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Current Issues in Tourism
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Is ‘overtourism’ a new issue in tourism development or just a new term for an already known phenomenon?
Alessandro Capocchi , Cinzia Vallone , Andrea Amaduzzi & Mariarita Pierotti
To cite this article: Alessandro Capocchi , Cinzia Vallone , Andrea Amaduzzi & Mariarita Pierotti (2020) Is ‘overtourism’ a new issue in tourism development or just a new term for an already known phenomenon?, Current Issues in Tourism, 23:18, 2235-2239, DOI: 10.1080/13683500.2019.1638353
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/13683500.2019.1638353
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Is ‘overtourism’ a new issue in tourism development or just a new term for an already known phenomenon? Alessandro Capocchi, Cinzia Vallone, Andrea Amaduzzi and Mariarita Pierotti
Department of Business and Law – DiSEADE, University of Milano Bicocca, Milano, Italy
ABSTRACT Is overtourism a new issue in tourism development, or just a new term for an existing phenomenon? The problems caused in some destinations by the increasing growth in tourism have resulted in the recent introduction of the term ‘overtourism’, recalling issues discussed in the literature since the early ‘70s. This paper aims to answer the question of whether overtourism is a novel issue through an initial exploratory study.
ARTICLE HISTORY Received 5 May 2019 Accepted 27 June 2019
KEYWORDS Overtourism; tourism development; term; origins; implications
Overtourism, as a new term, is still in the early stages, and there is no recognized definition in the literature. The roots of overtourism have been widely debated since the early seventies (Boissevain, 1977; Cohen, 1978, 1987) and it is reasonable to suppose that this term does not represent a new phenomenon (Perkumiene ˙and Pranskuniené, 2019). Although this specific term has been inten- sively used for less than three years, the issues it represents have been discussed in the literature over the last 40 years, and many global tourist destinations have long been dealing with this challen- ging phenomenon.
The growth of tourism (Butowski, 2019) has been accompanied by the concentration of tourist flows to specific areas, causing crowding and problems associated with carrying capacity, environ- mental sustainability, and the ‘imitation effect’ (Capocchi, Vallone, Pierotti, & Amaduzzi, 2019), whereby emerging economies mimic the tourist behaviour of western economies. Additionally, gov- ernance issues have arisen with respect to the resources of destination countries, relationships with airlines, and technological developments. These long-term trends are expected to continue to show steady growth over the next decade.
In this context, it is necessary to distinguish the term from the phenomenon of overtourism in order to support the answer to the initial question. As a new term, overtourism identifies an already known phenomenon where local people or tourists themselves feel that a place is visited by too many tourists and that this changes its character, causing it to lose authenticity (Goodwin, 2017).
We carried out a review of the principal literature by searching Google Scholar; Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN); Scopus; and other university library, e-journal, and publishing databases. Because this study is exploratory in nature, it was deemed appropriate to adopt a qualitative approach, investigating the research question through analysis of multiple literature sources.
© 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
CONTACT Alessandro Capocchi [email protected]
CURRENT ISSUES IN TOURISM 2020, VOL. 23, NO. 18, 2235–2239 https://doi.org/10.1080/13683500.2019.1638353
Although the present analysis covers the years 2015–2019, it also considers studies carried out in the last 40 years that describe the basis of overtourism, despite the phenomenon being only recently described using this new term.
We analysed 22 publications identified by searching the Emerald database using ‘over-tourism’ and ‘overtourism’ as keywords. Seven additional significant non-scientific publications available on the internet were considered.
The main publications analyzed concerning the origins of the phenomenon, the general implications and the implications for residents are shown in Table 1.
Although only limited literature associated with overtourism is available, some differences in conceptualization can be observed. Part of the literature focuses its attention on tourism’s relation- ship to the wider urban context (Maxim, 2019) and the political aspects of excessive tourist growth (Freytag & Bauder, 2018). In this approach, the main problems identified are related to the inter- action between tourism and urban change. Another part of the literature addresses overtourism from the perspective of sustainability, the development of new technologies, and mass tourism. In all cases, overtourism is characterized by conflict with the interests of residents and other local stakeholders, as well as the touristification and museification of popular tourist destinations or industrial heritage sites (Saidi, 2012). As shown in Table 2, all the analyzed publications connect overtourism to phenomena widely debated in the literature starting from the early 70s (Boissevain, 1996; Turner & Ash, 1975).
4. Discussion, future perspectives, and conclusion
The present analysis seeks to aid understanding of tourism development globally and considers whether overtourism can be considered a new phenomenon or simply a new term. Benner (2019) observes that overtourism is a complex and multi-layered phenomenon that manifests differently in different locations, necessitating a multidimensional effort to address associated challenges in terms of policies, organizations, institutions, and behaviour. This multidimensional effort can be achieved through community engagement, congestion management, and reduction of seasonality, all requiring careful planning, respecting the limits of capacity and the specificities of the destination, as well as diversification of tourism offerings.
