World Travel Market London has announced that the two key responsible tourism themes this November will be what the travel industry should do about the emerging phenomenon of Overtourism; and how it should set about meeting the United Nations’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Over the last year or more, the word Overtourism has increasingly been used to describe a situation where destinations feel either that there are too many tourists, or where the impact of tourist development is negatively affecting their home without providing enough benefits in return. From Barcelona to Thailand, Venice to Berlin, cities and regions are now beginning to take matters into their own hands, regulating against shared economy providers like airbnb, protesting against cruise ships, limiting the number of people allowed into certain fragile areas. As tourism continues to grow by around 4% each year, such responses are a direct challenge to its ongoing expansion.
This year’s event will gather representatives from some of the destinations most affected and those who have actively sought to address the issue, to explore a range of challenges and responses, such as whether more regulation is needed, how to involved local people more collaboratively into development that directly affects them, or if it is time to set limits to growth. This is not an issue that can wait. As the Secretary Tourism, India, Mr Vinod Zutshi said at WTM London 2016: “We have to study carrying capacity of destinations and ensure there is not too much tourism for a destination to bear.”
Secondly, to mark 2017 being declared by the UN as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, several sessions during the Responsible Tourism Programme will focus on how the industry meets the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which were agreed in 2015. In particular, the event will look at the three goals in which sustainable tourism is explicitly mentioned – 8,12 and 14.
Goal 8 looks to “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.” Goal 12 is to “Ensure sustainable Consumption and Production patterns”. And Goal 13 looks to “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.” Leading experts from industry and civil society will meet to discuss these and the other goals, to explore examples of best practice from across the sector and discuss whether the industry is doing enough to meet its commitments.
WTM London responsible tourism expert Professor Harold Goodwin said: “Overtourism is becoming a critical issues in the travel industry. Many destinations are employing a variety of different strategies to limit tourism to improve the experience for both tourist, locals and the environment.”