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Overtourism Solutions: Strategies to Manage Mass Tourism

January 5, 2019
Harold Goodwin
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This pages have been created to enable the easy sharing of experience in managing overtourism and avoiding it. There is a typology of overtourism solutions which provides an index and wherever possible a link to where further information can be found along with a contact.

The limits to growth are not just an issue for travel and tourism as the Wall Street Journal has described tourism as currently “generating a global backlash”.  Responsible Tourism is about using tourism to make better places for people to live in and to visit. Overtourism is the antithesis to this, tourism is using the place and degrading it.

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.

The problem is not going to go away – we need to work out how to cope with it. The challenge for businesses and destination marketing organisations is that they no longer have a free hand to use the places that people live and work in to attract visitors. The residents, whose place it is, are beginning to rebel and consumers are all too aware that some destinations are not what they were. The challenge now is to develop ways of “Coping with Success”, addressing overtourism.


Essential Preconditions

In many places, there is confusion about the roles of DMOs. The same acronym is used for both Destination Management Organisations and Destination Marketing Organisations with bodies composed primarily of private sector representatives spending private sector and public money on destination promotion.

In Barcelona the management of tourism is unequivocally the responsibility of the city council. It is significant that the “objectives and strategic lines” of Turisme de Barcelona, the public-private partnership organisation which markets the city include public policy objectives.  Turisme de Barcelona recognises its “social and institutional responsibility” to “achieve a balance between tourist activity and everyday life in the city” and encouraging wider geographic distribution of tourism in the city.

  1. a) To boost the financial impact of the sector and to attract tourists with high spending power;
    b) To promote its own identity as a tourist attraction;
    c) To reconcile tourists/local community;
    d) To ensure the geographical and multi-sectorial distribution of tourism;
    e) To strengthen the public-private promotional model.

Overtourism is often attacked as tourismophobia. Barcelona has countered this view, as Ada Colau, now Mayor Barcelona said in 2014:

“Of course, the answer is not to attack tourism. Everyone is a tourist at some point in their life. Rather, we have to regulate the sector, return to the traditions of local urban planning, and put the rights of residents before those of big business.

The way of life for all Barcelonans is seriously under threat. And the only solution is to win back democracy for the city. This is precisely what the residents of La Barceloneta are doing – defending their neighbourhood, their city, from the free market and from the political elites that are putting our home up for sale.” more

Barcelona & Kerala have effectively managed different sets or overtourism challenges by engaging the tourism sector and local communities in addressing the particular local issues and using a multi-stakeholder approach.

Barcelona's Strategy and Action
Barcelona is using a wider range of mechanisms to address the challenge of overtourism than any other destination, their experience is important as others rise to the challenge.

Barcelona has sought, since 2004, to make tourist activities more sustainable, to increase the positive impacts of tourism in the city and to integrate visitors fostering coexistence, Barcelona aspires to treat visitors as temporary residents. The city is working to ensure that there are no tourist ghettos and that tourism contributes to the improvement of the quality of life and social cohesion. Barcelona has recognised that sustainability and competitiveness need to be used together in managing tourism. In Barcelona, a City and Tourism Council has been formed to advise the City Council on tourism policy and management. more

As in many sectors, the regulation moves more slowly than the growth of new business models. This has been evident in the growth of businesses like Airbnb and Uber where regulators have struggled to keep up. Similarly, the management of the public realm – streets, parks and squares - has been a major challenge as tourism numbers have grown and accelerated.

Shared/reliable common information
Effective management action involving diverse stakeholders requires shared data. Dichter, a senior partner of McKinsey & Company consultancy, says that: 

“We talk to so many people in the tourism ecosystem and no one has the same facts – not even close,” …  “If you can’t even agree on how many tourists are showing up, it’s very difficult to have a proper debate.” More

Only with good data is it possible to identify benefits and costs and develop management strategies to rebalance tourism. Shared, publicly available, reliable data has been a major plank of Barcelona’s efforts to address overtourism. The UNWTO points to the importance of “monitoring and evidence-based decisions.”

Barcelona surveys its residents regularly to determine their views about tourism and other problems in the city.

