What irritates you most about tourists

Overtourism in EuropeTourism no longer at any price

"I want to go to Venice." "A vacation full of moments. With Germany's new major tour operator" "Set a course for remote hotspots and experience pristine places up close."

This is what it sounds like, the beautiful, ideal world of travel. The sights of this earth, relaxation, foreign cultures and a little paradise for everyone to discover. The fact that even supposedly remote hotspots are now overrun by crowds and that the untouched places are anything but untouched as soon as a cruise ship docks there is deliberately concealed in the advertising. Tourism has long been seen as a win for everyone: holidaymakers get to see the world and at their travel destinations, tourism is an important economic factor that helps develop. But more and more discordant tones mix in this symbiosis.

"Barcelona is hot, Barcelona groans and moans under the onslaught of suitcases." "Even in Dubrovnik there is plenty. Ever since the series Game of Thrones was filmed in the Croatian port city, all hell has broken loose here." "30 million tourists a year, Venice degenerates into a backdrop for selfies."

The Croatian city of Dubrovnik is flooded with tourists every summer. (dpa / picture alliance / Grgo Jelavic / PIXSELL |)

Barcelona, ​​Dubrovnik and Venice, these are the typical examples of popular travel cities in Europe, in which tourism has taken over. Destinations such as Venice have always been popular, but certain market segments of the travel industry such as cruises have grown strongly - so much that the capacity of the affected locations seems exhausted and the residents are suffering from the onslaught. Because rents are rising drastically due to the temporary renting of apartments to tourists, shops are only geared towards their needs and no longer those of local residents. And: entire streets are orphaned. In Dubrovnik's city center, for example, only 800 of the once 5,000 inhabitants still live. In Venice, people are moving to the surrounding area, while the palazzi are being bought up by investors. Overtourism is the name of the phenomenon that is only a few years old, i.e. excessive tourism that not only creates crowds, but also threatens the existence of the affected places and their people. Jeroen Klijs from the Dutch Breda University of Applied Sciences examined overtourism in Europe and around the world with a group of other scientists in a study published by the European Parliament at the end of last year. It put overtourism prominently on the European agenda.

"It has become difficult to say when a capacity is exhausted. If the economy of a place is too focused on tourism, there is hardly any room for other economic activities. You become too dependent on it. There is also the social dimension, that public institutions are no longer aimed at the population, but only at tourists. There is the physical dimension, for example the damage caused by footpaths caused by the tourist masses, or the cultural institutions. "

Tourist flows are likely to rise by another 50 percent soon

The topic caused a stir when residents in cities such as Barcelona, ​​Venice and Amsterdam began to protest against the high visitor numbers in 2017. Initially, cities in particular were affected by overtourism. This summer, however, it also got alarmingly full in the Alpine region, for example. The study by Klijs and colleagues also describes travel destinations such as the Greek island of Santorini, which has been overrun for some time. Their picturesque buildings are well suited as a background for photos on the Instagram online platform. The Chinese also love the island. Today more people from China travel the world than from any other country. And that although only a good six percent of the population there have a passport and can therefore travel. Relaxation is not to be expected at the affected vacation spots. The World Tourism Organization assumes that the flow of holidaymakers will increase by a further 50 percent in the next 15 years. Researcher Jeroen Klijs is investigating how travel destinations can arm themselves.

"We want to find out why places are at risk of suffering from overtourism. First of all, of course, this has to do with the fact that they are attractive to tourists, that they have a World Heritage Site, but also that there is an airport or a port for them There are cruise lines nearby. These are all factors that can make the situation sticky. "

Affected places defend themselves

In addition, there are cheap travel options and the blessings of digitization, which means that tourists today are inspired by others and can immediately book accommodation anywhere. The troubled places, however, are increasingly defending themselves. In Venice, after protests by residents, no new hotels are officially allowed to open, cruise ships are supposed to dock elsewhere. Amsterdam has banned tours of its famous red light fourth. And Paris wants to displace coaches from the center. These are the more eye-catching actions that make vacation spots a talking point. Many regional administrations will have to carefully consider what tailor-made responses to the consequences of overtourism. The study by Breda University has shown that they are often very site-specific. But the call for help from the European Union is also getting louder. Many people no longer notice the positive effects of travel, says Patrick Torrent, President of NECSTouR, a network of European regions that are committed to sustainable tourism.

