Costing the Earth
Tourist Tide Can beautiful places welcome mass tourism without environmental destruction? Tom Heap reports. Amsterdam, Barcelona, Orkney & Venice
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
28-30 September RTD-13: TACKLING OVERTOURISM – LOCAL RESPONSES
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 1 Goodwin H (2016) Managing Tourism in Barcelona
2014 Anti ‘binge tourism’ demo swarms streets of Barcelona
2014 Bye Bye Barcelona documentary 155,000 + views
The Local es 20170705 Bye-bye locals: Tourists are taking over Europe’s city centres
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
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
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.
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
Skye needs 30-year tourism strategy, say islanders
Ribaudo column: Is Lake Tahoe’s South Shore at risk of overtourism?
Anarchist Attacks August 2017
The Times 20170805 Your Spanish holiday is our misery, Basques tell British visitors
The Times 20170805 Anarchist threat to tourists
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
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
Queue here for Everest:
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