‘Overtourism’? Understanding and Managing Urban Tourism Growth beyond Perceptions

“It is critical to understand residents’ attitude towards tourism to ensure the development of successful sustainable tourism strategies” according to a recent UNWTO study published in september 2018. A trend that is already being explored and promoted as well by the Interreg MED’s Sustainable Tourism Community

(Rome, 5 DEC 2018) “Terms such as ‘overtourism’ or ‘tourismphobia’ have made headlines in recent times. They reflect challenges of managing growing tourism flows into urban destinations and the impact of tourism on cities and its residents” affirmed Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General at UNWTO - United Nations World Tourism Organization, in the report “‘Overtourism’? Understanding and Managing Urban Tourism Growth beyond Perceptions”, September 2018. An issue very much at the centre of the MED Sustainable Tourism Community strategy and activities which emphasized the need to establish and adopt a “Inclusive and evidence-based policies to promote Sustainable Tourism” during its mid-term conference held in Rome, May 2017.

“Tourism will only be sustainable if developed and managed considering both visitors and local communities - continues Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili in the report - This can be achieved through community engagement, congestion management, reduction of seasonality, careful planning that respects the limits of capacity and the specificities of each destination, and product diversification.” All issues tackled with concrete pilot actions and studies by the 17 Interreg MED projects joining forces into the MED Sustainable Tourism Community: MEDFEST, EMbleMatiC, BLUEISLANDS, ALTER ECO, MEDCYCLETOUR, CO-EVOLVE, Consume-Less, BLUEMED, TOURISMED, CASTWATER, ShapeTourism, DestiMED, MITOMED+SIROCCOCOASTING, INHERIT, HERIT-DATA.

Urban areas, particularly in the Mediterranean basin, are facing strategic challenges due to a steadily growth of their population that by 2030 will represent 60% of world population, and business and leisure tourist flows. Taking into account this challenges, the UNWTO reports highlights the urgency of re-thinking and re-planning from a more inclusive perspective the managing of natural resources, socio-cultural clashes, the pressure exerted on infrastructure, on mobility and other facilities. This inclusive management approach should be grounded on a thorough analysis of residents’ perceptions and attitude towards tourism to ensure the development of successful sustainable tourism strategies.

To better understand the challenges arising from visitors’ management in urban contexts, particularly the relationship between residents and visitors, the UNWTO’s report includes besides a set of recommendations also an analysis of residents’ perceptions towards tourism in eight European cities – Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Munich, Salzburg and Tallinn.

The full version of the publication released by the UWTO is available by purchasing it, but executive summary is available here.

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