A balancing act for destinations requiring nuanced data

Managing overtourism: A balancing act for destinations requiring nuanced data


In general, the success of a destination is judged by the number of visitors it welcomes in a given period of time. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, destinations are, in general, more determined than ever to attract large numbers of tourists, which is why our report on the most visited destinations focuses on the most visited destinations of the year.

However, more is not always better, and it is important to remember the overtourism issues many destinations faced before the global health crisis emerged. In fact, as more and more parts of the world approach full travel resumption, the topic of overtourism is once again high on the travel industry’s agenda. That’s why, in this article, we discuss what destinations can do to better manage overtourism.

Overtourism – a difficult concept to define

As a concept, overtourism is relative and highly subjective, as one destination’s understanding of the term may differ significantly from another’s. Even within the same destination, what one considers too many tourists, another may consider as the ideal number, or even not enough.

Destinations that attract large numbers of tourists tend to develop in ways that better accommodate visitors. For example, popular destinations for city breaks typically offer a wide range of chain hotels and restaurants as well as souvenir shops. According to residents and organizations concerned with the preservation of heritage, these businesses could undermine the identity of the city and contribute to overcrowding in central districts. Despite this, they usually become a significant economic contributor – so much so that when tourists don’t visit, the city suffers financially.

The Changing Responsibilities and Requirements of the Modern DMO

It is incumbent on the modern destination marketing organization (DMO) to consider the needs of all stakeholders and to balance economic imperatives with social and environmental concerns. The question is how – because obviously a DMO has no power to decide which companies are allowed to operate at its destination; nor can he control who rents his apartment to tourists through Airbnb, driving up rents in the area.

Nevertheless, DMOs have the power to influence the government departments responsible for managing these issues.

The key here is data. For example, where tourist arrival figures support complaints from residents and heritage organizations about overcrowding in a certain area, DMOs can present this information to the relevant authority, who can then impose limits on requests for new arrivals. tourism and/or vacation rental companies. in the zone.

There are also issues that a DMO can influence more directly. Residents of many European destinations complain that their city is overrun with drunken and rowdy groups of tourists, often celebrating bachelor or bachelorette parties. This is a common problem in Amsterdam, for example. In such cases, traveler profile data can be used to identify these visitors, who typically travel in large groups and spend short periods of time at the destination. When this type of tourist represents a large part of a destination’s audience, the WCO can focus its marketing efforts on promoting other aspects of the destination that attract a different type of tourist – ideally a tourist with a higher purchasing power and more likely to participate in cultural activities. Activities.

Similarly, when data reveals that specific parts of a destination are suffering from overcrowding due to mass tourism, the DMO can focus its efforts on advertising less-visited areas and attractions to more evenly distribute the social impact, environmental and economic of tourists.

However, overtourism is linked not only to the profile of tourists and the places they frequent, but also to the time of year they tend to visit. Indeed, unchecked seasonality can lead to social and environmental problems due to overcrowding in high season, while in low season it can leave a destination sorely lacking in tourism revenue. Therefore, when arrivals data shows significant spikes at certain times and significant declines at others, the DMO should focus on promoting a more even flow of visitors throughout the year. In the case of a traditional beach destination like Málaga, Spain, for example, this may mean drawing attention to an aspect of its offer that is less dependent on weather conditions, such as heritage sites, museums, nature trails or national parks nearby.

Put in place the right strategy to fight against overtourism

The village of Siurana in Catalonia is a good example of how destinations can manage the impact of tourism. The historic community, home to beautiful natural sites and some of the toughest climbs in the world, recently declined inclusion in the list of Spain’s most beautiful towns and cities, adopting a sustainable approach to tourism that prioritizes quality over the amount. as it lacks capacity and infrastructure to accommodate large numbers of visitors. Tourism-oriented businesses, such as the local bar, hotel and campsite, agreed with this response.

Siurana shows how DMOs, city planners and local businesses can work together to agree on the best approach for their destination. Although this example concerns a small village, the same methodology should be applied on a larger scale to manage overtourism in cities.

However, ForwardKeys understands that finding creative solutions to overtourism is easier said than done, which is why data is so important to modern DMO. Rather than simply reacting to developments and hoping the response will prove successful, DMOs need to continuously monitor the situation to ensure that their implemented policies are having the desired impact – and react accordingly if not. is not the case.

Travel intelligence based on reliable data is fundamental to this approach. Request a demo or download the full report here and find out what other travel trends have shaped 2022.

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