It is amazing to see the tourism industry booming – it is a sign that travel is becoming more affordable and of travelers curiosity and desire to see the world!
However, while Tourism has many positive effects on the host destination, it is not always without the challenges – one of which is overtourism.
As a travel organizer, you have the power and can play a part in alleviating the pressure being felt in popular locations.
What Is Overtourism
Tourism is a vital industry in many countries. It provides much needed economic and infrastructural benefits, creates jobs, and supports the creation of businesses. But it should never be at the cost of the destination inviting visitors in.
According to the UNWTO’s Tourism Towards 2030 forecast report, tourist numbers are expected to grow 3.3% annually from 2010 to reach 1.8 billion annual arrivals in 2030. The question now is whether the host destinations have the infrastructure to support these visitors in addition to their own residents.
It is important to note that overtourism is not necessarily about the number of visitors to a location. Instead, it is more closely tied to the host’s ability to accommodate the incoming capacity.
A 2017 study identified five challenges related to overtourism; namely alienated local residents, degraded tourist experience, overloaded infrastructure, damage to nature, and threats to culture and heritage. Knowing that the problems exist means you can take steps to be part of the solution.
Where Is This A Problem
Venice has been experiencing hypertourism for the last few years, and June 2019 saw the mayor of the city urging UNESCO to place it on the world heritage blacklist. The resident Venetian population has been on the decline for a while, as locals move out of the city to get away from the tourists. They have held protests in the past, too, against an industry that they saw is eroding their quality of life.
Earlier this year, authorities closed Thailand’s The Beach until 2021. This is to give the coral reefs in the bay, which have been badly damaged by the 5,000 daily swimmers and snorkelers who visit, a chance to recover. In 2008, just 170 people a day visited Maya Bay.
When Machu Picchu was built by the Incas, it had an estimated population of 750 people. Recently, tourist visits to the site topped 1.4 million a year. Needless to say, the ruins were in danger of being damaged or falling apart as travelers were allowed to climb the walls and venture around without much restriction. As a result, UNESCO advised of its intention to place the monument of its List of World Heritage in Danger, forcing the Peruvian government into action to protect it.
How Travel Organizers Can Avoid Adding To The Problem
The examples above are not the only places experiencing the negative effects of too many visitors. The reality is that Governments, host communities, travel companies, travel organizers, and travelers all have a part to play in managing overtourism. Here’s what you can do about it.
Select The Path Less Traveled
While Instagram provides your clients with plenty of enviable photos they subsequently wish to capture themselves, many lesser-known destinations are just as beautiful. Take a look at some of the up and coming destinations promoted by OTA’s, and consider these for your travel packages.
Take Intrepid Travel as an example. This OTA is continuously expanding their destination portfolio, and you will find places such as Azerbaijan, Moldova, and the Falkland Islands on the list. Although they are possibly better known than Nauru or Kiribati, they probably don’t appear on the cards as often as Paris or Amsterdam.
Travel Out of Season
In season, travel destinations can get very busy. This often has a knock-on effect on your clients’ experience as they end up losing out on getting a genuine feel for where they are. Activities are booked, restaurants are full, and accommodation is hard to come by.
If your clients are set on visiting the more popular destinations, why not see if you can sell them into going out of season? Spots such as Cape Town enjoy sunshine days with very mild temperatures throughout winter and into spring. Or visit the Caribbean during summer, the beaches are just as beautiful. Overall the weather is simply the luck of the draw.
What you do have control over, is the more affordable off-peak prices you can pass onto your clients. They will also get to experience the place like a local, with fewer people around.
Support Local Businesses
There is no better way to explore a place than through the eyes of a local. Book all your tours and activities with local travel companies, or hire a guide from the area. Their innate knowledge will provide your guests with an authentic experience that cannot be replicated.
Similarly, book accommodation with local hotels and eat out at restaurants owned by city residents. By investing money back into the community, you can help it to build the infrastructure it needs to host travelers.
Pay It Back To The Community
In addition to hiring and supporting local travel businesses in the destinations you sell, you can also consider investing money or time into it in the form of volunteer or charity work.
Being an active and contributing figure in the community can help to better support them as a whole, beyond those in the immediate travel and tourism industry you are involved with.
Surround Yourself With an Ethical Travel Partner Network
Many travel organizers and tour companies build up a travel partner network to get access to more services, activities, and potential clients. The benefits can be huge, but you need to be selective in the process, as not all businesses necessarily have the same ethical standards that yours does.
You wouldn’t want to book accommodation for your clients from your partner, just to find that they made reservations with a multi-national hotel over a locally owned B&B if you are trying to be more supportive of the local community.
Choose wisely, and do a bit of homework to make sure that your visions align.
Being a responsible travel organizer is being part of the solution to the problem of overtourism. Let your clients know all about your ethical travel decisions, and you are sure to see the bookings rolling in in no time.