Global Tourism Controversies

November 9, 2018 – Volume 28, Issue 40
Are destinations at risk from too many visitors? By Barbara Mantel


Tourists flock to Glacier Point at Yosemite National Park in California (Cover: AFP/Getty Images/Frederic J. Brown)  
Tourists flock to Glacier Point at Yosemite National Park in California in 2015. With annual attendance at U.S. national parks on the rise, park officials warn they might have to restrict the number of tourists to protect the environment and the visitor experience. Critics say such moves would harm surrounding businesses and be unfair to visitors. (Cover: AFP/Getty Images/Frederic J. Brown)

Global tourism is growing rapidly, propelled by rising prosperity, cheap airfares and the ease of online booking. But many destinations, from the canals of Venice to Arizona's Grand Canyon, are struggling to accommodate hordes of visitors. In Amsterdam and Barcelona, residents are blaming “overtourism” for congestion, pollution and escalating rents, and U.S. national park superintendents say crowds and vehicles are damaging precious sites such as Yellowstone and Yosemite. But the travel industry and many government officials say curbing tourism would harm the economy. The industry accounts for some 118 million jobs worldwide and a significant percentage of economic activity in many places. To deal with tourism's pressures, some destinations are limiting the number of visitors, while others are fining drunken behavior, raising tourist taxes, restricting short-term vacation rentals or steering visitors to less crowded sites. Meanwhile, critics say “sustainable tourism,” a niche aimed at protecting a locality's environment and cultural heritage, can have negative consequences by spawning development that changes a destination's character.

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The historic Trevi Fountain is one of Rome's most iconic tourist destinations, made famous by actress Anita Ekberg's saunter through the water in Federico Fellini's 1960 film, La Dolce Vita. These days, tourists swarm the low walls of the baroque fountain and the surrounding piazza at all hours, dangling their feet in the water, buying souvenirs from armies of street vendors and jostling one another as they pose for photos.

In August, the severe overcrowding resulted in a brawl as two women, a 19-year-old tourist from the Netherlands and a 44-year-old American, threw punches after competing for the same spot to take selfies. Family members joined in until police broke up the fight.1

The incident is one sign of a troubling global phenomenon: Tourism has grown so much in recent decades — international tourist arrivals have nearly doubled since 2000, reaching 1.3 billion in 2017 — that the throngs of visitors can overwhelm local communities.2 Crowds, long lines, litter, environmental degradation and traffic jams are becoming more common in places as varied as European cities, Caribbean and Asian islands and U.S. national parks.

Disgruntled residents of Amsterdam, Venice, Barcelona and other European cities have taken to the streets in protest to demand that government officials take action. Slogans such as “tourists go home” and “tourists are terrorists” have been spray painted on buildings. In 2016, Skift, an online service providing news and research to the travel industry, coined the term “overtourism” to describe the crush of tourists and its negative effects on local life.3

Tourists gather for selfies in front of Rome's famed Trevi Fountain (Getty Images/LightRocket/Leisa Tyler)  
Tourists gather for selfies in front of Rome's famed Trevi Fountain in 2016. Popular destinations are struggling with crowds, litter, environmental damage and traffic jams. Some places are fining inappropriate behavior or using social media to steer visitors to less crowded sites. (Getty Images/LightRocket/Leisa Tyler)

But government officials, the tourism industry and residents do not agree on how to respond. The travel industry, officials note, is vital to local economies. In some places, such as Hawaii, tourism can be the largest single contributor to a region's gross domestic product (GDP).4

Rather than stifle tourism, some experts say, governments and communities should cooperate to better manage it. “In Amsterdam, the inhabitants are very resentful, but the visitors didn't organize their red light district and permit cannabis shops to open. The residents did,” said Tom Jenkins, CEO of the European Tour Operators Association, a trade group based in London. “It's a planning problem, not a tourism problem.”

Last year, Amsterdam began restricting new shops in its city center, such as bike rental outlets, that cater to tourists, a move Skift called “a solid first step.”5

Others say better management, while necessary, is insufficient. Officials should limit tourist numbers, they argue, by reducing cruise ship visits, capping tourist beds or turning away visitors once a marketplace, square or national park becomes saturated.

Tourism “is addicted to growth,” said Freya Higgins-Desbiolles, senior lecturer in tourism management at the University of South Australia, and “tourism authorities continue to promote tourism growth despite the ecological and social limits of living on a finite planet.”6

In Utah, for instance, the state's international advertising campaign promoting its national parks helped attract record numbers of visitors in recent years, but it also contributed to overcrowding, according to experts. Two national parks in Utah, Zion and Arches, are now considering requiring reservations to enter in hopes of controlling the crowds.

Even when places want to preserve their character and slow tourism growth, doing so is not always easy because they typically do not control the ports and airports.

“Kauai's niche is that we're the rural getaway kind of place, and we need to keep it that way,” said Jim Braman, chair of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association's chapter on the island of Kauai. “We're looking at who can we talk to about the number of flights, and that's controlled by the state and the feds.”7

Overtourism can happen anywhere, says Justin Francis, CEO of Responsible Travel, an online travel agency in Brighton, England. “It is a mistake to think that overtourism applies only to U.S. national parks with enormous number of visitors or large European cities,” he says. “An extra 100 tourists in the tiny town where I live could start causing problems.” Responsible Travel arranges trips it says minimizes the harms of tourism and maximizes the benefits, including providing volunteer opportunities (known as volunteer tourism) and responsible travel to natural areas (known as ecotourism).

Travel's growth shows no sign of slowing because population, affluence and ease of travel are all increasing. Arrivals by international tourists jumped 6 percent in the first half of 2018, compared with the same period last year, according to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a United Nations agency in Madrid that promotes sustainable tourism — tourism that attempts to minimize its impact on the environment and local culture while helping to generate income, employment and ecosystem conservation. That figure is expected to reach 1.8 billion arrivals in 2030. Last year, the top destinations, in order of popularity, were France, Spain, the United States, China and Italy.8

The bar graph shows the world's top tourist arrivals, in millions, in 2017.  

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France was the most visited country in the world last year, with 87 million international tourist arrivals, up 5 percent from 2016. Spain was second, with 82 million visitors. The United States had 76 million arrivals in 2016, the latest year for which data were available. The tourist arrival figure from the United States is from 2016 and the percentage change is for the first nine months of 2017.

Source: “UNWTO Tourism Highlights 2018,” World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), August 2018,

Data for the graphic are as follows:

Country Number of Tourism Arrivals Percentage Change From 2016
France 87 million +5%
Spain 82 million +9%
United States 76 million −4%
China 61 million +2.5%
Italy 58 million +11%

Tourism is rising in all those destinations except for the United States, which saw a drop last year “that coincided with mixed messages emerging from U.S. government policies and presidential rhetoric about tourism and foreign visitors,” said journalist Elizabeth Becker, author of Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism. 9

Meanwhile, China tops a different list. Its citizens take the most international trips of any country in the world and Chinese tourists are the biggest international spenders.10 Countries are working hard to encourage Chinese tourists to visit. “France has eased Chinese visa requirements,” and Switzerland has as well, says Richard Butler, professor emeritus of tourism at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland.

Butler says many factors are behind the growth in international travel, including global prosperity. A 2017 report from the Brookings Institution, a research organization in Washington, documents what it calls an unprecedented expansion of the global middle class.

“The rate of increase of the middle class, in absolute numbers, is approaching its all-time peak,” wrote Homi Kharas, a Brookings senior fellow and the report's author. “In two or three years, there might be a tipping point where a majority of the world's population, for the first time ever, will live in middle-class or rich households.”11

Another factor is “the advent of low-cost air carriers and the sheer amount of cruise ships out there that has made it cheap and easy to travel and that has liberated the movement of tourists across the globe,” says Rachel Dodds, a professor of hospitality and tourism management at Ryerson University in Toronto. In the United States, domestic airfares fell 44 percent, after adjusting for inflation, between 1980 and 2016.12

Technology is perhaps one of the more fraught contributors to tourism's growth. “Rating and review sites, social media, destination rankings and other channels are creating and reinforcing interest in travel, particularly to top destinations and the most popular sites,” McKinsey & Co., a management consultant company in New York, said in a recent report. But there is a flip side. “For endangered destinations such as the Great Barrier Reef [in Australia], awareness of the threat can lead more people to visit ‘while they still can,’ which can exacerbate the problem.”13

Technology also is making it easier for travelers to book accommodations online, either at hotels or at short-term vacation rentals through websites such as Airbnb. Those sites, and Airbnb in particular, often are accused of exacerbating overcrowding in heavily visited cities by making thousands of relatively low-cost rooms and apartments available to travelers.

Airbnb says its home-sharing model actually can lessen overcrowding because it disperses visitors over a wider area. The travel industry, meanwhile, stresses tourism's economic benefits. “As one of the world's largest economic sectors, travel and tourism creates jobs, drives exports and generates prosperity across the world,” said Gloria Guevara Manzo, president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council in its latest annual economic impact report.

The council is a membership organization in London representing more than 150 travel and tourism companies worldwide. It estimates that travel and tourism generated 3.2 percent of the world's economic activity in 2017 and supported more than 118 million jobs, or 3.8 percent of total employment. Travelers also boost revenues for localities through hotel taxes and other fees.14

And tourism has cultural benefits, says Butler. “You get museums that are built or expanded partly as tourist attractions, and locals can benefit from them,” he says. “Tourism may be a threat to the environment in some places, but tourism may be the reason they were designated a national park or a World Heritage Site in the first place.”

Some of the cities suffering the most from overtourism are World Heritage Sites, including Venice and Dubrovnik, a historic city on Croatia's coast. World Heritage Sites are United Nations-designated places of cultural, scientific or historical significance and are protected by international treaties. Research also shows that many World Heritage Sites face catastrophic flooding linked to climate change and that tourism's contribution to climate change is greater than thought.15

Against this backdrop, here are some questions that politicians, residents, tourism officials and environmentalists are asking about global tourism:

Should overcrowded destinations limit the number of tourists?

Two years ago, Thailand temporarily closed some of its most popular islands to the public to reverse tourism-linked damage to coral reefs. Last year, Dubrovnik began turning away daily tourists from its overcrowded old town once 8,000 pedestrians had entered the area. Starting next year, Barcelona will limit the number of tourist beds in its busiest districts, and the Greek island of Santorini will cap the number of daily cruise ship visitors.