Barcelona publishes monthly forecasts of volumes of visitor numbers for each day reporting all events or activities which involve 10,000 or more people, where the forecast goes over 70,000 the calendar shows red, residents can then avoid the congested areas or avoid the city altogether. In September 2018 there were three days over 200,000, one of which was close to 300,000. example

Strategies to manage overtourism

Limits of Acceptable Change

Identify key indicators for the destination which identify the emerging issues so that they can be addressed. The growth of unlicensed tourist accommodation and change of use for the housing stock, changing retail offer, rising local housing costs, litter, trampling, crowding... choose the locally significant issues and problems.

Preferential Access for Locals
At Park Güell, in Barcelona access to the Monument Area (7.9% of its area) has been regulated. In 2013, an 8€ entry fee was imposed, local residents have unrestricted and free access

Barcelona publishes monthly forecasts of volumes of visitor numbers for each day reporting all events or activities which involve 10,000 or more people, where the forecast goes over 70,000 the calendar shows red, residents can then avoid the congested areas or avoid the city altogether. In September 2018 there were three days over 200,000, one of which was close to 300,000.

Temporary Residents
Changing the nature of tourism and the visitor experience by managing the destination to attract visitors as temporary residents. This strategy can change the dynamics of tourism and the host-guest relationship.

Tourist Tax

Tourism Taxes are controversial. They are generally too low to deter visitors, but they do enable local authorities to raise money to fund the management of tourism, to repair damage to lawns and pay for the removal of litter.

If one of the aspirations of Responsible Tourism is that tourists should be treated as temporary residents then it is not unreasonable that overnight tourists and day visitors should contribute to the maintenance of the public realm which they are visiting and using. Tourism taxes are generally levied through accommodation providers and occasionally through tour companies.

New Zealand has introduced a $35 tourism levy to protect tourist hot spots.

Amsterdam has introduced a Day Tourist Tax for TRANSIT sea cruise and river cruise passengers that moor within the municipal boundaries of Amsterdam.

Ensuring that local community’s benefit from tourism

In Kerala, India, the state government has established a Responsible Tourism Mission to ensure that local communities benefit through the creation of shared value.

Supply-side initiatives

Deregulated housing markets can attract international investors causing inflation in housing costs, and holiday rentals can be far more lucrative than letting to residents and families. By restricting the availability of accommodation visitor arrivals can be restricted.

Issues arise where there are concentrations of tourism in particular areas where tourism comes to dominate, and where there is unlicensed and unregulated accommodation which may cause disturbance and raises issues of health and safety and taxation.

In July 2015, Barcelona's municipal government suspended the processing of new permits for tourist-accommodation, student-residences and youth-hostel establishments, to analyse the impact of tourist-accommodation activities in all its aspects and to draft a special urban-development plan to regulate it. Ciutat Vella now has a Usage Plan designed to restrict the growth of tourist accommodation, whether hotels or apartments and a Tourist Accommodation Working Group has been tasked to complement municipal efforts to reduce the numbers of unlicensed apartments.

Airbnb is most often the focus of attention; the internet has replaced small ads in newspapers, magazines and shop windows as a means of advertising accommodation. This has made it easier to market accommodation and this, coupled with the deregulation of housing in many jurisdictions, has led to a significant increase in the letting of accommodation to tourists and in many places a depletion in accommodation stock available to residents, often with negative social and economic impacts.

Barcelona and Dublin have regulated Airbnb.
From June, 2019, in designated rent-pressure zones, which cover Dublin and major commuter towns as well as Galway and Cork cities and part of Limerick, councils will need to grant planning approval for any short-term letting of investment properties. Where a house or apartment is a person's principal private residence, they will be permitted to rent out a room (or rooms) within their home for short-term letting without restriction. However, they will only be allowed to sub-let their entire house without planning permission on the short-term market for a cumulative period of 90 days or less annually. Individuals who own a second property will no longer be allowed to arrange short-term lettings, unless the property already has permission to be used for such purposes or for tourism. more

Matching Demand to Supply
Timed ticketing and seasonal pricing all help in matching demand to supply and can contribute to ensuring that visitors have a better experience.
Praia das Catedrais or “Cathedrals Beach” on the Galician coast in northwest Spain requires an advance booking

Spatial and Town Planning
Local governments and national parks are generally able to control the siting of accommodation and other visitor services, depending on national planning policy frameworks.