"The perception of Europeans is now going in the opposite direction because of the extremely high growth in the tourism business and its impact that some regions are feeling. But we have to make sure that tourism helps the places and their citizens. This is a regional, But also a European task. We have to change the way we think, the way we manage tourism. And we want the European Commission to support us in this. We cannot do this alone. "

The European Commission's way of thinking has long been clear: promoting Europe as a travel destination and helping to grow global market share wherever possible. A rethink must also take place here, says Jeroen Klijs from Breda University.

Tourism is the responsibility of the EU members

"We have to question whether the goal of tourism really has to be more and more growth. We may no longer need growth goals, but more quality: Which form of tourism suits the respective travel destination - and which tourists suit the population and the attractions that make it." There is to be seen there. That decides whether the holiday destinations can survive. Because tourism also depends on the respective population. They must be hospitable and give a good impression of the holiday destination. If the population no longer agrees with tourism, it goes lost the whole foundation for it. "

For the European Commission, tourism policy is a complicated matter because the EU only has supportive competence here. Tourism is the responsibility of the member states. The Commission can therefore not steer or harmonize it directly through regulations and directives. It mainly has an indirect influence, through help for the member states or through legal acts in other areas that have consequences for the travel industry: through visa decisions, for example, in trade issues or in environmental policy. The balancing act for the Commission: Tourism is one of the most important economic sectors in the EU, mostly carried by small and medium-sized enterprises.

Tourist hotspot Checkpoint Charly (imago images / Jochen Tack)

Brussels therefore wants to try to defend or expand Europe's share of the world market and at the same time make tourism more socially and ecologically compatible for the particularly sought-after European travel destinations. Anna Athanasopoulou heads the European Commission's tourism department, which is part of the Internal Market and Industry Department.

"Tourism is important for the EU, through its contribution to the economy as well as what it does for society, for social inclusion and for the cohesion of communities. Through the tourism industry, directly or indirectly, more than 25 million people have jobs, many of these are young people, women or immigrants. Tourism accounts for roughly ten percent of Europe's gross domestic product. This shows what is at stake if we strive for more sustainability. "

Divert tourist flows or offer trips in the off-season

When asked about their reaction to the consequences of overtourism, the Commission indicated that some cities and regions were severely affected by it. Many other places that have been neglected by visitors up to now, on the other hand, could definitely use more tourism. That is why one of the Commission's aims is to divert tourist flows. In this way, the market should be able to continue to grow without placing an additional burden on the goals that are in high or excessive demand. He only sees two solutions, says Milosz Momot, deputy head of the Commission's tourism unit.

"One is to better manage the travel destinations, in other words to expand the infrastructure or to make better use of the existing infrastructure to accommodate the many tourists. If that doesn't work, the only sensible solution is to direct the tourists to other destinations. That and the promotion These alternative destinations should be part of every regional and national tourism strategy. We as the Commission are promoting low-season travel in China and the USA or for remote travel destinations in the EU. "

The efficient evaluation of data can also help to better manage tourist flows. And the affected regions would have to invest on a large scale in order to cope better with the demands of tourism. The commission claims that it wrote a better distribution of visitors in its tourism strategy nine years ago - before overtourism became a catchphrase. Today the topic is high on the political agenda and in the public debate, says Jeroen Klijs from the Tourism Academy of the University of Breda. This also leads to misunderstandings.

"If, for example, Amsterdam is considered a city that suffers from overtourism, that is undoubtedly correct. There is a lot of tourism there. There are many other reasons that the city is congested. For example, many people today have their online purchases brought by delivery service and a lot more people want to live there. So it is difficult to distinguish the effects of overtourism from other developments. Not to mention the reasons for overtourism. "

Travel Foundation: "Invisible Burdens Of Tourism"

Yet too little is being done in the EU today to determine the true cost of tourism to travel destinations, says Ben Lynam of the Travel Foundation, a foundation that aims to bring businesses, governments, local governments and residents together to address the negative effects from minimizing tourism. Many of the consequences of excessive travel are still ignored, Lynam said earlier this week at a debate in the European Committee of the Regions in Brussels, the assembly of regional and local representatives of the EU. For decades, the UN World Tourism Organization and the corporate representatives of the World Travel and Tourism Council merely praised the economic advantages of travel.