“The electricity grid and water supply are at their limit. Garbage has doubled in five years,” said Santorini Mayor Nikos Zorzos. “If we don't control the crowds, it will backfire and ruin us.”16

Not surprisingly, turning away tourists is controversial. In Barcelona, where tourism accounts for 12 percent of the city's gross domestic product, Manel Casals, director general of the Barcelona Hotel Association, said discouraging overnight guests will not reduce overcrowding. That's because the majority of Barcelona's tourists are day-trippers arriving by cruise ship, car or public transportation, Casals said.17

The line graph shows the number of international tourist arrivals from 2000 to 2017.  

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The number of international tourist arrivals worldwide — visitors staying overnight in a foreign country — has nearly doubled since 2000, according to a United Nations agency that compiles travel statistics.

Source: “World Tourism Barometer,” World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), October 2018,

Data for the graphic are as follows:

Year Number of Arrivals
2000 680,000,000
2005 809,000,000
2010 952,000,000
2015 1,195,000,000
2016 1,240,000,000
2017 1,326,000,000

Most communities facing complaints that hordes of tourists are making these places unlivable are stopping short of limiting tourist numbers. For example, Amsterdam is imposing fines on drunken behavior while Venice is promoting the city's less visited sites in its “detourism” campaign.18

The problem often is not tourism but bad local management, says Rochelle Turner, director of research at the World Travel & Tourism Council. Turner cites the Greek island of Corfu as an example, where uncollected garbage piled up along roadsides this summer and tour operators received an unprecedented number of complaints about the trash.

“The island didn't have the required waste facilities or the people to manage that waste,” says Turner. A landfill closed in February and licensing problems reportedly kept a new one from operating.19

On its website, Turner's organization suggests several strategies that tourist destinations can take to reduce overcrowding and its ill effects. They include building better infrastructure; raising tourist taxes to pay for that construction; providing tourists with better information, such as real-time crowd data so visitors can avoid visiting popular sites when they are most crowded; and dispersing tourists to less visited sites, as London's “Do London Like a Londoner” website tries to do with its suggestions of alternative restaurants, museums and nightspots.20

“You're taking people to destinations that might not be in the guidebooks,” says Turner. “And you have to make sure they are well signposted, well lit and there is the right transportation to get people there.”

Managing the flow of tourists is another tactic. Cruise ships are blamed for much of the overcrowding in port cities, such as Venice and Dubrovnik, because they can unload thousands of tourists all at once. The largest cruise ship in the world, the Symphony of the Seas, can carry more than 6,000 passengers, for example.21 Rather than ban cruise ships or limit their numbers, cities can work with cruise lines to stagger arrivals, says Sarah Kennedy, spokeswoman for the Cruise Lines International Association, the industry trade association in Washington.

Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas (Getty Images/Daniel Perez Garcia-Santos)  
Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas — the world's largest cruise ship — docks in Malaga, Spain, in March 2018. The influx of passengers from massive cruise ships can inundate port cities. Cruise lines are working to stagger arrivals to help relieve the congestion, but critics say such steps do not go far enough. (Getty Images/Daniel Perez Garcia-Santos)

“We are working closely with the mayor of Dubrovnik to help manage the schedule of cruise ships,” says Kennedy. “The cruise lines have adapted their itineraries to change the days and the times that they are coming into the city.” Kennedy says this is a new project for the association, and it is identifying other markets and regions with which to work on schedule changes.

But Francis of Responsible Travel says better management is not the full answer to overtourism. “All the ideas put forth by [the tourism council] for managing tourism should be happening anyway, but that will not solve the problems,” says Francis. “Each destination has a [tourism] capacity, and no matter how good the management is, it will eventually be exceeded.”

As a result, some places should reduce the number of cruise ships, while others should cut back the number of home rentals to tourists or restrict large tour groups from certain sites, says Francis. Barcelona, for instance, now bans tour groups of more than 15 from entering its iconic La Boqueria food market at peak times. Butchers and fishmongers had complained that packs of selfie-taking tourists who bought very little were clogging the venue and preventing residents from reaching their stalls.22

“Travel is a privilege, not a right,” says Francis.

But Megan Epler Wood, director of the International Sustainable Tourism Initiative at Harvard University, says closing doors creates the potential for government corruption. “There is always someone who's going to change that limit for money, be it legal or illegal,” she says, pointing to Ecuador's Galápagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean as an example. Critics, including tour operators who worry that the islands' fragile ecosystem is at risk, charge Ecuador with lax enforcement of laws and regulations, including tourism limits.23

Whatever tactics destinations eventually adopt, they first must do a better job of measuring tourism's impact on residents, the environment, the cultural heritage and tourists themselves, and then devise a long-term plan for managing it, many experts and tourism officials agree.

“Do we have those systems in place? The answer is no,” says Epler Wood, who teaches tourism master planning at Harvard. “Do we think we can get them in place? The answer is yes.”

It is going to require that the tourism industry, residents and local, regional and national governments work together, says Francis. “And that concerted effort has been in short supply until now,” he says.

Should U.S. national parks require reservations for entry?

More than 60,000 people descended on Zion National Park in southwest Utah during Memorial Day weekend. Visitors waited two hours for the park's free shuttle buses, hikers thronged trails and trash cans overflowed. “This park has become a nightmare,” wrote a commenter on Zion's Facebook page.24

Famed for its narrow canyons and soaring sandstone cliffs, Zion is one of the country's most popular national parks. A record 4.5 million people visited in 2017, a 70 percent increase over a decade. But park officials say visitors are trampling vegetation and eroding soil. Traffic jams are common, shuttles are routinely overcrowded and trails and campgrounds need serious repair.25

“It's overwhelming,” said park spokesman John Marciano. “It's just going to be loved to death.”26

In response, Zion is considering a drastic step: limiting the number of people allowed into the park each day by instituting an online, year-round reservation system. In many parks, reservations are required for campground spaces and permits for wilderness hiking, but capping visitor numbers would be a first for a major national park.

Overcrowding is a problem across the park system, from Glacier in Montana to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina: In 2010, some 281 million people visited the national park system. In 2017, the total was nearly 331 million, an 18 percent increase. But so far, only three national parks — Acadia in Maine and Zion and Arches in Utah — are considering requiring advance reservations for parking or entry. The proposals are controversial. By law, the National Park Service must strike a difficult balance, conserving the environment while allowing for a park's enjoyment by visitors.27

The line graph shows the number of annual park system recreational visits from 2000 to 2017.  

Long Description

The number of visits to the U.S. national park system rose to nearly 331 million last year, up 18 percent from 2010. Overcrowding has led to calls for limits on visitors at some parks.

Source: “National Park Service,” National Park Service, 2017,

Data for the graphic are as follows:

Year Number of Visits
2000 285,891,275
2005 273,488,751
2010 281,303,769
2015 307,247,252
2017 330,882,751

“These are irreplaceable resources. We have to protect them by putting some strategic limits on numbers, or there won't be anything left,” said Joan Anzelmo, a retired Park Service superintendent in Wyoming.28

But Michael Liss, a real estate developer in Moab, Utah, the gateway town for Arches National Park — so named because of its more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches — says advance reservation systems would destroy people's freedom to travel. “Can you imagine showing up at the Grand Canyon and the sign says, ‘Sorry, you need a reservation to get in’? It's just not right.”

Others say park reservations could hurt local businesses that depend on high tourist numbers during peak season.

Liss, the former managing director of a luxury travel outfitter, chairs the Moab Transit Authority Study Committee, created by Grand County in response to Arches' proposal. With proper design, the park could handle three times the current number of visitors, he says.

His committee has come up with an alternative plan to reduce car congestion inside the park and human traffic on its trails: refurbish two underused entrances; build parking lots on government land outside Arches' three entrances; create a voluntary shuttle system to ferry people from the parking lots to points within the park; mobilize a fleet of smaller vehicles to disperse hikers to less crowded areas; build new trails to accommodate them; and add bike paths.

Parking fees would subsidize shuttle operations, and the state could cover construction and vehicle costs. “I think we could get funding from the Utah Department of Transportation because this is literally what powers our local economy,” says Liss.

Federal funding would almost certainly not be available, says Holly Fretwell, director of outreach at the Property and Environment Research Center, a research institute in Bozeman, Mont., that favors free-market solutions to environmental problems. “We already have a deferred maintenance backlog of almost $12 billion in our national parks,” she says.

Arches presented its plan late last year, received public comments and is preparing to submit a final version to regional Park Service administrators. A shuttle service will not be included, says Jeffrey G. Olson, a National Park Service spokesman in Washington. Park officials determined that a voluntary shuttle system could initially reduce vehicles inside the park by up to 25 percent, “but the growth in visitation annually would undo that effect within two or three years,” Olson says.

Fretwell says the National Park Service should use pricing to address overcrowding. In June it increased entrance fees at the 117 fee-charging national parks by $5 a vehicle to help pay for maintenance. Fretwell says the Park Service can do more.

“I enter Yellowstone National Park and pay $35 to go in and out of the park for seven days. And I can take as many people as I can cram in my car on any of those days,” says Fretwell. “That's ridiculous.”

Instead, national parks should charge a daily rate per person that is high enough in peak season to encourage people to visit at other times of year and to contribute more to covering costs, she says.

“The problem with that is the parks are an American heritage for all people,” says Jeffrey Marion, a recreation ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and an adjunct professor at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Va. Using pricing as a mechanism to reduce use would favor the wealthy and undermine recent strides in diversifying park visitation, says Marion. Visitors to national parks have historically been overwhelmingly white, according to government surveys.29

Fretwell says the government could devise a system to give lower-income people a discount, although she did not offer details.

Before parks raise fees, require reservations, add shuttles or build more trails, they should determine their capacity to sustainably host visitors, says Jeff Ruch, executive director at Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) in Silver Spring, Md., a nonprofit group that works to ensure that environmental laws are enforced and defends government whistleblowers. Then each park needs to establish goals, such as the desired number of visitors on trails, says Ruch.

The National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978 mandates such long-range planning, but a 2016 PEER study found that of the 10 most visited national parks, only Yosemite had established so-called carrying capacities, and then only for its wilderness zones.30

“The fact that [parks are] not affirmatively planning … is a form of malpractice,” says Ruch.

