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Is overtourism becoming a threat?

In many cities, opposition to the increasing amount of tourism is growing. Yet travellers in many places also have a growing feeling of being part of an anonymous mass. Every participant in the “Overtourism revisited” keynote panel at ITB Berlin could share similar experiences.

Is overtourism becoming a serious problem for the tourism industry? In a smartphone survey, 72 per cent of the audience agreed that it is. High time to counter it, said Sunita Rajan, CNN’s Senior Vice President Advertising Sales, at ITB Berlin. “Overtourism is a dangerous buzzword that puts the entire industry in danger.” Tourism brings growth and jobs into regions as well.

Dr Manuel Butler Halter, Executive Director of the World Tourism Organization UNWTO, confirmed that imposing an entrance fee, as Venice is doing, may be one way to manage the floods of tourists. It is, however, not a long-term solution. What resident wants to feel as though they live in a museum that requires a fee to enter? There is also the public outcry “that then only the rich will be able to visit certain places.” Using their smartphones, guests had the opportunity to post short messages directly to the white screen.

Entrance fees are not an option in Dubrovnik, ensured Romana Vlasic, Director of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board – even though the 40,000 residents are visited by two million tourists each year. Among them, 1.3 million spend the night in the city, and the rest are cruise travellers. Cooperation with the local population is essential. “They must be given the feeling that they are involved and able to steer development themselves,” said Vlasic. “We need to listen to their voices.”

“Tourism brings people a lot of good,” explained Prof Dr Albert Postma of the Dutch Stenden University. Sustainable tourism has been a topic of discussion for several years. Now, however, people are slowly asking whether the economy can handle it alone and who the agents of change will be: “Who will take responsibility?”

Mirko Heinemann

 

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