Overtourism: Why more cities are taking steps to keep out visitors

Overtourism: Why more cities are taking steps to keep out visitors

Some of Europe's most popular tourist destinations are taking various measures to tackle overtourism, including entrance fees and tourist taxes- More destinations are expected to adopt strategies to even out tourism revenue and costs, says Harold Goodwin, managing director of Responsible Tourism Partnership- In terms of economic benefits, the main objective should be 'rebalancing tourism,' says Goodwin

By Muhammed Enes Calli

ISTANBUL (AA) - As global tourism continues to grow, some European cities are exploring innovative ways to manage the influx of visitors.

Europe's most visited destinations have started taking measures to tackle overtourism, including introducing entrance fees, visitor zones and tourist taxes.

Venice is experiencing such a surge in visitors that it has implemented what can be considered as a citywide entrance fee ranging from €3 to €10 ($3.21 to $10.69). It also charges day-trippers a €5 entry fee.

Paris has almost tripled its tourist tax rates to handle the heavy visitor load.

Amsterdam has banned the construction of new hotels to tackle overtourism and Florence has stopped issuing new permits for Airbnbs and short-term rentals in its historic center for making more homes available for locals.

Barcelona has raised its tourist tax by €0.50 per night to help control the number of visitors.

More destinations are expected to adopt successful strategies from other regions and implement them locally, according to Harold Goodwin, managing director of the Responsible Tourism Partnership, an organization working specifically on tourism-related issues.

"We are seeing national governments responding by giving more power to local authorities to manage tourism in their destination," Goodwin told Anadolu, adding that this is likely to be a "continuing trend."

He noted that the Welsh and Scottish governments have both introduced the opportunity for local authorities to impose higher levels of property tax on second homes and holiday homes.

He said other cities will look at what other destinations are doing to combat overtourism and will employ the same remedies.

"The problem is what you can do as a local authority, city council is determined by what the national legislation permits you to do," Goodwin said.

The Croatian city of "Dubrovnik was able to make much more rapid progress in controlling cruise lines than either Venice or Barcelona because in Dubrovnik, the mayor has authority over the number of boats, which dock on any one day," he added.

In Barcelona too, the mayor has those powers, but Venice is under the national government, he said.

"So part of the challenge is to look at what powers you have got locally and therefore how you can intervene using the administrative powers that are provided for you by the central government."

"It is not a massive political priority in Madrid in the way that it is a massive political priority in Barcelona and the Canary Islands, and that will be true in other countries as well," Goodwin added.

The impacts of overtourism are diverse, encompassing three main factors: overcrowding, tourist behavior and a sense of accommodation problems mainly felt by residents, he said.

There is "the sense that you can no longer afford to live in your place or your children can't find anywhere to live because of the pressure of tourist accommodation.”

"We hear examples of people living in tents or caves or shacks in order to be able to work in the hotels because there simply isn't enough accommodation for local people."

- Need to balance tourism revenue and costs

Regarding the economic benefits that can help justify the downsides of overtourism, Goodwin said it is about rebalancing tourism so it meets some of those needs.

If you take St. Mark's Square in Venice as an example, he said, it is a big public space that requires maintenance, and large numbers of people trampling over stone over time causes damage.

"The problem is to balance the revenue from tourism against the cost of maintaining the asset,” he said, adding that people do not expect to have to pay to enter a public space.

"And if you look at the complaints coming from Venice at the moment, one of the complaints from local people is that imposing an admission charge to the central square in the city of Venice is turning Venice into a museum.

"The problem with some of these charges is that the mere imposition of the charge creates the idea that this is in some way a private space, and you're paying for admission to a museum," he said, stressing that it is quite "understandable" that local people don't like it.

"I am not Venetian, and it is very easy for me to say that Venice is already a museum. But I live in a small town in Kent, and if somebody said to me your small town has become a museum, I would be really upset.

"Because for me, it's a living, breathing, developing community where people bring up their children," he said.

- Venice vs Barcelona

Goodwin believes that the fee of €10 for tourists in Venice would not discourage them from wanting to go elsewhere to capture their photographs.

They claim it encourages people to visit other places, the less visited ones, he added.

"That is fine, except if I have never been to Venice before, I am going to want to go to St. Mark's Square."

He highlighted that the problem lies not with the people who stay overnight in Venice but with the day-trippers, which poses a different kind of problem.

"That's because the tourists are naturally controlled, because you have a certain number of beds available, and most tourists don't want to sleep on the street," he said.

"But day-trippers are a different matter because they are very difficult to control," he said, stressing that cruise lines discharge people right into the heart of the city.

"It is very difficult to manage that, and you need a lot of small micromanagement interventions to manage the system as a whole."

Goodwin says Barcelona, which attracts over 32 million tourists annually, has been most successful in tackiling the problem because it became a public issue and civil servants city realized its severity.

They tracked down all the registered short-term rentals in the city and then accompanied municipal inspectors to enforce regulations on these properties, and they have now regulated that part of the market, he added.

As an example of Barcelona's efforts to tackle overtourism, Goodwin said the city removed a bus route from Google Maps due to complaints from locals about overcrowding with tourists.

This move came after elderly residents of the La Salut neighborhood complained for years about being unable to get into the city because the No. 116 bus was always full of tourists.

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