Do Airbnb and the home-rental market contribute to “overtourism”?

Eleven-year-old Airbnb, based in San Francisco, matches property owners seeking short-term renters with vacationers looking for a place to stay and has more than 5 million vacation rental listings in 191 countries. It has revolutionized how travelers book accommodations and where they choose to stay, from a single room in someone's home to an entire apartment or house.31

By its estimates, 22 percent of all overnight guests in Kyoto, Japan, booked through Airbnb in 2017. Airbnb captured 18 percent of the market in Barcelona, and 12 percent in Amsterdam. Its relatively low-cost accommodations are the biggest draw, according to a study in the Journal of Travel Research that surveyed users of the platform.32

Barcelona residents protest higher housing costs (AFP/Getty Images/Lluis Gene)  
Barcelona residents protest higher housing costs and “overtourism,” which they blame partly on the home-sharing industry. Critics say Airbnb and similar websites are worsening housing shortages by encouraging local owners to rent to tourists instead of residents. The industry denies its practices drive up housing costs and says its rentals actually disperse tourists over a wide area. (AFP/Getty Images/Lluis Gene)

The company's jaw-dropping growth has attracted scrutiny from government officials and growing complaints from residents who blame it for contributing to gridlocked streets, packed sidewalks and boorish tourist behavior.

“Airbnb has definitely added an extra 15 percent in visitor numbers this year, which means in August we were close to being full,” said Malcolm Bell, a tourism official in Cornwall, one of Britain's top summer holiday spots. The number of Airbnb listings in the county has grown from 17 in 2016 to 9,000 in August, according to the tourist board, and the result has been traffic jams and overflowing parking lots, Bell said.33

“The last thing we want is for local people to become increasingly annoyed and frustrated with tourists,” he said. “We want visitors to have the best experience possible, and if they don't, then they won't come back.”

But blaming tourist crowds on Airbnb and its competitors in the home-sharing industry — HomeAway, VRBO, 9flats and Wimdu, among others — is too easy, says Daniel Guttentag, director of the Office of Tourism Analysis at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. “It probably is a factor, but I think it's a small factor,” he says. About 95 percent of Airbnb renters that Guttentag surveyed for a research project said they would have been traveling anyway.

Airbnb contends that the company actually helps to mitigate overcrowding by making lodging available in rural areas in need of sightseers' money and dispersing tourists within cities. “In many places, two-thirds and in other cities upward of 75 percent of our listings are outside of traditional tourist areas,” says Clark Stevens, director of Airbnb's Office of Government Affairs and Strategic Partnerships. Shops and restaurants in those less visited neighborhoods benefit because tourists often spend money near where they sleep, he says.

But neighbors in residential areas often do not appreciate the influx of tourists made possible by peer-to-peer rentals, says Guttentag. They may have been able to avoid the tourist throngs in the city center, “but now it's a very different feeling, having tourists next door or in an apartment on the floor above or seeing them come through the lobby,” he says. In fact, complaints by neighbors about noisy, drunken or disrespectful rental guests became so intense that Airbnb two years ago opened a dedicated webpage to register grievances. It also promised to suspend or remove those listings with continual complaints.34

Many hosts recognize the need to keep neighbors happy. One advice site for Airbnb hosts suggests they leave their cellphone number for neighbors to call, set clear guest rules and install a noise alarm that pings the host's cellphone. “I used it this week to let a guest know they were being too loud,” wrote one host. “I definitely think it is a helpful tool.”35

Overcrowding and noise are not the only charges against Airbnb and the growth in short-term tourist rentals. Several cities have accused the online marketplace of contributing to rising housing costs as professional operators turn apartments into permanent vacation rentals, shrinking the supply of apartments available to residents. Studies in New York City, Montreal and elsewhere document the trend, but Airbnb has attacked their methodology.

“The majority of our hosts are sharing the home in which they live, not removing permanent housing from the market,” Airbnb said earlier this year in response to a New York City study that attributed 9 percent of the rise in rents over a seven-year period to Airbnb.36

But researchers point out that even a small minority of professional hosts operating large enough numbers of multiple Airbnb listings can affect residential housing costs.37

Cities are increasingly regulating Airbnb and cracking down on short-term rentals. Palma, the capital of Mallorca, a Spanish island in the Mediterranean, has banned Airbnb completely. Amsterdam limits whole-home rentals to 60 days a year and London to 90 days a year. Tokyo legalized home-sharing only in 2017 and capped it at 180 days per year per rental.

In Berlin, hosts need a permit to rent 50 percent of their main residence short-term. Barcelona requires short-term rentals to be licensed but is issuing no new licenses. And hosts in San Francisco must register with the city.38

But local officials are struggling to enforce these regulations, says Guttentag. Even though Airbnb's listings are public, addresses are not, so it can be difficult to track down violators. In negotiating regulations with cities, Airbnb has often agreed to become involved in enforcement. For example, it purged more than 4,500 unregistered listings in San Francisco, about 40 percent of the total, the day after the registration requirement went into effect in January.39

Jonathan Tourtellot, founder and CEO of the Destination Stewardship Center, a nonprofit in Lovettsville, Va., says he has told Airbnb that it should make it easier for the public to differentiate between hosts who are sharing their homes and professionals who are renting multiple listings as a business. Tourtellot, whose group grades more than 400 destinations around the world on the stewardship of their natural and cultural resources, wrote the forward to a recent Airbnb report assessing its economic contribution in eight destinations.

Consumers can then decide for themselves how they want to contribute to the economy of the places they visit, says Tourtellot.

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Earliest Tourism

Imperial Rome was the first culture that had regular tourism, according to Maxine Feifer, who wrote a history of world travel. An unprecedented period of peace and prosperity across the Roman Empire in the second century allowed some Romans to pursue travel for pleasure and culture. Bureaucrats and officials, who possessed the means and ability to take time off from work, traveled in the spring and fall when the government recessed for weeks at a time.

Inns along the way served their needs, and an extensive network of well-paved roads meant that “a carriage ride was frequently smoother in the second century than in the eighteenth,” wrote Feifer. Popular destinations included Greece, Asia Minor — modern-day Turkey — and Egypt, all within the empire's borders.40

By the late fifth century, this tourist infrastructure was in shambles. The Roman Empire had collapsed into small warring kingdoms and fiefdoms under the weight of a complex web of pressures, including incompetent emperors, marauding invaders and plague. Trade and commerce were negligible, paved roads were reduced to muddy tracks, inns were closed and banditry was common. “It was hazardous to travel and difficult to find what a tourist might have wanted to see,” Feifer said.41

Seven hundred years passed before tourism began to revive. In 1096, the Crusades, a series of religious wars spanning nearly 200 years, were launched at the urging of the Roman Catholic Church to pry the Holy Lands from Muslim control. The often ruthless campaigns failed in their territorial aims, but they brought treasure and wealth to the church. Newly built monasteries and churches, particularly in France and Rome, attracted specialized tourists — pilgrims seeking pardon for their sins and relief for their ailments.42

“By the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, pilgrimage was a mass phenomenon, practicable and systemized, served by a growing industry of networks of charitable hospices,” wrote Feifer.

During the 15th century, travel books began to appear, containing descriptions of culture and natural wonders in addition to chronicles of pilgrimages. Services akin to travel agencies and tour operators also eased the pilgrims' way. Nevertheless, the journey for many tourists could be grueling, particularly for Germans and the English as they crossed the Alps to reach their destinations.

Beginning in the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation shifted travelers' attention increasingly away from Catholic shrines and churches toward the secular. During this period, the European tourist was typically a well-off male student who visited churches, monuments, theaters and museums in as many European cities as possible. Italy, the home of the Renaissance, was often the final destination. The goal was to learn, and proof of a student's status was necessary to receive the discounted entrance fees accorded to students at many tourist sites.43

Arrival of Modern Tourism

Modern tourism — “the pursuit of pleasure and an escape from everyday realities” — grew out of an elite, largely English travel experience called the Grand Tour, which reached its peak between 1748 and 1789, said historian Eric G.E. Zuelow of the University of New England.

“Vast numbers of young Englishmen, and a few Englishwomen, ventured to Paris, Rome, Venice, Florence and Naples,” and some continued to Berlin, Vienna, Geneva and Prague, said Zuelow. Most travelers sought to gain knowledge and were accompanied by tutors, but the Grand Tour “gradually reflected something altogether new, a hedonistic approach to consuming that was less evident during the previous century,” wrote Zuelow. Drinking and gambling were common, prostitutes were ubiquitous and venereal disease was a constant threat.44

In the 19th century, tourism began to spread beyond the elite because of the Industrial Revolution and cultural changes. As the middle class grew, workers had the income and leisure time to take vacations, a relatively new concept in Western culture. Accompanying this rising wealth were technological advances that made traveling more accessible.

Railway construction for steam-powered trains took off in the United Kingdom during the first half of the 19th century. By 1843, roughly 2,000 miles of track had been lain. Sixteen years later, the mileage had climbed to nearly 10,000. The British also built tracks to crisscross India, part of its global empire. Other countries followed suit, and railways spread across Africa, China, Russia, Latin America and the United States, where a transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869. Fifty years later, the U.S. railway network contained 127,000 miles of track.45

Speed and comfort improved rapidly. By the 1870s, American George Mortimer Pullman's company was manufacturing train cars with more wheels and springs. It leased five classes of cars to railroads, including sleeping and dining room cars.46

The steam engine also transformed travel by water. Steam-powered ships took travelers along lakes, rivers and coastlines and eventually across the oceans. By the mid-19th century, Canadian Samuel Cunard and his Scottish business partner Robert Napier owned a fleet of trans-Atlantic ships carrying mail and passengers.

As technology advanced, ships became larger, faster and more luxurious. “The greatest ships of the steam age … were floating grand hotels,” wrote Zuelow.

