Although the railways and airlines very quickly turned to new technologies to optimise and simplify client pathways, in the hotel industry the relationship with digital tools is more ambivalent. Smart Hotels that put technology at the heart of every level of the concept inspire desire and mistrust in equal measure.
Barcelona, Venice and Dubrovnik are three oft cited examples to illustrate the fear of global overtourism, followed by a general exasperation for populations on every continent with the never-ending and damaging flow of tourists…
Why is that Barcelona, Venice and Dubrovnikare still case studies? According to the WTM Top 100 City Destinations Ranking published by Euromonitor International, Barcelona is only 23rd in the list of the cities most visited by tourists—with 7.6million tourists in 2017—far behind the most visited cities in the world. Venice only comes in at 38th and Dubrovnik does not even make the top 100!
How and why can we talk about overtourism,when the metropolises, at least in theory,have adequate capacity to host that manyvisitors? Why is tourism only an issue in two out of the top 100 visited cities in theworld? This is all the more surprising given that the term ‘overtourism’ was invented to describe the negative effects of an excessive load on fragile environments (Machu Pichu, Mont St-Michel, naturalsites, etc.), which is clearly not the case for large cities. And in the case of Venice, the reason that local authorities allowed ever larger cruise ships to enter the lagoon and threaten the natural ecosystem was the promise of income. The issue was simple,as is the solution.
The first decisions to make
We need to make things clear. To do this, we suggest two definitions for two phenomena,which, although they are related, have separate causes and above all have different solutions.
1 Touristophobia: an aversion to tourists that is demonstrated by acts of rejection—or aggression—committed towards them.
2 Tourismophobia: a rejection of the touristindustry and its institutional partners (publicand local authorities, tourist offices, portand airport authorities, etc.) and commercial partners (OTA, hotels, attractions, transporters,etc.) by local residents, who feel—legitimately or not—that they are deprived of their rights, benefits and tranquillity.The first must be rejected forcefully. We cannot allow this kind of obscurantism, which seeks to limit a healthy desire to discover the world. Any political project that aims to make terrible visitors responsible for local choices seems like an easy—some may say populist—and dangerous answer to a far more complex issue. This brings to mind the political vision of the current President of the USA, who blames others (particularly the countries allies) for the difficulties experienced by its citizens (particularly those who think like him), which satisfies a part of the electorate that eat up these intellectual shortcuts that are guessworkat best.
The second is worthy of consideration. Althoughour first reflex may be to defend tourism andtourists above all else, it can be seen that some decisions made in the past were advantageous for some whilst being detrimental to others,in particular local residents. Tourists do not arrive in a destination by chance (and in their millions) without the active participation oftourism managers. The whole thing is the resultof decades of progressive work. It is therefore the sign of a strong, organised and long-term desire of regional and local authorities, which is often explained by the promising fiscal andeconomic yield. Whereas, good public policyis based on the following precept: the benefits must be concentrated on a group that will enjoy them and recognise them, and the costs must be distributed, i.e. borne by the majority who will not be aware, or only slightly aware, ofthem. The growth in tourism often meets this criterion for the local tourism management, but rarely for the residents. However, the residents sometimes incur concentrated costs (such asdaily annoyance) and only reap the benefits felt by the municipality second-hand (taxes, otherrevenue and jobs).The presence of tourists can of course be a source of irritation for locals. However, the nocturnal disturbance suffered by residents in tourist areas or even the housing difficulties (themost frequent issues) can easily be resolved by planning and regulation at a local level. Thereare successful examples in this area all around the world and they are generally the rule ratherthan the exception.
Paul Arseneault - Tourism Intelligence Network director