overtourism 


6 Places that are being destroyed by tourism Julia Buckley19 January 2017 in the Independent

How to fix travel | Doug Lansky | TEDxStockholm

#overtourism hashtag on Twitter

A cruise too far: how overtourism impacts the world’s top destinations Ship Technology

You may object that that this just the ephemeral social media but on the first page of “too many tourists in Venice” we have articles in The Independent (UK), the Economist (worldwide), the International Business Times (worldwide), Deutsche Welle (Germany), CBS News (USA), Spiegel (Germany), The Guardian (UK) – this is the mainstream consumer press and this kind of coverage shapes the decisions of potential visitors. For Barcelona similar broadsheets come up along with the UK’s Daily Mail. In April 2014 they ran a piece “Mass tourism is ruining Barcelona and turning it into a ‘theme park’…”  Venice too has been described as a living museum. Italy’s Disneyland An official with Italia Nostra, an organization that seeks to protect Italy’s historical and cultural treasures, complained: “It’s as if Venice, for most people, is an asset that has to be exploited. A cash cow to be milked until there’s nothing left.” more In Barcelona the Mayor Ada Colau has expressed concern about the impact of tourism on the city and the municipality aspires to manage tourism so that the “coexistence between visitors and residents should be synergic as well as harmonious, based on cultural and economic exchanges and reciprocal contributions, understood as an enriching and mutually constructive experience.”

A new challenge and a new word: “overtourism.” First used on twitter as #overtourism back in August 2012 it’s likely to become commonplace over the next few years. Its meaning is nicely ambiguous, in a sector which celebrates rapid and seemingly endless growth in tourism arrivals figures have we got over tourism, has it become passé?  For some perhaps but the growth in tourism is best understood as a sector of consumption, and as peoples’ living standards rise they consume travel and tourism – 11% of global consumption is by tourists. That is the opportunity – the staycation has not caught on.

Barcelona RTTP Working Paper 1 Goodwin H (2016)  Managing Tourism in Barcelona

Orkney: Seasonality, Cruises and Overtourism: Coping with Success

Assembly of Districts for Sustainable Tourism (ABTS)

Tourism Saved Iceland, but Now It’s a Headache
Has Iceland become too popular?




2004 One Night in Barcelona: The Secret Underbelly of Spain’s Wildest City
006 HELP!!! Are Spanish people from Barcelona that rude???
008 Barcelona Street Crime

2009 The Rambla going downhill 


2009 Barcelona split over campaign to banish sleaze from Ramblas

2009 Barcelona named pickpocket capital of the world

2009 Barcelona’s famous Las Ramblas is becoming too seedy for tourists

2009 Shock tactics to fight Barcelona crime

2010 Barcelona rebels against tourist invasion

2010 Tourist trade cheapens Barcelona

2014 Is Tourism Ruining Barcelona?

2014 Anti ‘binge tourism’ demo swarms streets of Barcelona

2014 Bye Bye Barcelona: Entrevista a Marc Javierre

Bye Bye Barcelona (Full length)

2014 Barcelona residents protest against anti-social behaviour – Euronews

From Indignado to Mayoress

2014 Bye Bye Barcelona  documentary 155,000 + views

2014 Naked Italians in Barceloneta

2014 Mass tourism can kill a city – just ask Barcelona’s residents 

2015 Barcelona struggles with rising tide of 27 million tourists

2016 No locals on the Ramblas 

2016 Barcelona fines TripAdvisor €30,000 for breaching tourism laws

2017 Masked ‘anti-tourist’ vigilante group slash the tyres of an open-top bus filled with holidaymakers in Barcelona ‘because they don’t want the country turned into an amusement park’

The Local es 20170705 Bye-bye locals: Tourists are taking over Europe’s city centres

Barcelona Is Trying to Come to Terms With Its Overtourism Problem

Barcelona to hire more inspectors 


Barcelona’s war on tourists

Flags, Noise, and Tourism in Barcelona

Busting the boom: why Barcelona wants to curb mass tourism

Spain: ‘Go home, drunk tourists!’ demand thousands of Barcelona locals










The death of Venice: Corrupt officials, mass tourism and soaring property prices have stifled life in the city

Venice planning to charge for entry to its historic city centre 

Venice authorities lament lack of cruise ships as residents and Unesco fight for the city’s future