Still, third-class passengers, sleeping in open berths in steerage and typically immigrants rather than tourists, far outnumbered first-class passengers and generated most of the profits. To attract middle-class tourists, shipping lines in the 1920s created tourist and cabin classes, “opening long-distance ocean voyages to younger and less affluent tourists,” said Zuelow.47

As the railroads and steamships expanded, British cabinetmaker Thomas Cook started a tour company, taking middle-class customers on domestic and European excursions. His innovations included packaging the trips with lodging and food and making the routes a circular journey.48

In the United States, the spread of railroads and steamships led to the development of mass tourism destinations, one of the first being Niagara Falls. But within decades, tourists began to complain about overcrowding and blight as hotels, souvenir stands and entertainment pavilions dominated the area. In response, the New York Legislature in 1885 appropriated funds to establish the Niagara Reservation, and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted was hired as its designer. His plan restored the landscape by removing previous development and creating paths and overlooks that framed the views.49

In 1864, Yosemite became the first protected parkland, and it too became a popular destination as tourists took advantage of the newly completed transcontinental railroad to reach California. In 1872, Yellowstone was designated the first national park. Yosemite became a national park in 1890 and Mount Rainier followed in 1899.

President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09) was the driving force behind the creation of five additional national parks, 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, four national game preserves and 18 national monuments (including the Grand Canyon National Monument).50

The government recognized that the creation of national parks and the associated tourism would generate money, encourage people to visit the West and help heal the nation after the Civil War, Zuelow said.51

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Like the steam engine, the development of the internal combustion engine in the late 19th century revolutionized tourism because it further eased travel. During the first few decades of the 20th century, car enthusiasts formed automobile clubs in the United States and in Europe, Australia, South America and Africa. Nine clubs met in Chicago in 1902 and founded the American Automobile Association (AAA), a membership organization known for its maps, traveler guides, insurance and safety campaigns.52

Motor clubs lobbied for better roads and for access to U.S. national parks. In 1908, Mount Rainier became the first national park to allow cars, but supervisors at other parks worried that allowing cars would turn visitors into mere day-trippers, cheapen the park experience and damage the environment. The car lobby, however, was strong, said Zuelow, and soon roads penetrated every national park.

The expanding networks of roads around the world prompted motor clubs and others to begin publishing touring guides. In 1900, the Michelin rubber company in France, which produced automobile tires, introduced its eponymous red guidebook that eventually used a star system to rate the best hotels and restaurants. More-affordable automobiles, such as the Model T in 1919, opened up tourism to more people.53

Soon, air travel would revolutionize the travel industry yet again. In the United States, the Air Commerce Act of 1926 allowed the U.S. Department of Commerce to “certify aircraft, license pilots, and issue and enforce air traffic regulations,” according to a brief history of the airline industry. “Within 10 years, many modern-day airlines, such as United and American, had emerged as major players.”54

Overseas, the Dutch airline KLM pioneered long-distance flights with service from Amsterdam to Djakarta, Indonesia, in 1929. By 1935, the British Imperial Airways offered flights that circled the globe, linking the British Empire from India to Asia.55

The Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II in the early 1940s badly hurt the tourism industry, but the slowdown was only temporary. When the war ended in 1945, the world economy grew and consumer spending rebounded.

Mass Tourism

On July 17, 1955, animator and film producer Walt Disney opened Disneyland on 160 acres of former orange groves in Anaheim, Calif. Disney designed his theme park to appeal to families.56 After World War II, Americans were having more children in what became known as the Baby Boom. With incomes rising and roads improving as the nation built an interstate highway system, middle-class families explored the country by car and visited tourist destinations such as Disneyland. In Britain, Scandinavia and France, the same pattern held. European families increasingly took vacations by car, and entrepreneurs built campgrounds, seaside cottages and American-style motels.57

Tourists celebrate the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. (Getty Images/Corbis/USC Libraries)  
Tourists celebrate the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., on July 17, 1955. The post-World War II era saw a sharp rise in tourism. With incomes growing and the interstate highway system taking shape, middle-class families increasingly explored the country by car. (Getty Images/Corbis/USC Libraries)

Travel was harder for African-American tourists during this era because of segregation. Many relied on The Green Book, which was published annually beginning in 1936 by postal worker Victor Hugo Green. The guide listed those motels, restaurants and other businesses that would safely serve black travelers.58

The popularity of air travel, meanwhile, was climbing. After World War II, passenger aircraft became bigger, faster and more fuel-efficient, and to fill the planes, the first trans-Atlantic “tourist class fare” was introduced. By 1957, more passengers were crossing the Atlantic by air than by sea. A sustained level of prosperity in the United States and Western Europe helped to fuel continued growth in tourism. From 1960, global tourism grew by more than 10 percent a year and by 1974 tourist spending accounted for 6 percent of international trade.59

But two oil crises in the 1970s made traveling more expensive and interrupted the growth in worldwide tourism. In the United States, for example, the average price of gasoline rose from 39 cents a gallon in 1973, not adjusted for inflation, to $1.19 cents a gallon in 1980.60

In the late 1970s, airfares began to drop sharply, after Europe eased regulations on the airline industry and Laker Airlines in Britain began offering cheap, one-way trans-Atlantic flights for 59 pounds (about $75 today). “The company demonstrated that there was a vast market for cheap tickets and competitors quickly offered lower prices,” wrote Zuelow.61

In the United States, Congress passed the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, and for the first time, U.S.-based airlines were allowed to fully compete on price. Deregulation gave rise to a new kind of airline — low-cost, no-frills carriers such as Southwest and the now defunct People Express — and the average roundtrip domestic airfare fell about 16 percent over the next decade, after adjusting for inflation.62

The rise of the internet in the 1990s provided a further boost to tourism. “The internet's ability to automate transactions — cutting out the middleman function of ticketing agents — in turn allowed airlines to run a tighter and more streamlined ship,” according to the European online travel site eurocheapo. “In no time at all, cheap fares became the expectation.”63

Travelers turned to online search engines such as, which was founded as a division of Microsoft in 1996, to compare and book airfares, hotel rooms and rental cars.

Soon the internet was allowing travelers to talk to one another. TripAdvisor started in an office above a pizzeria in Needham, Mass., a little more than 18 years ago and has grown into the world's most visited travel website. Its user-generated reviews can make or break hotels, restaurants and attractions.

Similarly, Airbnb, another “disruptor” in the travel industry, began small. In 2007, its founders, Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky, were having trouble making rent on the San Francisco loft they shared and decided to lay down three air mattresses and advertise them for rent for $80 each a night to out-of-towners. The company is now a multibillion-dollar business operating worldwide.

A series of deep recessions began in 2007 and ended for most countries within a year or two, although their effects lingered far longer. Tourism recovered and has grown steadily since 2010, spurred by an expanding middle class, growing prosperity in developing countries, low-cost airlines and the continued expansion of internet-mediated, low-cost accommodations.

But this growth has come at a cost. Beginning in 2016, residents in Venice, Barcelona and other European cities marched to protest tourist crowds, drunken behavior and rising housing costs they blamed partially on the explosion in short-term vacation rentals.

The United Nations proclaimed 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Its goal was to recognize that well-managed tourism can contribute to sustainable development.

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Current Situation

Hotel Workers Strike

The global tourism industry is facing a host of challenges, ranging from labor strikes to climate change.

Guests at 21 Marriott International hotels in six cities across Massachusetts, California and Hawaii have to cross picket lines as more than 7,000 hotel employees strike at the world's largest hotel chain. Strikers at two hotels, in Oakland, Calif., and Detroit, reached an agreement with Marriott early this month.64

Striking hotel workers walk a picket line in front of a Marriott hotel (AP Photo/Ben Margot)  
Striking hotel workers walk a picket line in front of a Marriott hotel in San Francisco on Oct. 4, 2018. Thousands of workers at the world's largest hotel chain walked out in early October after negotiations for a new labor contract and higher wages failed. The strike is among the challenges facing the tourism industry. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

The walkout began in early October, after months of fruitless negotiations between Marriott and Unite Here, which represents approximately 20,000 of the hotel's workers, over the terms of new labor contracts. It is the largest multicity hotel worker strike in U.S. history, according to the union.65

Housekeepers, front-desk attendants, restaurant employees and other non-management workers have joined the strike and are seeking higher pay, employee participation in decisions about automation and improvements in worker safety. “We are encouraged by the progress achieved in resolving the strikes in Oakland and Detroit with strong, fair contracts, and are hopeful that similar progress can be achieved in the other six cities still on strike,” said D. Taylor, international president of Unite Here. The union said it will release contract details once all strikes end.66

The average hourly wage for workers in food preparation in the hotel industry is $11.80, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For maintenance and cleaning workers, it is $11.07.67

“We're starting with the biggest and the richest hotel company and after that we are absolutely going to ensure that all the other hotel companies are giving workers enough pay so they're able to work with dignity,” said Unite Here spokeswoman Rachel Gumpert.68

Travelers are taking notice of the strike and registering their complaints on TripAdvisor. One October guest who stayed at the Westin Boston Waterfront wrote, “We witnessed 2 bar employees FIST FIGHTING. We were and are absolutely horrified!!! When we spoke to the front desk about it at a later time, we were told they were ‘just the replacement bar staff’ due to the strike.”69

In a statement issued before the recent settlements, Marriott said it is “disappointed that Unite Here has chosen to resort to a strike instead of attempting to resolve these disputes at the bargaining table.”70

National Park Funding

Bills to fund long-neglected repairs on National Park Service lands are gaining public support as they move through Congress. The Restore Our Parks Act in the Senate and a similar measure in the House would provide $6.5 billion over five years to reduce $11.6 billion in deferred maintenance. The money would come from existing, unallocated revenues the government receives from energy development.71

The legislation has garnered the support of congressional Democrats and Republicans, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and an array of travel and business groups.

“It is critical to preserve and protect our national parks to benefit generations to come,” said Tori Barnes, senior vice president of government relations for the U.S. Travel Association in Washington, a membership organization that lobbies on behalf of the travel industry. “In 2017 alone, visitors to national parks spent $18 billion in gateway communities, which supported thousands of local jobs and fueled nearby businesses, like restaurants, hotels and retail shops.”72

Conservationists also praised the bill but said Congress should do far more.

“America's public lands and wildlife are inextricably linked — and require dedicated funding to conserve and protect them,” said Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, an environmental advocacy organization in Reston, Va. O'Mara called on Congress to find a similar bipartisan solution to increase funding for wildlife habitat.73

The deterioration in many of the National Park Service's 417 units — national parks, battlefields, national monuments and other lands — is significant and sometimes dangerous, said Marcia Argust and Tom Wathen, who head conservation efforts at the Pew Charitable Trusts, a global research and public policy organization in Philadelphia, and support the bills' passage. “Now, deteriorating historic buildings, eroding trails, outdated water and electrical systems, unsafe roads, disintegrating monuments and timeworn campgrounds, waterfronts and visitor centers need repairs,” they wrote in a September op-ed.74

Both bills have been reported out of committee to the full chambers for action. The number of co-sponsors is growing: As of early November, 17 Democrats, 15 Republicans and one independent are co-sponsors of the Senate version. In the House, 128 Democrats and 84 Republicans are co-sponsors. Supporters are hoping that Congress will turn its attention to the bills by year-end.75

Climate Change and Tourism

Ferrara, Italy, is known among tourists for its architecture dating to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and for its bicycle-riding citizens.

