Tourism around the world has been growing fast with total visitor spending now in excess of $7 trillion USD and 11% of global GDP. More than $1.3 trillion of this spending is from 1.2 billion international travelers. This growth is being driven by several long-term trends including rapidly expanding middle classes in developing countries, rebounding economies after the Great Financial Crisis and a shift from goods to services in consumer preferences – including those seeking travel experiences.
This growth is creating an increasing range of problems that Skift has coined “Overtourism”. These problems include crowding and congestion, impact of historic sites, increased waste and environmental degradation. In an increasing number of cities, regions and nations, local residents are expressing their frustration with these impacts and the tourism industry is being forced to respond.
These resources and best practice examples can guide you and your destination's efforts towards avoiding, mitigating and/or managing Overtourism.
1. The DMO’s Role
The challenges of Overtourism emphasizes the important role for any destination organization in both marketing and management. A DMO needs to be a DMMO – Destination Marketing and Management Organization. The risks, issues and challenges of Overtourism can only be effectively addressed if the DMO is actively involved with other government agencies in destination management. This can include involvement in tasks such as surveying local residents, helping mitigate parking and traffic congestion, educating visitors, providing input into natural areas management plans and more. Ensure your organization has the mandate and resources for providing this leadership and support.
- “Destination Next” from Destinations International is a great resource describing the evolving role and responsibilities of Destination Marketing and Management Organizations.
- Stay up to date with the latest news and responses to managing Overtourism. Skift, who coined the term, has an excellent online library of “Overtourism” articles.
2. Developing or Updating an Overall Destination Strategy
The efforts to avoid or minimize Overtourism also need to include a clear, long-term management plan for the destination. This is a full, holistic view of tourism within the destination–identifying the outcomes and benefits sought from tourism with the marketing and management strategies that will be used to ensure tourism growth is both achievable and well-managed. Tourism must be sustainable over the long-term for businesses, the community and the environment. This “triple bottom line” approach ensures that tourism provides benefits to all the key stakeholders and assets in any community–outcomes that are the foundation of long term tourism success.
- Australian Regional Tourism developed a set of best practice guidelines for developing a Destination Management Plan that is a useful starting point
- The World Travel & Tourism Council with consultants McKinsey published "Coping with Success," a global review of best practice principles for specifically managing Overtourism.
- Wonderful Copenhagen developed one of the most discussed Destination Management Plans in recent years emphasizing destination management (e.g.: dispersal of visitors) and marketing strategies that attract visitors who want to “live like locals”. This new strategy famously declared the “End of Tourism – as we know it”.
3. Visitor Responsibility Codes
In recent years an increasing number of destinations have taken an active role in educating visitors on their responsibilities when traveling; how they can respect and minimize their impact on local communities and the environment. One of the first resources in this area was the Travel Care Code that launched in 2008 with input from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Eastern Carolina University and Purdue University’s Graduate School of Tourism & Hospitality where it is currently managed (the Travel Care Code has been sponsored and supported since its launch by Miles Partnership). More recently, destinations as diverse as Palau, Iceland, Colorado and New Zealand have launched their own traveler responsibilities codes.
- The list of examples below shares the responsibility codes from different destinations. The Travel Care Code is available for reuse and publishing by DMOs at no cost. You can also reach out to the Travel Care Code team and its chairman Dr. Jonathon Day at Purdue University for guidance on developing your own Care Code.
4. A Future Focused Measurement Framework including Resident Surveys
A final, important part of successfully managing a destination’s development and growth is having a robust set of research and data solutions. The insights should provide clear feedback on your progress against defined and measurable objectives–both marketing and management. It should also include data on environmental and community impacts (e.g.: water and air quality, traffic congestion) and a survey of both visitors and residents’ attitudes and experiences with travel in a destination.
Visitor research is already an established part of most DMO market research efforts, but resident research is also critical. Measuring and responding to changes in how residents see tourism and the support they have for the industry is fundamental to the long-term success of any DMMO. Without strong community support for tourism destination marketing becomes a lot more difficult. The visitor experience will suffer as locals no longer provide a warm welcome and the political support for tourism will also be put under pressure.
- The New Zealand Tourism Industry’s Mood of the Nation is just one of a wide range of resident surveys that assess the attitudes and feedback around tourism from locals. https://tia.org.nz/resources-and-tools/insight/mood-of-the-nation/
- Destination Think’s new Tourism Sentiment Index is one approach to leveraging “big data” from social and UGC channels to also measure visitors’ and locals’ experiences with travel in the destination. https://destinationthink.com/about-tsi/