6th September 2017
Over-tourism: how will brands react?
Travel & Leisure
6th September 2017
2017 is the United Nation’s Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. The same year, however, has seen young people in Barcelona slashing tourist bus tyres and decking the streets in ‘Tourism kills neighbourhoods’ banners. In Venice, which receives 20 million tourists a year in a city of only 55,000 inhabitants, 2,000 people took to the streets to protest against rising rent prices and the impact of tourism on their city. With the World Travel and Tourism Council set to release McKinsey findings over this problem now known as ‘over-tourism’ in the coming weeks, it is becoming increasingly difficult for anyone – both operators and tourists themselves – to be ignorant of the problems that come with one the modern world’s biggest passions.
Sustainability may be a buzz word for many companies and customers, but the consequences of not addressing these issues are real: Santorini, one of the most popular European holiday destinations, is the first city to cap the number of tourists arriving by cruise ship each day at 8,000. The city’s infrastructure cannot handle the pressure, and the gap between the haves and have-nots on the islands is sent soaring as the economy bends to tourism more and more. Given that on some days up to 18,000 passengers currently disembark, this is no soft measure. Specific attractions are now limited in various destinations, such as Dubrovnik’s Old Town which implemented a visitor cap in January 2017. Responsible and sustainable tourism are no longer about best practice or playing on heart strings, but rather about protecting the very product that travel companies sell and love.
However, despite the current focus on the negative impact of tourism on local communities, there are countless stories of how travel supports economies, and of individual brand initiatives that ensure that they give back to the communities they operate in, The Travel Corporation’s TreadRight initiative, for example. Yet with the headlines proving that this is not the case everywhere, the finger will inevitably turn to brands and their role in this crisis. In this climate, what more could your brand be doing to support the locations it loves, and communicate this to their customers? How can your brand a force for good?