Venice overturns ban on large cruise ships

Giant cruise ships ‘crushing the life out of Venice’

Venetians brandish shopping trolleys and pushchairs in protest against mass tourism

Tempers flare in Venice as angry protesters block cruise ships

Protesters dive into Venice canal to block cruise ships

Venice bans new hotels as crackdown on tourism continues

‘Imagine living with this crap’: tempers in Venice boil over in tourist high season

Venetians vote to ban giant cruise ships from city’s lagoon

Cruise Liners Banned from Venice and then Unbanned …
Death of Venice
Who can now stop the slow death of Venice
Tourism overwhelms vanishing Venice
Venice’s vanishing population
Venice world heritage status under threat
Mock funeral for Venice’s ‘death’
Venice tourism squeezes out residents


Tempers flare in Venice as angry protesters block cruise ships

The death of Venice: Corrupt officials, mass tourism and soaring property prices have stifled life in the city

Giant cruise ships ‘crushing the life out of Venice’
Why I’ll boycott Venice if it charges for entry Jackie Bryant  Independent 4 May 2017 
Why Venice needs to charge entry to its historic city centre.
Justin Francis Independent 5 May 2017

Venice ‘on the verge of collapse’ as locals battle to save the soul of the city

Venice bans new hotels as crackdown on tourism continues

Venice Tackles Overtourism by Telling Visitors to Follow the Golden Rule 
Venice calls on tourists to not swim in canals…..  

Venice During the Summer is ‘Like War’ According to Tourism Chief Paola Mar

Heading to Venice? Don’t forget your pollution mask

UN threatens to place Venice on endangered list unless Italy bans cruise ships

Elsewhere in Italy
Italy’s cultural heritage at risk amid neglect and bad management – with private sponsors brought in to help protect iconic landmarks

Tourists will have to get tickets to visit Cinque Terre this summer
Amalfi Coast “Nice area but overcrowded and dangerous”
Some Italian holiday hotspots at risk of overcrowding

36 Hours in the Cinque Terre, Italy 

Florence mayor aims to keep picnicking tourists at bay with hosepipes

“By washing the steps every lunchtime we hope they will be too wet for tourists to lounge on, but we also hope the cleaning will encourage tourists to treat them with more respect,”


Unesco on alert over tourism in Florence 
Overtourism at Italian Attractions Spurs Call for Visitor Limits
Italian hotspots struggling with ‘too many tourists’
Overtourism in Europe a Critical Problem

Cruise ships cause water shortage for Palermo residents


Short-term lets that flout planning law will be tackled, says Minister


Without tourists, Berlin is stuffed

Berlin Is the ‘Post-Tourist’ Capital of Europe



The problem is that we live in a finite world, spaceship earth. Until a couple of years ago it was primarily the environmental limits to growth that caused concern – water, greenhouse gas emissions, waste. In May the Thai authorities closed Koh Tachai to tourism to protect it. Now the social limits to tourism growth are becoming more apparent. 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.

In 2013 at RTD7, the 7th International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations, held in Barcelona, Catalunya concern was expressed about the negative impacts of tourism on the city and on Catalunya. The conference declaration recognised that “less emphasis needs to be placed on increasing the number of arrivals and a greater emphasis put on the management of tourism”. Despite the anti-tourist graffiti none of us foresaw the rapidity with which the issue of host-guest conflict would emerge as a political issue in the mayoral elections in 2015. The balance has shifted for the promotion of tourism to its management in a city where there are tensions in some residential areas between locals and partying tourists. Barcelona is emerging as the leading administration managing the social impacts of tourism – there is much for other local governments to learn for their experience of changing the priority from marketing and promotion to governance, exercising leadership in engaging residents and ensuring that their interests are respected and distributing tourism more evenly in the region and the society.

There are issues too in Palma which this year has been full, in part with tourists displaced from the conflict-riven north African coast. This graffiti is from Palma, Mallorca.

In Palma, Barcelona and Venice the pressure of tourism is exacerbated in the season by the daily arrival of thousands of cruise tourists.

Rebellious locals are making their voice heard in Venice, Seoul and a host of other cities – a reminder that social and environmental sustainability are important to competitiveness. Overtourism is an issue more and more destinations will need to address and manage.



