Overtourism Is Not Just A Buzzword. This Is What It Means

By Holly Riddle

Overtourism is becoming a major issue in many popular destinations around the world. As a result, travelers need to think twice before they travel. We know tourism can provide a source of significant revenue and economic stability for a destination. On the other hand, however, too much tourism can damage the infrastructure of a city and its historical and cultural sites. 

It’s a tricky issue to manage and the solutions aren’t cut and dry. We know that sustainable tourism is the path forward, but to address overtourism appropriately, we have to start by knowing exactly what it is.

overtourism is ruining destinations for travelers and locals
Too many tourists in one place, at the same time tend to ruin a destination for locals and visitors alike | NEMO JO

Overtourism defined

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, overtourism is a negative result of tourism that has two implications. The first issue is when tourism to a destination negatively impacts on the quality of life of the citizens who live there. The second is when the quality of the visitors’ experience is also impacted in a negative way.

If overtourism is occurring in a destination, both locals and visitors will likely feel that there are too many people in the destination at one time. As a result of all those visitors, infrastructure is damaged and the quality of life for locals decreases. It’s a losing situation for everyone involved.

What overtourism looks like

One of the most obvious examples of overtourism is Venice, Italy. Hordes of people take over the streets and waterways as multiple cruise ships visit simultaneously. Massive group tours clog pedestrian areas, as vendors hawking trinkets (likely made in China) put local artisans out of work.

Damaging Venice’s historic infrastructure, the large cruise ships are at risk of harming the centuries-old, underwater city foundations. Locals find it difficult to go about their daily business due to the influx of crowds.

overtourism is ruining places like Santorini
Massive cruise ships deposit thousands of tourists on the island of Santorini regularly | NEUFAL 54

Similarly, in places like Santorini, colossal cruise ships drop thousands of passengers onto the island where they flood the tiny, narrow streets. It’s virtually impossible to have an enjoyable experience when you are elbowing your way through fellow tourists to take the same photos or enjoy the same sunset in a finite amount of space. And authenticity? Out the window.

Travel well

Tourism alone has the power to positively impact destinations in substantial ways. But when tourism morphs into overtourism, measures must be taken to protect these treasured natural, cultural and historic sites. All hope is not lost as there are solutions to this growing problem. Now that you know exactly what it is, you just need to know how to avoid overtourism.