It also is one of 37 World Heritage Sites around the Mediterranean at risk of being inundated by water in a 100-year flood because of rising seas, according to a study published last month in the journal Nature Communications. 76

The researchers analyzed 49 cultural World Heritage Sites — places that illustrate a significant stage in human history — in low-lying coastal areas of the Mediterranean, many of them popular tourist draws. Rising seas also are causing coastal erosion, and the researchers determined that 42 of the sites are at risk.

Historic sites in the Northern Adriatic are most in danger from rising seas, from the Palladian buildings in Vicenza just east of Venice to several ancient cities across the water in Croatia. And the risk will only grow as sea levels continue to rise. “Until 2100, flood risk may increase by 50 percent and erosion risk by 13 percent across the region, with considerably higher increases at individual World Heritage Sites,” the researchers said.

Tourists pack a street in Dubrovnik, Croatia (AFP/Getty Images/Savo Prelevic)  
Tourists pack a street in Dubrovnik, Croatia, on Aug. 6, 2018. The coastal city, a World Heritage Site, began limiting the number of visitors to its historic old town in 2017 because of the crowds. Popular tourist locations are looking for ways to protect residents' quality of life while keeping visits enjoyable for tourists. (AFP/Getty Images/Savo Prelevic)

Each country is responsible for managing its World Heritage Sites, but management plans rarely consider how to adapt to sea level rise, according to the study.

“We cannot put a value on what we will lose,” said Lena Reimann, a researcher at Kiel University in Germany and the study's lead author. “It's our heritage — things that are signs of our civilization…. It's more an ethical question, a moral question. We will not be able to replace them once they are lost.”77

While climate change hurts the tourism industry, tourism also contributes to global warming, according to the UNWTO.78

The tourism industry generates four times more CO2, a greenhouse gas and driver of global warming, than thought, according to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change in June. The industry accounts for 8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, it said, and “the majority of this footprint is exerted by and in high-income countries.”79

The UNWTO urges tourists around the world to plan trips closer to home and to rely more on public transportation and less on flying. It also urges tourism operators to reduce energy use and to switch to alternative forms of energy. “Our findings provide proof that so far these mitigation strategies have yielded limited success,” the researchers said.80

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Overtourism's Threat

In the years ahead, overtourism will remain a problem in the United States and abroad, many experts say.

Fretwell of the Property and Environment Research Center says she doubts that U.S. national parks will be less crowded 10 years from now.

“After working on these issues for 20 years, I think we're going to have similar problems as we do right now,” says Fretwell. “And my guess is we're not likely to see congestion pricing” in which visitors would pay higher prices during peak times. But she says she hopes some pilot projects “can demonstrate how congestion fees … can benefit both us, as the recreationists that are out there using these areas, and society as a whole because we're taking care of the landscapes overall.”

Recreation ecologist Marion predicts that within a decade, a few parks will experiment with reservations systems to control visitation, and he urges park administrators to invest in research and adjust the systems as they are implemented.

“I'm a believer in adaptive management, where you try new tools from the toolbox,” he says, “and you evaluate them as you try them and make corrections as you evaluate them and learn new things.” This kind of research was not done when Zion began its shuttle system 18 years ago, says Marion.

Marion says he is placing hope in the work of the 7-year-old Interagency Visitor Use Management Council, which is developing science-based best practices for visitor use on federally managed lands and waters. The council consists of six federal agencies, including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service.

“I'm not sure [the council will] make a difference in five years. That's a fairly short time horizon,” he says. “But over 10 years and longer, I think it will.”

Sustainable-tourism expert Tourtellot says he is pessimistic about the ability of tourist destinations in the United States and abroad to rein in overcrowding over the next decade.

“Absent a major kind of a paradigm shift in how we travel and how we do tourism, I expect it to be worse and particularly exacerbated by the day-trippers,” he says. “Cruise lines, tour bus people, taxi drivers make a lot of money, and they all pressure the government to keep it going. And not until it gets to the breaking point, as it has in Barcelona, does that start to change.”

Travel operator Francis shares this bearish outlook. “Some overcrowded places will escape the overtourism trap,” says Francis. “Many others won't, residents will leave, and they will become ‘sacrifice destinations’ — theme parks that absorb large numbers of tourists and protect other places from overtourism. In doing so, they will lose every sense of their true value and identity.”

Epler Wood of Harvard says she is unsure about the ability and the will of Europe's major cities to create the necessary master plans to manage tourism within a decade's time. “It's too early to say,” she says. “I think we're at a really tipping-point moment, and I can't say I'm either hopeful or pessimistic, honestly.”

But Turner of the World Travel & Tourism Council is optimistic. “In a decade from now, I think we'll see a lot more management plans,” she says. “It might mean that we have to book further in advance, that we might need to be prepared to pay timed ticketing or that businesses will have to think more about the value that they create in destinations than they do at the moment.”

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Is volunteer tourism a good way to help the poor?


Konstantinos Tomazos
Associate Business School Dean, Senior Lecturer in International Tourism Management, University of Strathclyde, U.K.. Written for CQ Researcher, November 2018

Volunteer tourism is a meaningful form of travel whose purpose is to contribute to a cause or alleviate a need.

It is not purely tourism, given its underlying mission, and it is not purely international aid or volunteering, given that you cannot separate the volunteer from the tourist. In its current state, volunteer tourism may not be the best way to help the poor. Nevertheless, it is an excellent way to make a difference in the lives of some poor people.

Volunteer tourism has become, to no small extent, a victim of its own success. When you offer entrepreneurs the opportunity to make simultaneous demands on people's time, effort and money, and when minimal barriers of entry into the market exist, the inevitable result is a vast network of projects, stakeholders and beneficiaries who are all pursuing their own interests. The volunteers pay for their flights, their placement, their food, their insurance, their entertainment — everything really — and all the entrepreneur/project broker or nongovernmental organization (NGO) has to supply are the placements. This signals an opportunity to many and leads to proliferation and ambiguity.

While the intentions are good, volunteer tourism falls into the same traps as international aid. This trap fosters relationships and patronage that limit the benefits of volunteer tourism to the same recipients, similar to an automated garden sprinkler that waters at a set time and place.

However, it would be disastrous to dismiss volunteer tourism as harmful to the poor. In most parts of the world where volunteer tourists operate, there is a clear need for help in a variety of areas and projects. The truth is, there will never be a magic bullet that will solve all problems with one stroke. No one contribution could take children out of orphanages, bring water to villages or provide relief to areas hit by catastrophes, and the volunteers themselves are fully conscious of this fact. Volunteers are probably getting more out of the experience than what they are putting in.

But we can find solace and hope in knowing that others will follow who can build on what their predecessors have left behind. It is this cycle that gives meaning and purpose to the volunteer tourism phenomenon. In the long run, and as locals seize the increased economic opportunities, volunteer tourism will meet its potential.


Elisa Burrai
Senior Lecturer, School of Events, Tourism and Hospitality Management, Leeds Beckett University, U.K.. Written for CQ Researcher, November 2018

Numerous studies and industry debates have focused on the potential of volunteer tourism to alleviate poverty, particularly in the global south.

Volunteer tourism is often regarded as an alternative, responsible form of tourism. It developed in response to significant social, environmental and economic challenges experienced by our modern societies. Volunteer tourists usually travel from “developed” to “developing” countries with the purpose of helping those in need. So, “need,” “help” and “development” are central to volunteer tourism discourses and often are used to justify the roles and practices of those involved.

The way that volunteer tourists, sending organizations, local stakeholders and beneficiaries interpret and engage with the concept of poverty is complex. Yet, the ability of volunteer tourism to alleviate poverty is controversial. There are three main reasons for this.

First, need in volunteer tourism is communicated as poverty and is powerfully marketed to attract volunteers. Western representations romanticize poverty in order to meet the expectations of volunteer tourists. Poverty, in other words, becomes a commodity — an object to be experienced and consumed by tourists.

Current debates on the commercialization of poverty highlight the voyeuristic and exploitative nature of volunteer tourism, whose supporters insist it can help the poor across the globe.

Second, poverty is constructed and marketed following an oversimplified Western view of what poverty is. Under such a construct, volunteer tourists can help alleviate poverty. Yet, these tourists often are young, unskilled and have not experienced poverty or participated in development projects before.

Third, volunteer tourism fosters dependency on charity. Destinations and communities that receive volunteer tourists become financially reliant on foreign help. So, volunteer tourism reinforces dependence on foreign “expert” knowledge instead of helping communities learn how to break out of the poverty cycle.

Volunteer tourism, in short, is a contested form of traveling. Although it often has been flagged as a way out of poverty, particularly in the global south, its aspirations are, in some cases, unachievable.

This is because volunteer tourism emphasizes stereotyped views of poverty. It enables inexperienced volunteers to work in development, and it enhances financial dependency on foreign charitable help. A reformed, more critical engagement with the concepts of poverty and development can make volunteer tourism and its practices more meaningful.