How Amsterdam Is Solving Its Overtourism Problem

Amsterdam has become ‘unlivable’ as residents fight back to stop ‘Disneyfication’ of city

Bans beer bikes

Property prices in Mallorca are rising extensively mainly thanks to over tourism. Local authorities plan to limit the number of tourists and fight illegal vacation rents.
Mallorca and Ibiza Crack Down on Airbnb Rentals to Curb Tourist Numbers


As touting for punt trips becomes a crime, is tourism overwhelming Britain’s cities?

Halong Bay Vietnam
Halong Bay – Majestic Sight or Over-Rated Seascape?
Overcrowded beaches in Halong Bay


Shocking moment Spanish anti-tourism activists hit big Brit tourist destination

Majorca is hit by anti tourism protesters days after Barca

Anti-tourist demos spread from Barcelona to Mallorca

Spain’s tourism riots: Protests by anti-tourism activists hit Brits on holiday in Majorca


Edinburgh in danger of ‘losing its soul’ to tourism, claim experts

Helen Martin: It’s difficult to escape from this tourist trap

THEY’VE SCOT TO GO Edinburgh is TOO popular with tourists who are turning the city into a ‘hollow shell,’ experts warn


Skye Tourism Tax

Skye needs 30-year tourism strategy, say islanders

Skye Visitors Toiletting outdoors

Does Skye have too many tourists?

Tourists really don’t know how to fit in at Rio’s famous beaches

Machu Picchu to introduce timed ticketing to deal with overcrowding. 


Ribaudo column: Is Lake Tahoe’s South Shore at risk of overtourism?

Violent Demonstrations August 2017

The Times 20170805 Your Spanish holiday is our misery, Basques tell British visitors

The Express 20170803 WATCH: Shocking moment Spanish anti-tourism activists hit big Brit tourist destination

The Times 20170805 Anarchist threat to tourists 

Daily Mail 20170805 ‘Tourists go home, you are not welcome’: British holidaymakers face fresh wave of anarchist attacks in backlash over tourism in Barcelona and Majorca 

BBC News 20170805 ‘Tourists go home’: Leftists resist Spain’s influx

Evening Standard  20170805 Anarchist threat to British holidaymakers in Europe as tourism row erupts

Sunday Times 20170801 British tourists in Barcelona bus ambushed by masked men

Sunday Times 20170802 Tourist bikes new target of Barcelona anarchists

Daily Mail 20170730 Masked ‘anti-tourist’ vigilante group slash the tyres of an open-top bus filled with holidaymakers in Barcelona ‘because they don’t want the country turned into an amusement park

San Sebastian 

The Local es 20170802 Anarchists are targeting tourists in Spain’s busiest resorts. This is why:

The Local es 20170705 Bye-bye locals: Tourists are taking over Europe’s city centres

Cuba’s Surge in Tourism Keeps Food Off Residents’ Plates

The Great Crawl of China: Incredible footage shows how insanely crowded Chinese tourist attractions get on a national holiday

Queue here for Everest:

More General Articles

The Revolt Against Tourism New York Times 2015

Overtourism and the Struggle for Sustainable Tourism Development

Expecting tourists to pay more than locals can be controversial—but it’s the right thing to do

‘Tourism kills neighbourhoods’: how do we save cities from the city break?

Skift: Sustainability key to combating overtourism
Only governments can stem the tide of tourism sweeping the globe 6th August 2017

Overtourism Issues Can No Longer Be Brushed Aside as Someone Else’s Problem

Are tourists still welcome after protests?

European cities protest tourists, politics get in the way


A right to shelter should trump the right to be a profiteer

Mass tourism is at a tipping point – but we’re all part of the problem


Pinterest Board Overcrowding


Prague bans Segways from historic city center’s narrow streets

Record Numbers, Infrastructure and Quality: 2017 a Defining Year for Croatian Tourism?

Croatian holiday island Hvar to fine lewd, rude and drunk tourists

Crowds and cruise ships have ‘ruined’ Dubrovnik


Tourist caps in Dubrovnik






10,000 BRITONS BANNED: Greek island of Crete says no more boozy holidays

Wish you weren’t here, Greece tells tourists


Bad Tourism

Magaluf laws ban drinking on the streets