The impact of over-tourism and possible European Parliament policy responses

IPM has provided insights into 5 main areas of interest to a research study for the European Parliament on Overtourism: Impacts and possible policy responses undertaken by a team of researchers from Breda University of Applied Sciences' Centre for Sustainability, Tourism and Transport (lead), Stenden University of Applied Sciences, University of Brighton, the Ostelea School of Tourism & Hospitality, and Lund University. The project is focusing on the external factors impacting upon overtourism up to 2030, gathering expertise from a range of sources such as IPM into the trends, developments, emerging issues, etc. that cannot be controlled by destinations.

Dr Heather Skinner, Chair of the IPM’s Visiting Places Special Interest Group (SIG), and Professor Harold Goodwin, IPM Director of Responsible Tourism and Managing Director of the Responsible Tourism Partnership,  who submitted IPM’s response, focused on providing information and insights into 5 key areas of interest: (i) mega (society level) meso (consumer level) and micro (products and services level) trends already occurring; (ii) emerging countertrends (iii) emerging issues and discourses; (iv) innovative ideas and proposals that could be real game changers for the future of overtourism, and (v) important plans that might impact upon overtourism up to 2030 if they become realised.

IPM’s response reflects our belief that “overtourism” is a highly contentious word, and one which the industry struggles with. This is a serious issue as without industry engagement the problem won't be solved. We suggest "overtourism" is better framed (initially at least) as “coping with success”, and we are putting this perspective at the heart of the IPM’s Visiting Places SIG. Semantics aside, Professor Goodwin has authored a number of articles and books related to the subject, and this body of work can help define overtourism, explore its antecedents, identify limits to growth, and consider the major trends contributing to the subject and the consequences of overtourism to specific destinations. You can read more about responsible tourism and the IPM’s perspective on coping with success here.

Other than government regulation, the most appropriate response could be seen to be ‘de-marketing’ certain places. De-marketing is emerging as a serious countertrend to overtourism and is counter-intuitive to most destination marketing strategies that are usually focused on achieving increases in tourism in order to gain and maintain a competitive advantage over other destinations. Both Dr Skinner and IPM’s Professors Gary Warnaby and Dominic Medway have contributed to the debate on demarketing in general and on its application to places.

Many of the emerging issues relating to overtourism are already being debated through the Responsible Tourism Partnership (RTP) and at the World Travel Market (WTM). Professor Goodwin is also already leading on many of these issues through RTP and WTM, and many of these discussions can be found on the Responsible Tourism Blog, and also offer details of resident engagement and bottom-up participatory placemaking that IPM sees as the way forward for any successful responses to plans for dealing with overtourism. A toolbox of resources and case studies on coping with success is also being prepared by IPM and will be available in the Autumn.

Organisations such as Responsible Travel coordinate responsible travel solutions to tourists who wish to travel sustainably and responsibly. As noted by the organization’s webpages “many of the tools to manage overtourism already exist. The bigger challenge is to persuade destinations that the era of endless and badly managed tourism growth is over.” Responsible Travel has created a documentary film that is also engaging the industry in the debate on overtourism – you can watch it here.

We believe this is an issue of great importance and most timely, and IPM is delighted to be able to contribute to this research that is intended to help inform the European Parliament's policy responses to addressing overtourism.