Overcoming overtourism: Responsibility and accountability among industry stakeholders

by | Sep 21, 2023

News of European countries taking measures to manage overtourism is hitting online channels, making many in the hospitality industry wonder what it means for them.

Overtourism is the increase in tourist numbers at such high volumes that it negatively impacts residents, visitors, cultures, and the surrounding environment of a particular destination.

What Are the Reasons for Overtourism?

The global tourism industry has consistently been on the rise even before the pandemic.

In 2023, many destinations are close to or even above pre-pandemic levels of arrivals.

Source: United Nations World Tourism Organisation

What are the consequences of over-tourism

Unveiling the detrimental effects of overtourism shows its impact on the environment, local communities, cultures and economies.

  • Global warming and air pollution:
    The rise in transportation emissions—carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter (PM)—expansion of infrastructure and high energy consumption in tourist hotspots significantly contributes to global warming.
  • Disruption to the environment:
    Often, transportation emissions from cruise ships lead to water pollution. Noise pollution in overpopulated areas further exacerbates the environmental strain. The stress of excessive foot traffic, constructions, litter, deforestation, erosion and pollution forces more stress on ecosystems.
  • The strain on infrastructure:
    Overtourism brings in tourists more than a destination and its resources can handle. Local infrastructure often struggles to meet that escalating demand causing a shortage of infrastructure that affects locals and tourists alike.
  • Rising living costs:
    As demand for accommodation, services and goods increases due to tourism, prices rise, making it more difficult for locals to afford necessities. Known as tourist inflation, this situation leads to housing shortages and increased living costs for locals.
  • Loss of cultural authenticity:
    Overtourism can lead to the commercialization and homogenization of local culture and traditions. When businesses cater primarily to tourists, it dilutes the authentic experiences that initially attracted visitors in the first place, leading to a loss of community identity.
  • Economic instability:
    Economies that are heavily reliant on tourism are made vulnerable to fluctuations in industry. As the pandemic showed, countries depending solely on tourism fo
    r their foreign income can experience economic instability if tourism declines.

How to avoid and manage over-tourism

The solution to overtourism, responsible tourism or purposeful travel, refers to tourism that creates better places for people to live and visit. As the opposite of overtourism, it relates to increasing the quality of life for locals, creating a positive experience for visitors and promoting sustainability.
Taking a more responsible approach to tourism can mitigate the adverse effects of overtourism.

1. Destination planning and management

Setting capacity limits for popular attractions and accommodations can prevent excessive commercial development in sensitive areas. For hotels and restaurants, this also involves partnerships with local attractions, local businesses and eco-conscious industry stakeholders to plan economic development, land use and infrastructure usage. Implementing smart destination management systems, green supply chains, and transparency in stakeholder operations can also help manage the negative effects of tourism and adjust resources accordingly.

2. Technology integration

Hotels can implement smart technology to reduce the environmental impact of increased occupancy. For example, a property management system can track venue capacity and room availability, enabling hotels to control their guest intake and capacity. Smart inventory management software can forecast the right quantity of resources, ensuring that the hotel is ready for a sudden influx of guests without wasting resources. Further, housekeeping and guest engagement solutions can track room requests, meeting guest needs faster and reducing the room turnaround time during peak seasons.

3. Promoting off-peak travel

Businesses can do this by optimising their marketing and communications with their audience. Using customer data and analytics tools, businesses can identify customer preferences and offer incentives, discounts or special packages that entice them to travel during off seasons. A reservation system can help hospitality businesses implement dynamic pricing models, encouraging off-peak travel by offering discounted rates during non-peak periods. This helps distribute tourist flows more evenly throughout the year, reducing pressure on the destination during peak seasons.

4. Tourist education and awareness

Educating tourists about local customs, etiquette, and sustainable behaviours through brochures, apps, guides, and website information is another step towards responsible tourism. Hotels and restaurants can not only be sustainable but invite their guests to do the same with responsible practices, such as waste reduction, respecting local traditions, energy conservation and minimising noise. By doing so, hospitality businesses can encourage their guests to maintain responsible behaviours, fostering a more sensitive approach to the destination.

5. Visitor/ guest management

Introducing guest management technologies such as timed entry tickets, reservation systems, table booking software, or check-in modules can help hotels, destinations and restaurants control visitor numbers. Having digital check-in and check-out systems reduces queues and congestion in hotel lobbies, creating a smoother experience for guests. This process is further enhanced and accelerated with the use of mobile solutions that enable swift bookings. Reservation systems and table booking solutions allow hotels to limit the number of rooms or tables available for booking, closely monitor the reservations against available capacity and avoid exceeding the crowd beyond sustainable limits.

6. Collaborative engagement

To initiate all strategies smoothly, it is essential to foster collaboration between local authorities, tourism boards, hospitality associations, service providers and community groups. Sustainable solutions that positively impact everyone can only be made through inclusive decision-making. Brands and organizations can collaborate with local communities to provide authentic cultural experiences. Technology platforms can also facilitate smooth interactions between tourists and locals, encouraging responsible and sustainable tourism practices.

Sustainable tourism is a shared responsibility.

Overtourism necessitates a collective commitment to responsible practices and careful planning. By embracing sustainable approaches, destinations can ensure that their allure remains intact while preserving the environment, cultures, and livelihoods that make them unique.
A collaborative effort from all parties of the travel industry ecosystem can ensure that profit, leisure and sustainability all can thrive together.

Jacob K I | IDS NEXT


Jacob K I

Vice President - Business Development

He is responsible for developing growth strategy focused both on financial gain and customer satisfaction. He is also responsible for conducting research to identify new markets and customer needs.