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.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Tourism and Vacation
Sep. 24, 2021  Travel and COVID-19
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