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1814–1890Steam-powered trains and ships spur tourism.
1814English mechanic George Stephenson builds the first practical steam locomotive, which hauls eight coal-laden wagons at 4 mph.
1825The first public passenger steam train makes its inaugural run in England.
1840A Cunard Line steamship begins regular passenger service between Liverpool, England, and Boston, helping to make the trans-Atlantic crossing popular with wealthy tourists.
1859Nearly 10,000 miles of railroad track crisscrosses the United Kingdom.
1867Pullman Palace Car Co. of Chicago starts producing train cars, eventually manufacturing luxury sleeping and dining cars and attracting more tourists to rail travel.
1869The U.S. completes its first transcontinental railroad, making it easier for travelers to reach Western territories.
1872Congress establishes Yellowstone as the first national park.
1890Yosemite becomes a national park, followed by Mount Rainier nine years later.
1900–1935Automobiles and air travel transform tourism.
1900French tire company Michelin starts publishing its touring guide to restaurants and hotels.
1908Mount Rainier becomes the first national park to allow cars.
1926Air Commerce Act allows the U.S. Commerce Department to regulate the nascent airline industry; within 10 years several airlines are launched, including United Airlines.
1935Imperial Airways in the U.K. offers globe-circling flights, with stops in parts of the British Empire…. The number of gas stations in the U.S. reaches 200,000, boosting the travel industry.
1955–PresentMass tourism develops, and with it overcrowding.
1955Disneyland, a major tourist attraction, opens in Anaheim, Calif.
1963The United Nations holds a conference to examine the role of tourism in economic development.
1970U.S. economic output is double what it was in the 1950s, when the economy started to boom; the rising living standards spurred a tourism increase.
1973Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) proclaims an oil embargo, causing fuel prices to rise, hurting the travel industry.
1978Airline Deregulation Act in the U.S. leads to lower airline fares and greater travel.
1985Ryanair, Europe's first budget airline, is established; others follow in Europe and the U.S.
2000Travel website TripAdvisor is founded in Needham, Mass.
2007Home-sharing company Airbnb is founded in San Francisco…. A global recession begins; over the next year, international tourism arrivals decline by 4 percent, from 936 million.
2009Many countries begin to recover from the recession; international tourism arrivals rise nearly 7 percent.
2016Protesters hold anti-tourism marches in several European cities…. More cities begin to regulate short-term vacation rentals, which some blame for contributing to “overtourism.”
2017International tourist arrivals top 1.3 billion…. U.N. declares the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development…. Three U.S. national parks propose limiting visitors because of record overcrowding.
2018Protests against overtourism in European cities continue…. Research finds that dozens of World Heritage Sites on the Mediterranean coast are threatened by rising seas as a result of climate change…. Congress is poised to vote on legislation to allocate $6.5 billion for repairs to National Park Service lands.

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Short Features

But critics say the practice falls short of its lofty goals.

Twenty-four years after civil war and genocide devastated Rwanda, “ecotourists” are flocking to this central African nation, where they can stay in luxury lodges and view spectacular sights, including volcanoes, golden monkeys and the main attraction — mountain gorillas.

The experience is not cheap, and that is partly by design.

To see the gorillas, an endangered species, a visitor must acquire a government-issued permit costing $1,500. A portion of that money — currently 10 percent — goes to communities near the national parks where the gorillas live to help build schools, clinics and housing.

For ecotourists, that fee is money well spent, said Paul Charles, CEO of The PC Agency, a travel marketing firm in London. “Those who go want to be tourist-philanthropists,” he said. “They want to give back to local communities.”1

The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), an advocacy group in Washington that promotes ecotourism, defines it as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.”2

But ecotourism, which grew out of environmental movement of the 1970s and surged to popularity in the 1980s, has long had critics, who say many hotels, lodges and tour companies use the term indiscriminately to lend a sheen to their businesses, a practice known as “greenwashing.”

To define ecotourism and set standards for the travel industry, TIES developed principles for ecotourism businesses to adopt, including:

  • “Minimize physical, social, behavioral and psychological impacts.

  • “Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.

  • “Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.

  • “Generate financial benefits for both local people and private industry.

  • “Deliver memorable interpretative experiences to visitors that help raise sensitivity to host countries' political, environmental and social climates.

  • “Design, construct and operate low impact facilities.

  • “Recognize the rights and spiritual beliefs of the Indigenous People … and work in partnership with them.”3

Megan Epler Wood, director of the International Sustainable Tourism Initiative at Harvard University and a consultant who helped develop these principles, says ecotourism has scored numerous successes globally. In addition to gorilla-watching tours in Rwanda, she cites environmentally conscious whale-watching expeditions in Mexico's Baja California Peninsula.

“It's just absolutely classic,” says Epler Wood, who returned recently from the region. “My guide was Mexican and had gotten an advanced degree on whale behavior at a university in Baja, and the local, so-called lancheros [boatmen] were running the small boats.” The Mexican government helped by building better docking facilities for the lancheros, she says. “There is often a public-private aspect to ecotourism.”

Epler Wood says the last accurate reckoning of ecotourism's size was conducted in 2002, which the United Nations proclaimed the International Year of Ecotourism. The U.N. then estimated it to be about 5 percent of global tourism. Even if that remains unchanged, she says, the absolute number of ecotourists must be significantly higher today, as overall international tourism has soared.

Tourists on a whale-watching tour in Magdalena Bay, Mexico (Getty Images/LightRocket/W. Kaehler)  
Tourists on a whale-watching tour in Magdalena Bay, Mexico, observe a gray whale in 2015. Ecotourism is a growing niche of the travel industry that focuses on environmental interests. (Getty Images/LightRocket/W. Kaehler)

Critics are skeptical about ecotourism's goals and effectiveness. “Claims that we can protect nature, benefit local communities and also bring national revenues to [these places] are faced with a different reality on the ground,” according to the Third World Network, a research and advocacy group for developing nations. “From Thailand to Belize, ecotourism has opened the doors to more forest destruction.”4

Anita Pleumarom, coordinator of the Tourism Investigation & Monitoring Team in Bangkok, Thailand, a private group that campaigns for social and ecological justice in tourism, said “ecotourism is fraught with romantic and delusional beliefs,” and the concept remains vague. No one, she said, has conducted empirical studies of how widely travel companies using the term have adopted ecotourism principles.5

Epler Wood agrees that such research does not exist. “I can only go by the work I've done in over 35 countries,” she says. “I've dealt with thousands of business, and I don't see [greenwashing] very often.”

Ecotourism's biggest weakness, says Epler Wood, is not greenwashing but the frequent lack of government planning for tourism development that occurs just outside protected wildlife areas. It can result in sprawl, she says.

Pleumarom's assessment is harsher: “Many people and communities whose territories have been turned into playgrounds for ecotourists have seen their remaining patches of natural forest disappear,” watersheds polluted and wildlife harmed “because of a plethora of tourism-related development projects and rapidly expanding numbers of tourists.”6

Travelers interested in ecotourism can check to see whether their hotel, lodge or tour operator is certified as “sustainable.” But they will want to be sure the certification body is legitimate, says Epler Wood. The Global Sustainable Tourism Council is a nonprofit in Washington that accredits certification bodies that meet its standards.

The problem is that certification is fairly rare, says Epler Wood. She urges prospective travelers to question tour companies, hotels and ecolodges about their greenhouse gas emissions and wildlife policies and whether their guides and suppliers are local.

“If the company has nothing in response, then move on,” she says.

— Barbara Mantel

[1] Laura Powell, “Rwanda Is Making a Push for the Right Number of High-Spending Visitors,” Skift, June 12, 2018,

[2] “What is Ecotourism?” International Ecotourism Society,

[3] “Principles of Ecotourism,” International Ecotourism Society,

[4] “2002: International Year of Reviewing Ecotourism,” Third World Network,

[5] Anita Pleumarom, “Ecotourism — an unsustainable delusion,” Briefing Paper 88, Third World Network, December 2016, pp. 1–3,

[6] Ibid.

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“People say the information is more up-to-date, more relevant to them.”

Over the past two years, Chinese tourists have been drawn to the white chalk cliffs that border the English Channel in East Sussex, England, inspired by the windswept landscape's appearance in social media and films. This summer, South Korean day-trippers discovered the cliffs, a two-hour drive south of London, after an actress from their homeland posted photos and a video of herself standing near their edge.

“When we search for London on social media, it's the first thing we see,” said Hyeon Hui Shin, a 28-year-old South Korean tourist visiting the cliffs.7

Social media is transforming tourism, says Richard Butler, professor emeritus of tourism at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and TripAdvisor are some of the platforms that allow travelers to browse photos, ratings and feedback when deciding where to visit. Critics, however, say social media has its downsides: It can exacerbate “overtourism,” in which popular sites are overrun with visitors, and lead to safety issues, such as when selfie-taking daredevils get too close to a cliff's edge.

But for its users, social media is a net positive. “People say the information on social media is more up-to-date, more relevant to them and more fun” than the information from tour operators, on destination websites and in guidebooks, says Ulrike Gretzel, a senior fellow at the University of Southern California Center for Public Relations who studies social media and tourism. And people view it as more trustworthy than information from the tourism industry because it comes from other travelers, she adds.

Among Millennials, born between the early 1980s and 1990s, 86 percent are “inspired to book a trip based on content they viewed online,” and 87 percent “use Facebook for travel inspiration; more than 50 percent use Twitter or Pinterest,” according to a report by marketing consultancy FutureCast.8

Travel companies and tourism boards are catching on and creating social media campaigns to reach potential customers directly. For example, the regional tourism board in East Sussex, England, has hired a Chinese student to post about its chalk cliffs on the Chinese social media platform WeChat.9

A recent university report advised tourism operators in Southwest Australia seeking Asian visitors to start telling interesting stories on social media. “It is important that attractions in Australia's Southwest become more iconic by combining the unique features of the region with building popular social media moments,” said the study's lead author, Michael Volgger, a senior fellow in tourism marketing at Curtin University in Perth.10

Social media also is important to tourists, especially Millennials, once they reach their destinations. “It's a little bit of a security blanket for some people to let their friends and family know where they are, and for others, it can be a feedback and status kind of thing,” says Gretzel. In the Millennial travel report, 43 percent of Millennials reported that “the comments and ‘likes’ they receive from social media are as important or more important than a trip itself.”11

But the desire of many tourists to take clever selfies to post on Instagram, Facebook or other social media has led to dangerous behavior and even deaths. In the past six years, 259 people have died while taking selfies, according to a study by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, a group of public medical colleges in New Delhi. (The study did not say how many were tourists.)12

“In many places, people are climbing things they're not supposed to, they're jumping into fountains, and they're ignoring warning signs,” says Gretzel.

While social media can lead tourists to less crowded destinations that may welcome the influx, social media-using visitors also can overwhelm spots that are unprepared for the sudden attention. For example, Philip Evans, the head of tourism at the local council in East Sussex, said the visiting throngs threaten the chalk cliffs, which are crumbling in places.13

Social media also can concentrate tourists at already-crowded sites. “If you go to Pinterest, there are hundreds of posts about the 10 most photo-worthy spots in Los Angeles,” says Gretzel. Those posts drive tourists to those areas, exacerbating an already irritating problem for residents, she says.

