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18 Sep 2018

UNWTO creates management strategy to help cities suffering from overtourism

A new report from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has been created to highlight the effects of "overtourism", also helping the world's cities better manage the impact of tourism on their populations.

Called Overtourism? Understanding and managing urban tourism growth beyond perceptions, UNWTO has collaborated with several organisations for the paper, including the Centre of Expertise Leisure, Tourism & Hospitality (CELTH), the Breda University of Applied Sciences and the European Tourism Futures Institute (ETFI).

More than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas and it is estimated that by 2050, this figure will reach 70 per cent. In addition, the growing number of urban tourists increases the use of natural resources, causes socio-cultural impact, and exerts pressure on infrastructure, mobility and other facilities. According to the report, recent growth of urban tourism requires the sector to ensure sustainable policies and practices that help to minimise these adverse effects of tourism.

The study notes increased reports of negative attitudes among local populations towards visitors, which it says is due to perceived issues such as overcrowding and noise. This has led to the spread of terms such as ‘overtourism’ and ‘tourismphobia’, which can be seen in locations such as Barcelona, where legislation was introduced last year to curb tourism in an "overwhelmed" city.

Setting out 11 different tourism plans, with 68 different measures to help understand and manage visitor growth, the report looks at tourism management in urban destinations and how that can benefit both visitors and residents.

"Governance is key," said UNWTO secretary-general, Zurab Pololikashvili. "Addressing the challenges facing urban tourism today is a much more complex issue than is commonly recognised. We need to set a sustainable roadmap for urban tourism and place tourism in the wider urban agenda, also ensuring that local communities see and benefit from the positive aspects of tourism."

As part of the report, in an effort to better understand visitor management challenges in urban contexts, particularly the relationship between residents and visitors, eight European cities – Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Munich, Salzburg and Tallinn – have been analysed from the perspective of their residents.

"There is no one-size-fits-all solution to deal with overtourism," said CELTH and Breda University's Dr. Ko Koens.

"The report recommends a common strategic vision among all stakeholders involved, bringing residents and visitors together and adopting careful planning which respects the limits of capacity and the specificities of each destination."

The report was launched during the 7th UNWTO Global Summit on Urban Tourism, which opened on 16 September in Seoul, South Korea. To read it, click here.

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