Global Tourism Controversies

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


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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Document APA Citation
Mantel, B. (2018, November 9). Global tourism controversies. CQ researcher, 28, 945-968. Retrieved from
Document ID: cqresrre2018110907
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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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