"But at what price? Like any industry, tourism generates costs. But nobody seems to be completely in a position to say which they are. How can we be sure that tourism is worthwhile for the destinations, if not all costs are known." And overtourism seems to suggest that some vacation spots are not adding up, so we teamed up with Cornell University to find out why. And we've discovered a number of costs that haven't been factored in before . We call them the invisible burdens of tourism. "

Tourism Exchange ITB in Berlin 2018 (imago / Stefan Zeitz)

This affects the infrastructure as well as the environment and the social fabric in the regions affected. Traffic routes would be expanded solely at the expense of the municipalities in order to be able to cope with the flow of tourists. The water and energy consumption of the travel guests is excessively high. Tourism managers didn't look closely. And so far, in many places, the necessary data has not been available to actually weigh up the benefits tourism has compared to the damage it causes. This is particularly important because the tourism industry recognizes that there is a problem. Their representatives try, however, to portray overtourism primarily as a business challenge that can be solved if only the relationship between supply and demand can be reconciled. Like Anita Mendiratta, a tourism advisor who works for the World Tourism Organization, among other things. At a panel at this year's ITB tourism trade fair in Berlin, she pleaded for the topic of overtourism to be reinterpreted.

Travel economy: overcrowding instead of overtourism

"The problem is not overtourism. This is a label that has been put on the problem. It's actually about overcrowding, about managing resources and about developing measures. So how can we change this narrative?"

So another story should emerge from it: overcrowding instead of excessive tourism. Apparently any impression should be avoided that the travel industry itself could be part of the problem. A concern that tourism managers seem to come in handy. Sharry Sun, the brand strategist of the travel agent Travelzoo, gratefully accepted the template at the ITB.

"We believe that overtourism is not the right word to accurately describe the subject. In fact, the subject is the imbalance of supply and demand. Therefore, we believe that the terms overcrowding or overcrowded travel destination are better. They convey a more positive one Impression."

Here, however, the industry is trying to make the problem smaller than it is, at least according to scientists. The authors of the Overtourism study from Breda University of Applied Sciences make a clear distinction between overtourism, which they describe as a comprehensive social problem, and the term "overcrowding" preferred by the travel industry. In the text it says:

"While overcrowding is seen by the industry primarily as a hurdle to further growth, overtourism can pose an existential risk to travel destinations around the world."

Airbnb destroys neighborhoods

Overtourism is more than a temporary damper in business operations. The authors of the study write that it can have physical, economic, ecological, political, social or psychological consequences. Co-author Jeroen Klijs:

"Overcrowding is just one of the many symptoms of overtourism. Its effects are not only quantitative, but also qualitative. If you have always lived in an area where you knew all your neighbors, and then suddenly they are no longer there, but always new For people who rent through Airbnb, it's not so much about the number of tourists, but rather it has serious consequences for their own lives - it's not about the city being overcrowded, but about something happening to your own neighborhood what you don't like. "

Too many tourists in the city - think many Berliners (imago / Schöning)

The answers to this are still different across Europe. The European Commission primarily offers support in accordance with its competence as defined in the EU treaties - through a set of voluntary standards for the environment and social issues or through indicators of what constitutes sustainable tourism. Holiday destinations can orientate themselves on it. It supports investments in green tourism as well as transnational cooperation in the field. In the absence of common regulation, much depends on the organizations in Europe in which regions or national administrations coordinate with civil society actors or companies. One of them is the European Travel Council, or ETC for short, the European association of national tourism organizations. Eduardo Santander is President of the ETC. He would like to see even more European leadership in tourism.

"Because of the principle of subsidiarity, the regulation in Europe is very different. The rules in Barcelona are not even the same as in Madrid and here we are even talking about the same country. I don't have to mention that it looks completely different in Florence or Berlin. That's why the ETC stands for European regulation. There is no common European tourism policy, but maybe there should be. "

Until then, Brussels is offering a patchwork of support, information, some money here and there, and help in exchanging best practices to bolster polluted travel destinations. In order to solve the problems in tourism, Europe is trying to work together amicably between states, companies and citizens.Conflicts between residents of affected travel destinations, politics and companies have so far remained exceptions. But that could change if the pressure from excessive tourism continues to increase.