Introduction and Overview

Purpose and Plan of the Book

The idea for this book was conceived before the coronavirus pandemic took hold in March 2020. At the end of 2019, overtourism was a frequently discussed topic in the media and among tourism professionals across the globe. The conversation’s focus was on how do we manage the exponential growth in tourism at destination level to avoid being overwhelmed by overtourism. No one knew that by mid-2020 tourism would come to a virtual standstill causing much concern and exposing the economic fragility in tourism-dependent destinations. However, this book does not consider a global reduction in international travel as a likely long-term solution to addressing overtourism. Rather destinations should prepare for continuous growth in both international tourist arrivals and domestic tourism in the longer term.

For now, mass tourism and in turn overtourism have been paused, but it seems inevitable that these will return in the future if destinations do not take prompt action before the growth in international tourism resumes. In the short term, social distancing measures mean that those destinations most exposed to overtourism will have to be managed better. This puts pressure on destination management organizations (DMOs) to pause and reflect on the type of tourism and visitors they wish to attract going forward. DMOs will need to engage with the destination’s key industry stakeholders and local host population to ensure that maximum benefit is delivered at the destination level be that economically, socioculturally, or environmentally. The power and influence of key individual stakeholders, such as airport and port authorities, are often overlooked at the destination level. This can result in failure to accept and implement strategies and actions designed to address overtourism and ensure long-term sustainability of the tourism industry.

This book seeks to examine and analyze the causes of overtourism and how this negative phenomenon, and consequence of the exponential growth in international travel and tourism, can be managed or even reversed through effective destination management. Essentially, this requires strong stakeholder collaboration and engagement with the local community at the destination level combined with an appropriate DMO structure. Too often the main role of DMOs is merely marketing and promotion rather than managing visitors once they have arrived at the destination. For many DMOs the primary objective is to attract more visitors and to ensure maximum utilization of the tourism-related infrastructure such as hotels and visitor attractions rather than managing visitors. One of the critical success factors for destinations is to better understand the value of the different types of visitors they attract. This knowledge allows destinations to focus on those segments that provide the most benefits at the local level and tends to be overnight staying visitors rather than daytrippers.

If anything, the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the dire consequences for destinations that are too dependent on tourism, and the accompanying economic fragility this can cause. The crisis has highlighted the importance of having a balanced economy rather than relying on tourism as the main industry sector. Tourism as part of an equitable economy should probably equate to less than 10 percent of gross domestic product (GDP)/gross value added (GVA) being derived from the tourism in a country or destination.

It is important to bear in mind that there are many benefits associated with a successful tourism industry. The sector plays an important role in promoting the attractiveness and appeal of a place not only as a destination to visit but also as a place to live, work, study, and invest. Tourism supports the preservation and conservation of cultural and natural heritage assets. At the same time, the many micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) operating in the tourism sector are responsible for creating vital local jobs and contributing to economic growth and prosperity. However, in order to be successful, destinations need to be managed effectively with a focus on sustainability, people, planet, and profit.

Limitations of Scope

This book seeks to illustrate the positive steps that destinations and DMOs can take to develop and manage their tourism sector in a more sustainable manner that brings benefits and economic prosperity to the local host population while avoiding overtourism and some of the associated negative social and environmental impacts.

The book acknowledges that travel and tourism is set to continue to grow as an aspirational activity in the long term. Although, the exponential growth in travel was paused momentarily by the coronavirus pandemic, it is recognized that people always have and will travel when they are able to do so.

Therefore, destinations and DMOs should consider how they can work smarter and introduce measures to better manage visitor flows as well as seeking to attract those visitors who deliver the most added value at the local level. This in turn should help guarantee that a destination’s carrying capacity is managed rather than exceeded and situations that give rise to tourism phobia and antitourism campaigns are avoided. Achieving effective destination management requires a systematic approach to measuring and monitoring a destination’s performance according to a set of agreed key indicators. Furthermore, destinations should pursue a flexible long-term strategy supported by an appropriate action and implementation plan with short-, medium-, and long-term goals.

As the travel and tourism industry is highly fragmented there are no easy solutions, nor a one-size-fits-all model that will work for every single destination. However, there are numerous common issues which means that destinations can learn from each other without compromising their individual uniqueness and in turn competitive advantage. Thus, this book looks at destination management examples that can make DMOs more effective in overcoming the overtourism challenge by introducing measures to monitor, manage, and disperse visitor flows in order to avoid saturation. Part of the solution is to effectively engage with the local host population and key industry stakeholders in a collaborative manner in order to achieve strategic alignment. In general, this requires a multidisciplinary crosscutting approach to destination management that addresses tourism in a holistic manner. Tourism needs to be fully integrated into the destination’s wider regulatory and policy framework and not considered in isolation.

This book aims to highlight how destinations can avoid falling victim to overtourism. By adopting an effective destination management model, destinations can benefit from a successful tourism industry in the long run. An effective destination management model requires measuring and monitoring trends on an ongoing basis in order to anticipate and plan for the future.

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