Overtourism can be overcome with the culture of travel

International tourist arrivals are expected to reach 1.8 billion by 2030. These are the long-term forecasts from UN Tourism in its report “Tourism Towards 2030.” The figure of nearly 2 billion travellers was mentioned during the panel held at BIT, titled “Overtourism, the return: strategies to avoid overcrowding.” Regions, tourism authorities, operators and hospitality stakeholders discussed suggestions and possible solutions to overcome the overflow of tourist flows. One keyword brought everyone together: culture. Fabrizia Pecunia, mayor of Riomaggiore and councillor of the Cinque Terre National Park had no doubts when asked how to protect a village from overtourism: “By fostering culture.” This is the card Riomaggiore plays against overtourism. The move is to increase experiences and support tourists. The Via dell’Amore is open by appointment. And there are more cultural events planned throughout the year, “moments of reflection and discussion with people, visits to trails for a 360° connection of everything that the Cinque Terre and Riomaggiore represent.” Another country reflecting on the issue is Slovenia. According to Aljoša Ota, director of the Slovenian Tourist Board in Italy, “overtourism doesn’t exist, but suboptimal destination management does.” Hence the need to focus on a strategy “linked to territorial management that must interpret a vision that starts from the top and is shared by all.” This is what the country did, working together with mayors of some locations to limit access at certain times of the year. For example, Bled chose to “close access to cars before entering the town.” The management of flows is fundamental, but how can tour operators help? Marco Peci, commercial director of Quality Group, emphasises that organised tourism plays a fundamental role because it connects with the people who manage the territory. The manager’s suggestions are varied, ranging from the need to “control flows, push shoulder seasons, give value to the area,” but above all the need for “greater cultural depth”. Hidden beauties and treasures can be promoted and the tourist offer can be made less seasonal. “Destinations that only receive tourists for a few months need to understand that flows need to be spread out,” says Peci, suggesting the development of new tourist destinations, new areas to enhance experiences and promoting “a culture of travel,” that integrates the local population as well. The manager suggests “reducing excessive flows, but not hospitality.” There is certainly no one-size-fits-all recipe, notes Sara Digiesi, CEO of BWH Hotels Italy and Malta, but “there are many commercial tools.” What must be done is to “consider the country of origin of the demand. Our typical vacation month is not the same as the typical vacation month for the country of origin.” There is also a demographic issue to consider, including the differences between target groups: some have more time availability or are of an age that requires a different customisation to their trip. We also need to consider the motivation that drives people to move as well as think about the price lever. This aspect is also agreed upon by Oliver Winter, founder and CEO of a&o Hostels, who manages overtourism using this lever to “promote a deseasonalisation of tourist flows and control during the high season. The goal is achieved by offering competitive rates during the low season and encouraging guests to extend their stay to reduce guest turnover in accommodation facilities.” For example, during the low season, a&o Venice Mestre has an occupancy rate “of over 50%, demonstrating the success of seasonal adjustment.”

The repeat tourist

An interesting solution is represented by the repeat tourist. If you think about it, they deseasonalise on their own, because when they return to the same city, “they no longer go to the 5-6 most famous places,” observes Giuseppe Roscioli, president of Federalberghi Rome, who emphasises that tourist points of interest suffer particularly from overtourism: “out of 50 million annual visits to Rome, 48 million go to the Colosseum.” Rome will be the stage for important events such as the Jubilee in 2025. Roscioli is concerned not so much about the event itself, but about “the concentration of many people in a short space of time in one place. They must be managed,” he states. “In addition, the Jubilee event dates are concentrated in the high season in Rome.” Managing flows also means improving the quality of the stay in terms of the environment and sustainability, and BWH is very attentive to this. There are many action areas: energy, water, waste and people’s behaviour. “Numbers must also be managed by dialogue with our customer,” says Digiesi.

Stefania Vicini

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