The Amsterdam municipal authority introduced a zoning plan "Shop Diversity Center" prohibits new shops opening in the city center that mainly target tourists and day visitors, such as souvenir shops. The municipality argued that it wants to counteract a so-called monoculture in the city center and prevent tourist shops from gaining the upper hand in the streets. Tourism companies that existed before 2017 are excluded from the zoning plan rules. 
Building owners and companies objected to the restrictions imposed by the zoning plan, accusing the municipality of violating the European Services Directive, discrimination, and causing property values to fall. In April 2020, the Council of State found in favour of the municipality deciding that the Amsterdam city council could reasonably conclude that there is a monoculture of shops and facilities in the city center, and that banning new tourist shops was in the interest of the people who live and work in Amsterdam. The Council of State also saw no grounds for claims of discrimination and building depreciation. more

Barcelona has experimented with moving coach parks, bus routes and pick-up and put-down points to change the way tourists move through an urban area. In rural areas and in national parks, parking has been used to control visitor movements and reduce dispersal to the sacrifice zone.
Strategies like pedestrianisation and park-and-ride can benefit residents as well as assisting in managing tourism and the tourist experience.

Closing areas to allow regeneration has long been a management practice in natural areas.
Thai officials said Maya Bay needed an enforced break from the daytrippers who have flocked there since it was featured in 2000 film The Beach. more
Thailand closed dozens of dive sites to tourists in 2011. Koh Yoong, in the Phi Phi island chain and Koh Tachai, in the Similan Islands National Park, have also been off-limits to visitors since mid-2016. more
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced that Boracay Island will also be closing for a few months, having, in his words, become an overcrowded "cesspool". more

Banning Second Home Building 
Banning the building of second homes may have unintended consequences as those outsiders wanting to purchase buy existing properties raising prices and damaging the local building and tourism industries. 

Banning Motor Homes 
In the UK Swale Borough Council in Kent has used Section 43 of the anti-social behaviour, crime and policing act to ban overnight camping between 8pm and 8am as illegal and likely to have a "detrimental effect" on locals. The Council says that the council had received complaints "This conduct is unreasonable and must stop immediately." Continued use would result in a £100 fixed penalty notice. If unpaid, magistrates can issue a fine of up to £2,500 and require the "surrender of possessions" which could then be destroyed or disposed of by police.

Section 43: Power to issue notices
(1)An authorised person may issue a community protection notice to an individual aged 16 or over, or a body, if satisfied on reasonable grounds that—
(a)the conduct of the individual or body is having a detrimental effect, of a persistent or continuing nature, on the quality of life of those in the locality, and
(b)the conduct is unreasonable.

In New Zealand, new legislation was introduced in August 2011 empowering local councils to issue fines to people freedom camping in non-designated places. Details 

Demand-side initiatives

Ministers of Tourism and DMOs are generally judged by the visitor arrivals figures, and for national governments with their focus on exports, international arrivals are the key measure of the value of the marketing organisation. If you change the KPI of a marketer, they will deliver to it. A destination could choose to focus on visitor spend, length of stay, distribution and dispersal or on particular market segments. If you don't change the KPIs they will do the easy thing and sell the honeypots.

Attract tourists who fit the destination - change the destination's image
Businesses and the destination marketers should focus their efforts on attracting the market segments which fit the destination. Barcelona has been explicit:

“What is good for citizens is good for the tourist. Places that are good to live in are also good to visit. Efforts will be made to improve the quality of life for local people by managing the friction between residents and visitors and to improve the interaction between hosts and guests…..” and that the “tourist that Catalunya wants to attract is the one who will respect the environment, the society and the local culture, eager to discover and share experiences.” more

Cap Arrivals
Neither Barcelona nor Venice is able to manage tourist arrivals, both have good road links, airports, railway stations and ports, none of which are they able to manage. Dubrovnik, by contrast, has been able to limit cruise ship arrivals. In October 2018 it announced that it is limiting cruise ship arrivals from 2019 to two per day, allowing only 5,000 visitors to arrive by sea each day.

