No Magic Bullet To Tourism Overcrowding

Answers to overtourism must begin with long-term planning, says a major new WTTC & McKinsey report

Overcrowding in tourist destinations is a complex problem which varies from destination to destination and requires long-term planning and collaboration among all relevant stakeholders. Most importantly, popular tourism spots need to understand and be aware of the early warning signs, argues “Coping with success: Managing overcrowding in tourism destinations”, a report by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and McKinsey & Company that is one of the first major analyses of the issue.

The report specifically attempts to cut through media hype around the issue, to understand the nature of the problems at hand, and to identify specific solutions which can make a real difference on what is variously known as “overcrowding”, “overtourism” or “tourismphobia”. It does so by highlighting five types of problems: alienation of local residents, constrained infrastructure, diminished tourist experience, damage to natural resources, and threat to cultural heritage.

Practical actions range from smoothing visitor numbers over time, spreading visitors across sites, and adjusting pricing to balance supply and demand. It is recommended that destinations use the data they already have to take appropriate action.

Focusing on 68 cities, the report creates an overview in the form of a heatmap that identifies the risk of experiencing a given overcrowding problem. The map is based on an analysis of tourism data as well as research on specific destinations and dozens of interviews with tour operators, tourism authorities, hospitality providers, airlines, universities and think tanks.

“Coping with success” concludes that local tourism managers must work with all public and private stakeholders to develop a coherent plan to create and manage tourism growth that puts people and communities at its heart. The goal is not only a positive impact for hosts, but also life-enhancing experiences for millions of travellers each year.

Alex Dichter, Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company, said: “Overcrowding is easier to prevent than to recover from and the real lesson from our work is that good management is vital for all tourism destinations”

Photo: Alex Dichter Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company