In contrast to the stunning photos on the internet, many travel destinations are in reality deprived of their charm where visitors can truly indulge in the beauty of its natural landscape and history, because of the growing phenomenon of overtourism.
What you do not see in this photo of a female tourist throwing her arms up in the air against the backdrop of a picturesque landscape, is the two-hour long line behind it.
Overtourism has been trending in the media over the last few years. One of its several definitions can be described as when “too many” tourists overwhelm a destination, causing bottlenecks and consequently damaging the community, infrastructure, culture, and natural landscape of a destination while creating negative experience for both visitors and residents.
With international tourism arrivals increasingly steadily year after year, how can the tourism sector turn this pending congestion disaster into an opportunity? The key lies in tourism dispersal – managing visitor movements by encouraging visitors to move away from concentrated hot-spots to discover lesser-known attractions, thus encouraging more distributed visitor spending and economic growth.
With new advancements in technology, destinations are now empowered with the perfect opportunity to understand tourists’ mobility patterns, as well as promote other less-visited attractions off-the-beaten path.
Amsterdam, for instance, utilises an AI-powered service for Facebook Messenger which will scrape a person’s profile and then come up with interesting things to see and do in the city based on their posts and likes.*
London’s tourism board uses a free mobile gaming app “Play London with Mr. Bean” that collects data on user mobility in order to understand how travelers move around the city. The app shows users different attractions around London that, when visited, allow users to earn points to redeem for vouchers and discounts, helping to spread visitors across the city.**
The initiatives that support tourism dispersal don’t always need to be top-down, or led by tourism board and destination management organisations. Take Singaporean Zara Khanna who at 10 years old founded Octa, a travel chatbot that helps kids and parents find fun places to visit and cool things to do. The chatbot was developed for kids by kids, where users can discover family-friendly attractions, play areas and events, as well as tell jokes for those long plane, train and car rides.
And while it is undeniable that social media plays a part in a destination’s overcrowdedness, the same tool can also be wielded as a weapon to combat overtourism by allowing every traveller to effectively act as a marketing channel for less-visited places.
Within the Asia Pacific region, two such campaigns that have successfully leveraged the power of user-generated content are ‘InstaGUAM’ and ‘Hong Kong Neighborhoods: Old Town Central,’ both winners of the PATA Gold Awards 2018 for their marketing initiatives.
Learn directly from the experiences of the individuals behind these efforts at the PATA Destination Marketing Forum (PDMF) 2019 in Pattaya, Thailand on November 27-29, 2019. Ten-year-old Zara Khanna of Octa will be sharing her thoughts on how to engage the next generation of travellers, while Jason Lin of Talent Basket will share his experience in the ideation and execution of the InstaGUAM campaign.
Now in its fifth year, PDMF is an annual event that highlights the importance of managing and market tourism growth to lesser-known, yet beautiful corners of the world. In advocating sustainable tourism and emerging destinations, PATA is pleased to offer complimentary registration to all interested parties.
Register or learn more about PDMF 2019 >