The growth of tourist flows continues relentlessly. According to IATA, the number of passengers could double to 8.2 billion in 2037, which is the reservoir of tourists worldwide, i.e. people who have not yet traveled. When the Chinese and Indian middle classes travel in large numbers, they will want to discover the must-see sites in the world. Today, only 2 million Chinese come to France, against 740 000 in 2009. It’s unstoppable. But the worst, while travelers do not all want to go to the same places, they end up there regardless. As such, there is a sustained concentration of 95% of flows on 5% of territories.
In such a context, how the early signs of saturation could be identified. According to some experts, it is high time to create dashboards to measure indicators (air quality, a ratio of tourists per capita, house prices, number of seasonal rentals). A co-existence of tourists and local population in the cities should be reviewed in order to move towards a more harmonious cohabitation and prevent overtourism.
Until recently, tourists were relatively well accepted because they were ‘parked’ in their hotels or resorts. Today, the tourist occupies the apartment of the neighborhood, and also do not always behave very well. For example, Portugal attracted 3.2 million French tourists in 2018 (+ 10%), who favor Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve. Since 2006, the destination has been trying to dilute flows into the interior of the country and new coastal areas.
Destinations adopt measures that range between restrictive, like Amsterdam that has reduced the rental of an entire home to 30 nights a year, and incentivising. London, on the other hand, is trying to further develop the hotel business in the periphery by facilitating access to transportation. Here, local authorities – municipalities and regions – have an active part and a direct responsibility by investing in infrastructures.
The authorities obviously have a decisive role. All were shocked to see a boat hitting the quays in Venice, but this is not the fault of tourists. One wonders what the city of Venice and the Italian government are doing. There is a question of governance.
In areas where there is a lot of tension due to the overtourism, there is a need for responsible destinations, able to limit the number of visitors per day, such as Alhambra in Spain, and able to give up growth. As of right now, many countries do not feel affected by overtourism, and continue to set increasingly ambitious goals, while their major airports are expanding. Low-cost flights continue to grow, representing 31% of global traffic in 2018 according to ICAO. In some cases, much more, for example currently low-cost airlines account for 80 to 85% of air flows to Portugal. Considering, in particular, the growth of Chinese or Indian travelers, some experts suggest closing the doors at some tourist sites, to limit the tourist influx.