But social media also can be part of the solution, according to Gretzel. “In many ways, social media is a blessing for destinations,” she says, “because this data allows officials to see where people are going and to potentially manage, and also anticipate, where problems might occur if suddenly there is hype around a certain place.”

In addition, government and tourism officials can work with so-called influencers, such as celebrities, to change travel patterns. “They can expose the influencers to different, less crowed places and therefore redirect their followers as well,” says Gretzel, citing Melbourne, Australia, and Switzerland as two places that are pursuing this strategy.

— Barbara Mantel

[7] Amie Tsang, “How Asian Social Media Transformed a Quiet U.K. Walking Spot,” The New York Times, Oct. 12, 2018,

[8] Skyler Huff and Leah Swartz, “The Millennial Brief on Travel & Lodging,” FutureCast, October 2016, p. 13,

[9] Tsang, op. cit.

[10] “Social media key: tourism report,” The West Australian, Oct. 22, 2018,

[11] Huff and Swartz, op. cit.

[12] Agam Bansal et al., “Selfies: A boon or bane?” Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, July-August 2018,

[13] Tsang, op. cit.

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Becker, Elizabeth , Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism , Simon & Schuster, 2013. A journalist examines the tourism industry and its huge effect on the global economy, environment and culture.

Feifer, Maxine , Tourism in History: From Imperial Rome to the Present , Stein and Day, 1986. A researcher traces the evolution of tourism, currently one of the world's largest economic sectors, across nearly 2,000 years.

Zuelow, Eric G.E. , A History of Modern Tourism , Palgrave, 2016. A historian examines tourism's political and cultural impacts from earliest times to the present.


Becker, Elizabeth , “Tourism takeover: Chinese travelers changing the industry,” Travel Weekly, Aug. 1, 2018, Chinese tourists outnumber and outspend international tourists from other countries.

Coldwell, Will , “First Venice and Barcelona: now anti-tourism marches spread across Europe,” The Guardian, Aug. 10, 2017, Protesters in several European cities have decried tourism congestion and day-trippers disembarking from cruise ships.

Paris, Costas , “A Greek Island Paradise Tries to Be a Little Less Welcoming,” The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 1, 2018, Santorini limits the number of cruise ship passengers arriving on the Greek island, as garbage and crowds overwhelm residents.

Steinhorst, John , “Leaders look for solutions to avoid overtourism,” The Garden Island, March 4, 2018, Officials in Kauai are looking for ways to manage growing tourism on the Hawaiian island, including negotiating with federal authorities about the number of incoming airline flights.

Tanner, Courtney , “One Utah national park is looking into limiting the number of visitors each day and requiring permits for certain trails,” Salt Lake Tribune, June 1, 2018, Zion National Park is considering requiring reservations to limit record numbers of visitors, but critics say the proposal is unfair.

Reports and Studies

“Coping With Success: Managing Overcrowding in Tourism Destinations,” McKinsey & Co., December 2017, A management consultant says limiting tourist numbers should be a last resort.

“Healthy Travel and Healthy Destinations,” Airbnb, May 29, 2018, The leading home-sharing company examines the impact of short-term vacation rentals in eight tourist destinations.

“Travel & Tourism: Economic Impact 2018 World,” World Travel & Tourism Council, 2018, The travel and tourism sector accounted for 313 million jobs and 10.4 percent of global gross domestic product in 2017, according to an industry trade group.

Guttentag, Daniel , “Regulating Innovation in the Collaborative Economy: An Examination of Airbnb's Early Legal Issues,” Collaborative Economy and Tourism, May 31, 2017, Cities are increasingly imposing regulations on Airbnb, including limiting the number of days per year that an owner can rent an accommodation.

Higgins-Desbiolles, Freya , “Sustainable tourism: Sustaining tourism or something more?” Tourism Management Perspectives, January 2018, The tourism industry is promoting growth despite finite natural resources and should embrace measures to make tourism more sustainable, argues a researcher from the University of South Australia.

Kharas, Homi , “The Unprecedented Expansion of the Global Middle Class: An Update,” Brookings Institution, February 2017, Within a few years, most of the world's population, for the first time ever, might live in middle-class or wealthy households.

Sheivachman, Andrew , “Proposing Solutions to Overtourism in Popular Destinations: A Skift Framework,” Skift, Oct. 23, 2017, A tourism industry research firm suggests destinations adopt several strategies to solve overtourism, including making travel more expensive.

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The Next Step


Behan, Rosemary , “Ecotourism only makes sense if we all talk to each other,” The National, Sept. 20, 2018, Efforts by the South Pacific island nation of Palau to balance tourism with the preservation of local fishing traditions provide a successful case study of ecotourism, a journalist writes.

Hall, Melanie , “Top 5 ecotourism projects in Africa,” Deutsche Welle, July 19, 2018, An environmental magazine's favorite African ecotourist destinations include sanctuaries for chimpanzees and gorillas and national parks that stress conservation.

Lindeman, Tracey , “Ecotourism in Costa Rica Is Putting Wildlife at Risk,” Motherboard, April 6, 2018, Costa Rica's ecosystem and its infrastructure suffer from sudden influxes of tourists, with too many visitors admitted to protected wildlife areas, says a jaguar conservationist.

Home-Sharing Industry

Doggrell, Katharine , “Airbnb protests Amsterdam's home-sharing ban proposal,” Hotel Management, Oct. 29, 2018, Amsterdam is considering banning home-sharing for tourists, despite Airbnb's argument that only 8 percent of overnight visitors stay in an Airbnb rental.

McCartney, Robert , “Political contests erupt as cities and hotel industry struggle to curb Airbnb,” The Washington Post, Oct. 15, 2018, Cities' efforts to rein in the home-sharing industry have sparked a backlash from those who support the short-term rentals.

Yale, Aly , “10 Years After Airbnb, Real Estate Developers See The Money In Home-sharing,” Forbes, Oct. 17, 2018, Owners of multifamily buildings increasingly view home rentals as a moneymaking opportunity, says a real estate journalist.

Local Protests

Burgen, Stephen , “‘Tourists go home, refugees welcome’: why Barcelona chose migrants over visitors,” The Guardian, June 25, 2018, Residents of Barcelona, Spain, say they are supportive of immigration but dismissive of tourists because the latter damage neighborhoods and the quality of life.

Florida, Richard , “The Global Tourism Backlash,” CityLab, Aug. 7, 2018, Residents' growing anger at tourism is indicative of larger problems — economic inequality and inadequate housing — within cities, says the co-founder of a website that covers urban issues.

Perrone, Alessio , “‘A resource that is killing the town’: on the resident's groups campaigning against over-tourism in Venice,” CityMetric, Aug. 22, 2018, With tourists overrunning Venice's fragile historic center, the Italian city is struggling to find ways to control the crowds.

National Parks

“Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Reports ‘On Par’ Visitation,” The Associated Press, U.S. News & World Report, Oct. 24, 2018, Despite having to close last May because of a massive volcano eruption, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park partially reopened last month to relatively stable attendance.

Gecker, Jocelyn, and Paul Elias , “Couple Who Fell to Their Death at Yosemite Died While Taking a Selfie, Family Says,” The Associated Press, Time, Oct. 31, 2018, A couple's recent death at Yosemite National Park highlights the risks of tourists attempting to take selfie pictures at dangerous locations, a problem that prompted India's tourism industry to set up “no-selfie zones.”

Hawk, Corey , “Grand Canyon gap: Arizona national parks need $531 million to fix roads, buildings,” Cronkite News, Oct. 26, 2018, Increasing attendance at the Grand Canyon and nearby recreation sites is wearing out roads and buildings, while much-needed park maintenance has been continually delayed.

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Center for Responsible Travel
1225 I St., N.W., Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005
Research organization that helps policymakers, the tourist industry, nonprofits and international agencies find solutions to critical tourism issues, such as overcrowding and environmental degradation.

Cruise Lines International Association
1201 F St., N.W., Suite 250, Washington, DC 20004
The world's largest cruise industry trade association, representing more than 50 cruise lines.

The International Ecotourism Society
427 N. Tatnall St., Wilmington, DE 19801
Association of ecotourism professionals, industry experts and ecotourism operators in more than 190 countries that sets standards for the industry.

National Park Service
1849 C St., N.W., Washington, DC 20240
Bureau of the U.S. Department of the Interior that is charged with preserving national parks for public use.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
962 Wayne Ave., Suite 610, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Advocacy group that promotes responsible management of public natural resources and investigates claims from public employees about environmental misconduct by the government.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
7 Place de Fontenoy, 75007 Paris, France
U.N. agency that promotes cultural heritage, including by designating World Heritage Sites.

World Tourism Organization
Calle Poeta Joan Maragall, 42, 28020 Madrid, Spain
+34 91 567 81 00
U.N. agency that promotes tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability.

World Travel & Tourism Council
65 Southwark St., London SE1 0HR United Kingdom
+44 (0)20 7481 8007
Membership organization of more than 150 travel and tourism companies around the world.

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[1] “Trevi Fountain fight, Rome: Women throw punches over selfies as authorities try to deal with overcrowding,” Traveller, Aug. 15, 2018,

[2] “International Tourism 2017 — Market share by region of tourist arrivals and tourism receipts,” World Tourism Organization (UNWTO),

[3] Will Coldwell, “First Venice and Barcelona: now anti-tourism marches spread across Europe,” The Guardian, Aug. 10, 2017,; Rafat Ali, “The Genesis of Overtourism: Why We Came Up With the Term and What's Happened Since,” Skift, Aug. 14, 2018,

[4] Shannon Jones, “Top 5 Industries in Hawaii: Which Parts of the Economy are the Strongest?” Newsmax, March 3, 2015,

[5] Andrew Sheivachman, “Proposing Solutions to Overtourism in Popular Destinations: A Skift Framework,” Skift, Oct. 23, 2017,

[6] Freya Higgins-Desbiolles, “Sustainable tourism: Sustaining tourism or something more?” Tourism Management Perspectives, January 2018,

[7] John Steinhorst, “Leaders look for solutions to avoid overtourism,” The Garden Island, March 4, 2018,

[8] “UNWTO World Tourism Barometer and Statistical Annex,” UNWTO, October 2018,; “International Tourism 2017 — Market share by region of tourist arrivals and tourism receipts,” op. cit.