Bruges has placed a cap on the number of cruise ships and an end to all advertising campaigns encouraging daytrippers.

Lanzarote attracted  2.5 million people, or 17 times its native population in 2022. Emma Beaumont reports Brits are too grotty for Lanzarote in the Telegraph that tourist bosses in numerous destinations are discouraging tight-budget UK travellers - and it's class-based. more And in The Times "Brits are too grotty for Lanzarote" María Dolores Corujo, head of Lanzarote’s local government, has declared the island "a “tourist-saturated area” and that they want to “reduce dependence on the British market”. The objective is to move away from mass tourism and to attract those who spend more in the destination. Annabel Fenwick Elliott wrote a piece in The Telegraph "It’s true – German tourists are superior to the British" She reports that "according to the Spanish Tourist Office, the latest stats for Lanzarote show holidaymakers from the UK spend an average of €34 (£30) per day, compared to €27 for Germans", although the Germans stay longer. more
The President subsequently reiterated her view thathe island’s tourist capacity had reached its limit and it had to prioritise a “rational and lasting development based on quality”.But she insisted, in an open letter in the island newspaper La Voz de Lanzarote: “It’s categorically false that in Lanzarote we do not want British tourism or that we want to reduce the numbers of British tourists. .... “In Lanzarote we are also lucky to have an excellent long-time resident British community, a community that is sensitive to the environment and involved in caring for and defending sustainable development for our island. “We share our island character with the British and that makes the existence of limits in an insular, fragile and small territory like ours very well understood.” more in the Evening Standard 
Venice has postponed its day visitor tax again, "initially scheduled for January 16, 2023, will not become effective until 2024. The exact date has yet to be specified."
Balearics: Iago Negueruela, tourism minister of the Balearic Islands, told Lonely Planet. "Our islands have so much more to offer than sun and beach, and we encourage tourists to visit outside of high season to experience our cultural, gastronomic and active offerings, thus spreading the flow of tourism throughout the year."In 2022, the islands brought in a ban on creating new hotels and other tourist accommodations (apartment rentals included) until at least 2026. Existing accommodation can now only extend or refresh its current buildings by 15% and always with the condition of reducing the number of beds by 5%. In Mallorca's capital Palma, Airbnb-style tourist apartments have been banned since 2018. Formentera (the go-slow Balearic sister still only accessible by ferry, off Ibiza's southeast coast) has been limiting vehicle access during high season since 2019. From mid-June to mid-September, non-Balearic visitors who want to drive a car or motorbike here must apply in advance for a permit and, if approved, pay a daily tax of €3 (minimum €15 total) or €1.50 (minimum €7.50 total) respectively; electric vehicles are excluded, while hybrids get a 50% discount. Menorca is now also considering a similar scheme that could begin as early as this summer, as part of the new Menorca Reserva de la Biosfera law approved in January 2023. more
Majorca: Back in November, Director of Tourism Lucia Escribano said the island was "not interested in having the budget tourists from the UK." The government is preventing any increase in bed numbers, effectively capping arrivals. Juan Ferrer, President of the Palma BeaLa Pelosach Quality Offensive, told the German newspaper Bild: "Holidays will be around 33% more expensive in 2023 than in the previous year".For the next two years, Palma’s port will limit cruise ships to three per day.more
The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (Etias), is expected to be implemented in November 2023. This new visa system will apply to people visiting the EU. President of the Spanish tourism group, Mesa del Turismo, Juan Molas, has called the fee a “threat”, stating it risks undermining the country’s tourism sector. In a statement following its first General Assembly of the year, the board said: “The Tourism Board is especially concerned about the impact of this tax on British tourism, our main issuing market with 18 million arrivals in 2019. more
Thailand's Cabinet has approved a proposal by the National Tourism Policy Committee to charge a tourism fee of 300 baht (US$8.80) per person from international travellers who arrive in the country by air. For travellers who arrive by land or sea, the fee is 150 baht per person,
Sardinia: From June 1st to September 30th  access to the La Pelosa beach will be limited in order to protect the environment and prevent erosion. The price is valid for one day and includes the use of toilets and showers. Each user can buy up to 8 tickets per day at €3.50, for adults, children are free.
Skye: Using sensors located at key sites across the island to track the movements of people and vehicles, the MySkyeTime app – inspired by similar technology in use in Barcelona, Amsterdam and Yellowstone Park - will provide live updates to alert visitors as to when best to visit popular places.
In Monterey, California, the council voted 3-2 to terminate city services to process disembarking passengers. Ships will continue to be allowed to drop anchor in the bay and take guests to the shore via tender. However, cruise lines will have to hire staff at the port to process passengers at the city's public dock.

