Overtourism

Overtourism - Whose Fault Is It? - South China Morning Post

Excerpt from South China Morning Post

From media and airlines to travellers, everyone is a culprit

Over the past 12 months, the media and travel industry have awoken to the strains that too many tourists can place upon a single destination. Why has it taken so long?

The term “overtourism” is a new one. According to Google Trends, it was first searched for in January 2006, and then again in April 2012 – a full six years later. However, it wasn’t until 2017 that its use spiked and the concept surrounding it crystallised, made definite by a newly “woke” travel industry suddenly concerned about the negative impacts of its activities.

The Collins online dictionary – currently the only major English-language dictionary to include the expression – defines overtourism as, “The phenomenon of a popular destination or sight becoming overrun with tourists in an unsustainable way.” We have seen it occur across Asia for much longer than the word has been commonplace, and the reality of it looms large as tourism continues to grow on a global scale. But whose fault is it?

Having acknowledged the issue earlier than most, British travel company Responsible Travel has come up with a list of offenders that includes the expected as well as the unexpected.

Those belonging to the former camp include: airlines, which have transformed countless holiday hotspots into honeypots by offering affordable flights without a thought to the environmental costs involved; cruise lines, which have been accused of not only polluting the atmosphere but also giving little – financially or otherwise – to the ports at which they call; tourist boards, which for too long have been concerned with volume over value; and, of course, travellers themselves.

Among the more unusual suspects, however, is the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, nominated for having stated that, “Tourism is not the enemy. Growth is not the enemy, numbers are not the enemy. It’s how we manage growth that matters,” in response to anti-tourism protests in Barcelona, Spain, last year. Arguably, in the case of overtourism, both tourism and growth are the enemy, something that a leading global institution would do well to admit.

The media is also singled out, “mainly because they are resistant to publishing negative stories on their travel pages”, says Responsible Tourism’s report, adding that best beach listicles or articles declaring the top 10 Instagram spots are hackneyed, repetitive and guilty of funnelling travellers to the same tiring destinations. Travel publishers, editors and writers could also be pulled up for not acknowledging the issue of overtourism until it became impossible to ignore.

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