Tackling overtourism: Travel executives discuss the problem: Travel Weekly

Tackling overtourism: Travel executives discuss the problem: Travel Weekly

Weissmann: David, there does seem to be a reflexive focus on cruise lines as villains in some of these overcrowding situations. What has been your experience?

David Dingle, chairman, Carnival U.K.: I think it’s important to say that if you were to close the whole cruise industry tomorrow, it would make zero difference to any of the overtourism issues because we are such
a small part of the total tourism industry.

I think the reason [cruise lines are criticized] is that it’s very, very easy to measure cruise tourism. You absolutely know when 2,000 to 3,000 people have turned up in the port. You can count them, and you know exactly where they
are. And because you can count them so easily, they’re an easy target for regulation.

On the other hand, the WTTC report points out that 72% of all tourists are day visitors, and they’re the people about whom we know the least. The report is a good piece of work, but I think we should all recognize that we need to
know an awful lot more, particularly about that 72%.

Generally, we need to have deeper levels of data so that we can have a better understanding of this issue. The fact that we may open many, many more tourist opportunities across the world is not necessarily going to make people say, “Well,
I won’t bother to go to Venice.” We have to better understand what is causing the issues. Who exactly are the people going to Venice? Where do they come from? Have they been there once or 10 times? We have to know that to
get our arms around some of these very specific issues.

Gonzalo Robredo, president, Buenos Aires Tourism Board: Data will play a very important role. In Buenos Aires, everybody knows about tango, about beef and about La Boca, so everybody goes exactly to the same places. We are
working with Secteur in Spain to use big data to identify the individual traveler’s interests. Not what he expects to find in Buenos Aires but what he likes, so we can proactively direct him to his areas of interest. Knowing preferences,
through data mining, we can design special itineraries. Big data can also help show the exact movements of cars and congestion, and visitors can be offered special promotions to move them to areas that are not so popular, in real time. 

Lehane: We have so much data. And if you share it with countries, with [destination management organizations] and cities, make the data accessible to them to help with their planning, it strengthens travel’s value
proposition. You’re able to specifically target travelers to help a particular city or country drive travelers to where they want them to be. If they like bird-watching, we know that there is a place in rural Argentina where you
could see a certain type of bird. Or target a group that wants to taste wine.

So you’re actually dispersing travelers. Ireland, France and Italy are all interested in driving tourism into rural places. But the travelers to those places are going to arrive in Dublin, Paris and Rome. The question is, when they
get there, do they stay there for two weeks or do they stay there for three or four days and then can you drive them out into the countryside? If you’re offering them things that specifically align with their interests, you can
do that. I think there’s enormous potential there.

Dingle: The alienation of local residents is quite interesting and a relatively recent phenomenon. And I think that it’s no accident that it has arisen at the same time that we see a lot more of what we might call
nationalism. It feels similar to this issue of “I don’t want people from other places.” They might be from the next city, whom we hate because they support a different football team, right through to people from the
other side of the planet who are coming here and disrupting our lifestyles. Maybe it’s always been there, but now the articulation of it is much more pronounced.

My worry about this nationalistic movement, which is concerned about identity, is that there is little sign it will be easily swayed by economic arguments. I think we have to recognize that and think about how we overcome this issue of identity
being threatened.

Lehane: I do think this function of nativism, of people being segmented and polarized, leaning ultranationalistic and tribalistic, these tend to overindex in Europe, where the issue of overtourism also tends to overindex.
Those cities are going through dramatic changes that are separate and apart from travel and tourism. Stagnant wages and automation. Middle class people in some parts of the world, particularly Europe, are seeing their share of the gross
domestic product going down. There’s an awful lot that’s coming into play here, yet from an emotional perspective, there is the perception that this industry is to blame for some of those issues.

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