 Change Tourist Behaviour through marketing and advice

a) Demarketing
Demarketing can be used to discourage visitors in order to reduce negative impacts – as with marketing there is a range of methods available from price rises to reducing promotional activity and spreading the word that the quality of the experience has deteriorated to discourage visitors.

b) Discourage “Bad” Tourists and Tourism
Banning stag nights and hen dos. In Barcelona, it is known as “turismo de Borrachera” travelling to another place to behave in ways you would not do where you are known. This does not always require travel across an international boundary.

Rome has outlawed men going topless in public and the practice of attaching “love padlocks” to bridges, both of which carry a fine if contravened. Eating messy foods around tourist attractions, touching your lips against the spout when drinking from Roman public water fountains, Ticket touts selling “skip the line” tickets at some of the Eternal City’s biggest attractions, such as the Vatican Museums and Colosseum, are prohibited, as well as those who dress up as Roman centurions around tourist hotspots and charge money for photos.

c) Pricing and Rationing
Dynamic pricing charging higher prices at peak demand and lower prices when demand and crowding is less

Site Hardening

Constructing facilities and locating trails and roads to reduce the impacts of visitors on sensitive soils and vegetation, and to help meet the visitors' needs for user access.

Managing activity in the destination

Municipal Regulation
Examples where a local government organisation has taken a holistic approach to the management of tourism in the destination as has been the case in, for example, Barcelona and Sagada in the Philippines.

Introducing guide and tour operator licenses.
In Barcelona, there is a city task group working to prevent the spread of souvenir shops in Ciutat Vella, Sagrada Família, Park Güell

Dispersal – Spatial
Spread the tourist out by encouraging them to visit less visited places, there may well be districts and areas where people would like to see more tourists, boost less popular attractions and develop new ones. Paris has done this effectively for many years. Barcelona has adopted spatial dispersal as part of its strategy and Helsinki has encouraged citizens to invite tourists to visit their favourite places.

Create new itineraries and guided tours to less visited areas
Consider regulating group size and coach drop off points to manage visitor flows

In Ireland the Wild Atlantic Way 

Dispersal - temporal
Attracting tourists to visit at other times of the year, week and day to disperse the positive and negative impacts of tourism.

Timed Tickets and Differential Pricing

 'Policing' Activities and Behaviour
Since May 2017 in Florence:

"From today, we'll be experimenting with a very simple measure: pouring water over the church steps to clean the spaces, and hopefully discourage people from eating, drinking and making a mess there,"

Mayor Dario Nardella told reporters. "If tourists want to sit there, they'll get wet," he said. "Florence is full of cafes with outdoor seating, tables, and benches. The churches aren't restaurants; they are religious and cultural sites." more

Since 2018 in Amsterdam:
Public consumption of alcohol will result in a fine of €95; public urination, disorderliness and littering, meanwhile, will draw fines of €140.

The council has also announced plans to tackle overcrowding in The Wallen, which residents say has become “unliveable” due to mass tourism. Streets there will be monitored in real time and coded green, orange or red, depending on how busy they are. If a code red is called, officials will be deployed and “if necessary, streets will be closed,” the council said. More

Komodo, Indonesia  The fight for Dragon Island 
Maya Bay "The Beach" Thailand 

If you have solutions for overtourism which you would like to see included here please email harold@haroldgoodwin.info Your contribution will be acknowledged.


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