UNWTO Looks at Overtourism Issues with a Special Guide

UNWTO, urban tourism, overtourism, ASEAN

Over the last decades, urban areas have been rapidly transforming and their populations have grown remarkably. According to the United Nations, in 2015, 54% of the world’s population lived in urban areas and the share is expected to reach 60% by 2030.

Alongside rapid urbanisation, the growth of the tourism sector led by economic development, lower transport costs, travel facilitation and a growing middle class in advanced and emerging economies, made cities increasingly popular destinations for business and leisure tourists. Yet, the growth of urban tourism also creates important challenges to ensure sustainable growth and practices that minimize any adverse effects that the development of tourism may have in terms of the use of natural resources, socio-cultural impact, pressure on infrastructure, mobility and congestion management. In recent years, these challenges have been coupled with the growth of supply of tourism accommodation through new platform tourism services in cities.

As a consequence, a rise in negative attitudes is developing among local populations towards visitors and it becomes critical to understand residents’ attitude towards tourism to ensure the development of successful sustainable tourism strategies. Although the report looks only at cities located in Europe such as Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Lisbon, Munich, Salzburg or Tallinn, the way these cities are reacting to overtourism could teach lessons to tourism management teams in Southeast Asia.

‘In the last decade, the development of tourism activities in Bangkok old town, Chiang Mai, Hoi An, Luang Prabang, Melaka, Siem Reap or Yogyakarta are bringing often unpleasant experiences to both locals and visitors.

Developing tourist activities outside the city center and popular tourist attraction; promoting experiences during off-peak months; and using new technologies like real-time apps to monitor crowd sizes at popular attractions are among some of the 11 strategies and 68 measures identified in the report.

Other recommendations include reviewing opening times of visitor attractions; creating specific drop-off zones for tourist buses to avoid traffic congestion; and producing city guides that highlight hidden, off-the-beaten-path attractions.The implementation of the policy recommendations proposed in this report can advance inclusive and sustainable urban tourism that can contribute to the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Free copies of the executive report can be downloaded for free in the UNWTO website under  www.e-unwto.org/doi/book/10.18111/9789284420070.