What Overtourism Will Look Like in 7 Cities in the Next Decade

Jun 16, 2019

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Overtourism is hardly a new concept to travel, and when people think of crowded, touristy cities, destinations such as Venice and Amsterdam may come to mind. But these are just the studies struggling with throngs of visitors today. A new study conducted by the World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC) and Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) analyzed 50 cities across the globe, and pointed out seven destinations where rapidly increasing tourism could cause serious issues in the next decade.

The study divided cities into categories based on how prepared the city is for tourism growth. It measured cities based on factors such as labor, infrastructure, stability, environment, sustainable tourism growth, tourism management and more. The study compared those factors to the visitor growth forecast between 2017 and 2027. When a city has a poor score for tourism factors and a high score in projected tourism growth, the city is at risk for overtourism. Basically, these cities have a higher tourism growth rate than the current resources can handle.

Seven cities in particular were identified as having growing tourism momentum, increased pressures and inadequate resources for accommodating the boom: Bangkok, Thailand; Cape Town in South Africa; Delhi, India; Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City; Istanbul, Turkey; Jakarta, Indonesia (which is also projected to be the world’s most populous city by 2030); and Mexico City.

Photo by Ashley Jurius on Unsplash.
Photo by Ashley Jurius on Unsplash.

So, if you’re interested in traveling to any of these cities, it might be better to go now — or at least, well before 2030.

While the threat of overtourism seems to be impacting, well, pretty much every sought-after destination on Earth, the study also found many cities that are successfully handling increased tourism. Cities such as Berlin, Dublin, Madrid, London, Miami and New York City (notably, mostly Western European capitals) are “mature performers” which, according to the WTTC, means they are some of the cities — along with so-called “balanced dynamics” destinations — that are, “in the most favorable and ready position to manage the current levels of growth.”

Financial hub cities including Beijing, Chicago, Hong Kong and Tokyo have less leisure travel, so visitor growth doesn’t add as much strain.

For travelers who simply prefer less popular destinations (read: thinner crowds), cities including Bogotá, Colombia; Lima, Peru; Cairo; Egypt and Moscow; Russia have slower tourism growth and lower visitor concentration.

This WTTC study comes on the heels of a Responsible Travel report that found 98 destinations in 63 countries struggling with overtourism. While some are not at all surprising, like the Great Wall of China and the Statue of Liberty, there are other places like Tallinn Old Town in Estonia and Darjeeling, in India, that are also scrambling to manage the onslaught of visitors. And these aren’t even mainstream attractions.

Destinations have had to get really creative to manage increased and sometimes untenable tourism. Amsterdam, for example, removed their famous photo-opp sign in December, and both Venice and Rome have been implementing strict regulations and laws aimed at controlling tourists. And then there’s the Faroe Islands, an entire nation that had to close its doors to tourists for a few days for “maintenance.”

Though overtourism continues to be an issue, tourism and travel is still essential to the international economy. The WTTC reported that the industry contributes 10.4% to global GDP. The problem, according to the WTTC, is not tourism itself, but adequately preparing destinations to manage the industry in a thoughtful and sustainable way.

Feature photo by Lisheng Chang via Unsplash.

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