[9] Elizabeth Becker, “Tourism takeover: Chinese travelers changing the industry,” Travel Weekly, Aug. 1, 2018,

[10] Ibid.

[11] “Homi Kharas, “The Unprecedented Expansion of the Global Middle Class: An Update,” Brookings Institution, February 2017, p. 2,

[12] “Coping With Success: Managing Overcrowding in Tourism Destinations,” McKinsey & Co., December 2017, p. 15,

[13] Ibid.

[14] “Travel & Tourism: Economic Impact 2018, World,” World Travel & Tourism Council, March 2018, the foreword and p. 1,

[15] Manfred Lenzen et al., “The carbon footprint of global tourism,” Nature Climate Change, June 2018, p. 522,

[16] Lauren McMah, “Tourists will not be banned from Thai beach, officials say,”, Feb. 22, 2018,; “Dubrovnik Set to Lower Daily Tourist Limit in Old Town to 4,000?” Croatia Week, Aug 12, 2017,; “Barcelona approves new tourist accommodation cap,” The Local, Jan. 27, 2017,; and Costas Paris, “A Greek Island Paradise Tries to Be a Little Less Welcoming,” The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 1, 2018,

[17] Katherine LaGrave, “Barcelona Approves New Law to Limit Tourist Numbers,” Condé Nast Traveler, Jan. 27, 2017,

[18] Janine Puhak, “Amsterdam officials crack down on excessive, ‘naughty Disneyland’ style partying,” Fox News, Oct. 17, 2018,; “Detourism: travel Venice like a local,” Office of Sustainable Tourism of the City of Venice,

[19] “Corfu Garbage: Travel Agents, Hoteliers and Local Community Demand Solution Now!” Keep Talking Greece, June 21, 2018,

[20] “How can destinations reduce overcrowding?” World Travel & Tourism Council, Aug. 13, 2018,; “13 ways to Do London like a Londoner,” Visit London Official Visitor Guide,

[21] Gene Sloan, “Sneak peek: Inside Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas, largest cruise ship ever,” USA Today, Feb. 14, 2018,

[22] John Hutchinson, “Barcelona bans large tourist groups from entering city's famous La Boqueria food market … so locals can do their weekly shop,” Daily Mail, April 9, 2015,

[23] “Challenges Facing the Galápagos Islands,” International Galapagos Tour Operators Association,

[24] Courtney Tanner, “One Utah national park is looking into limiting the number of visitors each day and requiring permits for certain trails,” Salt Lake Tribune, June 1, 2018,

[25] “Recreation Visitors by Month,” Zion National Park,; “Annual Park Ranking Report for Recreation Visits in: 2017,” Annual Park Ranking Report,; and “Preliminary Alternative Concepts Newsletter,” Zion National Park, Summer 2017,

[26] Tanner, op. cit.

[27] “National Parks System, Recreation Visits by Year,” National Park Service,; “Quick History of the National Park Service,” National Park Service, May 14, 2018,

[28] Jim Robbins, “How a Surge in Visitors Is Overwhelming America's National Parks,” Yale Environment 360, July 31, 2017,

[29] “National Park Service Comprehensive Survey of the American Public, 2008–2009: Racial and Ethnic Diversity of National Park System Visitors and Non-Visitors,” National Park Service, July 2011, p. 10,

[30] “National Parks Punt on Overcrowding,” Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, July 14, 2016,

[31] “About Airbnb: Advancing home sharing as a solution,” Airbnb,

[32] “Healthy Travel and Healthy Destinations,” Airbnb, May 29, 2018, pp. 16, 19, 34,; Daniel Guttentag et al., “Why Tourists Choose Airbnb: A Motivation-Based Segmentation Study,” Journal of Travel Research, April 27, 2017, p. 354,

[33] Sadie Whitelocks, “‘We're nearly full!’ Visit Cornwall boss blames Airbnb for gridlocked roads and packed beaches as the number of rental properties spikes to 9,000 — from just SEVENTEEN two years ago,” Daily Mail, Sept. 28, 2018,

[34] Casey Newton, “Airbnb opens up a complaint center for neighbors to report problem guests,” The Verge, May 31, 2016,

[35] “My Neighbors Killed My Airbnb Unit,”,

[36] “Airbnb, New York and Housing,” Airbnb Citizen, May 3, 2018,; “The Impact of Airbnb on NYC Rents,” Office of the New York City Comptroller, May 3, 2018,

[37] Daniel Guttentag, “Regulating Innovation in the Collaborative Economy: An Examination of Airbnb's Early Legal Issues,” Collaborative Economy and Tourism, May 31, 2017, p. 107,

[38] Daniel Guttentag, “What Airbnb really does to a neighborhood,” BBC, Aug. 30, 2018,

[39] Dara Kerr, “Airbnb purges thousands of San Francisco listings overnight,” CNET, Jan. 18, 2018,

[40] Maxine Feifer, Tourism in History: From Imperial Rome to the Present (1985), pp. 8–10, 15.

[41] Ibid., pp. 27–28.

[42] “Crusades,” The History Channel,; ibid., pp. 28–29.

[43] Feifer, ibid., pp. 29–31, 41, 64–65, 68–69.

[44] Eric G.E. Zuelow, A History of Modern Tourism (2016), pp. 9, 21, 25–26.

[45] Ibid., pp. 50–51.

[46] “The Pullman Company,” Pullman Museum,

[47] Zuelow, op. cit., pp. 55–59.

[48] “Thomas Cook History,” Thomas Cook,

[49] Ethan Carr, “Olmsted and Scenic Preservation,” PBS,

[50] Barbara Mantel, “Managing Western Lands,” CQ Researcher, April 22, 2016, pp. 361–84.

[51] Zuelow, op. cit., p. 109.

[52] “A Brief History of AAA,” AAA,

[53] Zuelow, op. cit., pp. 115, 121, 123–24.

[54] Amy Harris, “The History of Airline Industry,” USA Today,

[55] Feifer, op. cit., p. 221.

[56] “Disneyland opens,” The History Channel, Aug. 21, 2018,

[57] Zuelow, op. cit., pp. 168, 170, 171.

[58] Erin Blakemore, “A Black American's Guide to Travel in the Jim Crow Era,”, Nov. 3, 2015,

[59] Feifer, op. cit., p. 223.

[60] Bonnie Gringer, “Average Gas Prices in the U.S. Through History,” TitleMax,

[61] Zuelow, op. cit., p. 159.

[62] Madhu Unnikrishnan, “A Law That Changed the Airline Industry Beyond Recognition (1978),” Aviation Week, June 4, 2015,; Derek Thompson, “How Airline Ticket Prices Fell 50% in 30 Years (and Why Nobody Noticed),” The Atlantic, Feb. 28, 2013,

[63] “History of Budget Carriers,” Eurocheapo,

[64] “Hotel Workers Reach Settlements With Marriott in Oakland, Detroit; Marriott Strikes Continue in 6 Other Cities,” Marriott Travel Alert, Nov. 4, 2018,

[65] “Marriott Strike Escalates With Largest Yet Actions in National Day of Mass Action,” Unite Here, Oct. 19, 2018,

[66] “Hotel Workers Reach Settlements With Marriott in Oakland, Detroit; Marriott Strikes Continue in 6 Other Cities,” op. cit.

[67] “May 2017 National Industry-Specific Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: NAICS 721100 — Traveler Accommodation,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 30, 2018,

[68] Ting, op. cit.

[69] “The Westin Boston Waterfront,” Trip Advisor,

[70] Nancy Trejos, “Marriott workers on strike in eight US cities,” USA Today, Oct. 8, 2018,

[71] Marcia Argust, “Restore America's Parks,” Pew Charitable Trusts,

[72] “Bishop, Grijalva Introduce Bill to Establish a Fund Addressing National Park Maintenance Backlog,” House Committee on Natural Resources, July 25, 2018,

[73] Kellie Lunney, “Rare bipartisan cheer for rollout of ‘fix our parks’ bill,” E&E News, July 25, 2018,

[74] Marcia Argust and Tom Wathen, “Restoring our national parks would be a bipartisan win for Congress,” The Hill, Sept. 5, 2018,

[75] S.3172: Restore Our Parks Act, GovTrack,; S.3172 — Restore Our Parks Act,,; H.R.6510 — Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act,

[76] Lena Reimann et al., “Mediterranean UNESCO World Heritage at risk from coastal flooding and erosion due to sea-level rise,” Nature Communications, Oct. 16, 2018,

[77] Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis, “The latest thing climate change is threatening is our history,” The Washington Post, Oct. 16, 2018,

[78] “FAQ — Climate Change and Tourism,” World Tourism Organization,

[79] Lenzen et al., op. cit.

[80] Ibid., p. 526.

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About the Author

Barbara Mantel, author of this week's edition of CQ Researcher  

Barbara Mantel, is a freelance writer in New York City. She has been a Kiplinger Fellow and has won several journalism awards, including the National Press Club's Best Consumer Journalism Award and the Front Page Award. She was a correspondent for NPR and the founding senior editor and producer for public radio's “Science Friday.” She holds a B.A. in history and economics from the University of Virginia and an M.A. in economics from Northwestern University.

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Document APA Citation
Mantel, B. (2018, November 9). Global tourism controversies. CQ researcher, 28, 945-968. Retrieved from
Document ID: cqresrre2018110900
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ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Tourism and Vacation
Nov. 09, 2018  Global Tourism Controversies
Oct. 20, 2006  Ecotourism
Jun. 17, 1988  America's ‘Vacation Gap’
May 04, 1984  Tourism's Economic Impact
Jul. 21, 1978  Tourism Boom
May 14, 1969  Summer Camps and Student Travel
May 18, 1966  Tourist Dollar Gap
Apr. 19, 1961  Two-Way Tourism
Jul. 20, 1955  Competition for Passenger Travel
Jul. 03, 1946  Travel Boom
Jun. 17, 1930  Foreign and Domestic Tourist Traffic
Climate Change
Consumer Behavior
General International Relations
Historic Preservation
Internet and Social Media
Land Resources and Property Rights
Motor Traffic and Roads
National Parks and Reserves
Popular Culture
Recycling and Solid Waste
Regional Planning and Urbanization
Regional Planning and Urbanization
Regulation and Deregulation
Travel and Tourism
Waterways and Harbors
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