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

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 Managing Tourism in Barcelona

Orkney: Seasonality, Cruises and Overtourism: Coping with Success



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

2014 Barcelona residents protest against anti-social behaviour – Euronews

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




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

Mock funeral for Venice’s ‘death’
Venice tourism squeezes out residents

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

Elsewhere in Italy
Amalfi Coast “Nice area but overcrowded and dangerous”
Some Italian holiday hotspots at risk of overcrowding
Italian hotspots struggling with ‘too many tourists’

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 swill need to address and manage.

“The neighbourhood has changed from a resident-based neighbourhood to a tourist-based neighbourhood,” he says. “We have different neighbours every week.”

“Amsterdam is starting to look like a playground for visitors; what people call Disneyfication.” The local police has also expressed fears that crowds in Amsterdam are swelling to the point of being dangerous”

In  December 2016 Airbnb has agreed to introduce a mechanism on its website that will make it impossible for users in Amsterdam to rent their properties out for longer than 60 days per annum.

Airbnb has also agreed to implement a new online tool for people living near its properties in Amsterdam, allowing them to raise concerns about a listing, including noise complaints.

The city government, meanwhile, has agreed to introduce a new 24-hour hotline for residents to raise concerns about Airbnb properties. More

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


Other articles

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

Pinterest Board Overcrowding