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Despite overtourism concerns European city residents welcome growth in visitor numbers

26 September 2018

Last week at the 7th Global Summit on Urban Tourism, the World Tourism Organization (WTO) gave a presentation entitled 'Overtourism'? Understanding and Managing Urban Tourism Growth beyond Perceptions.

In the presentation WTO "rebuffs" a number of overtourism myths and states a number of "key conclusions." I'm not going to get into all of these - you can see the full presentation at the External Article link, below - but here are 3 that are actionable by city destinations and tourism businesses:

  1. Tourism congestion needs to be addressed through cooperation: tourism & non-tourism administrations + private sector + communities + tourists
  2. Measures cannot focus only on tourist numbers & behaviour – they should also focus on local stakeholders.
  3. Understanding residents’ attitude towards tourism & engaging communities is central.

Focusing for the moment on Conclusion #3 re residents' attitudes: WTO researchers conducted a survey via online questionnaire of 3153 residents of these 8 European cities: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Munich, Salzburg and Tallinn.

Survey questions were designed to elicit responses about the respondents' views on the effect of tourism on their "living environment" and "quality of life" and to reveal "stakeholder perceptions" about the effects of tourism on their cities.

Researchers identified a number of perceptions as Positive or Negative, and as Spatial, Economic or Social. Here are the top two in each subcategory:


  • Social
    • Greater international touch
    • More positive image
  • Economic
    • More events
    • More seasonal jobs in tourism
  • Spatial
    • Protection of historical parts of the city
    • Restoration of traditional architecture


  • Economic
    • Increase of price level of rents and houses
    • Increase in price level of taxis
  • Spatial
    • Less housing for residents
    • Overcrowding of public transportation
  • Social
    • Pollution, littering, noise (This was the only social negative found.)

The researchers also asked respondents about their attitude toward further tourism growth, in (1) their own neighborhoods and (2) in their cities. Results:

  • For both Neighborhood and City, 30% of respondents said "I feel that there should be no limitations to the growth of visitor numbers."
  • For Neighborhood (26%) and City (24%), respondents said "I feel that there is still room for visitor numbers to grow further."

Only single-digit shares of respondents agreed with any of the following statements:

  • I feel all tourism development should be stopped.
  • I feel all tourism promotion and marketing should be stopped.
  • I feel the growth rate of visitor numbers should be slowed down.
  • I feel that there is still room for visitor numbers to grow further, but not in the peak season.

When asked to pick from a list of 11 visitor management strategies, respondents most preferred these:

  1. Improve the infrastructure and facilities (e.g., roads, parking)
  2. Involve local residents and businesses in tourism planning
  3. Communicate better with visitors on how to behave
  4. Distribute visitors better over the year
  5. Create experiences where residents and visitors can integrate

Respondents gave only tepid support to this strategy: "Forbid the offering of Airbnb in certain parts of the city".

The 3 management strategies that were least liked by respondents were:

  1. Demotivate visitors to go to certain areas via higher tariffs/taxes
  2. Prevent visitors from going to certain areas via transport regulations or activities
  3. Attract only visitors from certain target groups/lifestyles

Based on the findings above, the WTO presentation offers 12 policy recommendations - see the External Article for the complete list - including these 2 which local DMOs and tourism businesses should be driving (my emphasis):

  • Regularly monitor the perception of local communities towards tourism and promote the sector among residents.
  • Promote monitoring and evidence-based decisions and planning.

What we have here is a fact-based recipe for local tourism industries to use in achieving the greatest possible level of satisfaction of local residents with how tourism impacts their lives and their pocketbooks.

For more articles on overtourism in the USA and Europe, follow these links to my Tourism Marketer site:

Rockland ME City Council votes to limit visits by large cruise ships to September and October

Portland may rethink regulations following registration of large numbers of short term rental units

Researchers find cruise ships bring little benefit to Portland ME taxpayers

Bar Harborites concerned that more - or fewer - visitors will be coming in 2018

Airbnb regulation controversy heating up in Boston

Portuguese demonstrate as tourist rentals drive rents up

Strong German demand for Greece and Turkey challenges hotel room supply

Anti-tourism campaigns, plunging Turkish lira lead to fewer visits to Spain by Brits and Germans

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And if you have questions or comments, you can easily send them to me with the Quick Reply form, below, or send me an e-mail.

David Boggs    - David
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External Article: http://cf.cdn.unwto.org/sites/all/files/pdf/presentation_unwto_report_on_overtourism_1.pdf

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