Is Overtourism Becoming the New Normal?
By Max Starkov
Wednesday, 24th April 2024

Inflation or no inflation, concerns about the economy or no concerns, overtourism is becoming the new normal.

Travel has become such a fundamental part of the basic human needs. After you take care of your physiological needs: food, shelter, clothing, sleep, etc., next comes health, family and…travel. This is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs 101.

Overtourism is a more serious problem than what many tourism professionals think. Revenge travel in the post-pandemic era is fueling part of the demand, but the real reason is the growing middle class and disposable income that will only exacerbate the overtourism problem in the years to come.

During the last 25 years, over 2.5 billion people were elevated from poverty to middle class status. Over the next 20 years another 2 billion people are expected to do so. Why is it important? Middle class means disposable income. Disposable income means travel.

As a former director of a government tourist office (GTO) in New York, I have seen most Government Tourist Offices (GTOs) and DMOs shut down offices or vegetate with ever decreasing marketing budgets. This does not allow many destinations to proactively promote offseason activities and off-the-beaten path local destinations thus redirecting demand and tourist traffic.

By working proactively with airlines, OTAs and tour operators, GTOs and DMOs can shift travel demand to the shoulder and low seasons, and to less-popular regions of the destination. The lack of these initiatives quite often results in overtourism in the high season months to a few internationally renowned cities, places and attractions, and very low demand for the rest of the country.

Overtourism could be eased by a comprehensive private-government strategy and organization, better price management and technology: mandatory advance reservations for attractions allowing control of traffic; introducing pricing structure flattening demand toward shoulder and low seasons; local government measures to limit car/bus traffic/parking near downtown areas or near attractions, spiking hotel occupancy taxes in high season, etc.

Thousands protest in Spain's Canary Islands over mass tourism

Max Starkov
Hospitality & Online Travel Tech Consultant & Strategist

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