The title of the UNWTO’s World Travel Market ‘Minister’s Summit’ (held in London in November 2017), Overtourism: growth is not the enemy, it is how we manage it (UNWTO, 2017), reflects the assumption that tourism is an opportunity for both the host country and local communities, but the value of this opportunity depends on the ability to create a sustainable model to manage tourism growth.
Within this common framework, according to Veiga, Santos, Águas, and Santos (2018), different destinations have developed distinct approaches, ranging from legal measures to limit the expansion of tourism in already congested areas and reduce impacts on residents’ access to housing facilities, to the adoption of technologies that monitor and manage tourism flows.
Following a recent report issued by the UNWTO (2018), the solution to the phenomenon of overtourism may be found in refocusing on appropriate destination management and addressing related issues outside the tourism sector. The report suggests another way of defining overtourism, namely ‘an unacceptable decrease of the quality of life of citizens and quality of visitors’ experi- ences in a negative way’. The negative effects of tourism on society and culture must be con- sidered, specifically the loss of authenticity, commodification of culture, standardization of tourism supply, etc. It is important, therefore, to follow the suggestions of Butler (2017) in order to reduce such pressures through the creation of new and alternative destinations, or to improve the resilience of existing destinations.
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Table 1. Origins of the term ‘overtourism’ and implications of the phenomenon of overtourism.
Author Year Overtourism
Origin of Overtourism Gonzalez et al. 2018 Term in the title, yet does not mention it in the main text at all
The paper recalls several publications around the issue of residents’ perceptions of tourism development: Ap, J. (1992); Belisle, F.J. and Hoy, D.R. (1980);
Koens et al. 2018 The term largely arose from media discourse without much theoretical grounding. Overtourism can be considered to be mainly a social issue.
UNWTO 2018 The impact of tourism on a destinationthat excessively influences the perceived quality of life of citizens and/or quality of the visitors’ experiences in a negative way.
Rapid urbanization; tourism sector growth led by economic development; falling transport costs; ease of travel and a growing middle class in advanced and emerging economies; making cities increasingly popular destinations for business travellers and leisure tourists
Uncontrolled development and the absence of good management. Benner 2019 The recent debates on overtourism and the cultural, social, and environmental sustainability
deficits of permanently growing mass tourism are not new. What is new is the level of awareness concerning the potentially damaging effects of ongoing growth of mass tourism.
General implications Veiga et al. 2018 Tourist saturation diminishing residents’ quality of life and creating negative experiences for
tourists. In some cases, such as Barcelona and Venice, extremely aggressive positions have been taken against tourism introducing the so-called ‘anti-tourism’ or ‘tourism phobia’ phenomena
Butler 2018 The success of global tourism growth has resulted in some destinations being unable to handle increased numbers at a satisfactory level and in an appropriate manner that does not arouse opposition from permanent residents.
An important distinction is noted by Butler between the concepts of overtourism and over- crowding.
Butler argues that overtourism is not the same as over-crowding or destinations being busy; overtourism represents a situation where visitor numbers overload the services and facilities available and also become a serious inconvenience for locations’ permanent residents.
Croce 2018 Tourism may become an important issue to help implement a new economic approach in which values are attributed to intangibles such as the conservation, preservation and protection of culture or the environment, which are vitally important considerations relevant to economic development.
Natural and cultural resources are the lifeblood of tourism Oklevik et al. 2019 In recent years, continued rapid growth of tourism in popular destinations, and the associated
problems of crowding, localized inflation and/or pressure on residential housing supplies, have created substantial public debate regarding the desirability of a continued growth model.
Crowding or overtourism has become an important issue for residents as well as tourists in several destinations: Papathanassis 2017 He follows the generic product life-cycle concept (PLC) adapted by Butler (1980) for tourism
destinations (Tourist Area Life Cycle) and observes the evolution and implications of tourism in several locations.
Reactions of residents and the corresponding press attention have led to the proposal of a variety of measures by tourism stakeholders and decision-makers, aimed at controlling development and restricting incoming tourism
Excessive tourism mainly concerns the tourists’ lack of awareness of the effect of tourism in some areas, so it is important that policymakers pay attention not only to the management of tourist flows but also to the processes of educating tourists.
Chaperon 2017 City destinations are becoming more central to contemporary tourism, as more than 54 per cent of the world’s population live in urban environments and this is projected to grow to 60 per cent by 2030.
Many cities represent the gateway for tourists to visit a country, and the world’s most important tourism cities are destinations in their own right. In some countries, secondary cities are also beginning to develop their tourism offerings and to promote themselves as tourist destinations.
Perkumiene ˙and Pranskuniene
2019 They observe as a discussion regarding overtourism in the context of the right to travel and residents’ rights is needed, as debates on overtourism, as a challenging phenomenon, are becoming more and more active
They performe an integrative review analysis that shows that overtourism and sustainable tourism are important contexts influencing the changing meaning of the right to travel and the right to live.
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In short, the phenomenon of overtourism is not novel. However, the term is new to the literature and is used to describe the consequences of tourism in some destinations. For these reasons, over- tourism can be considered a new issue for future studies, particularly in relation to new models of tourism development.
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
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Belisle, F. J, & Hoy, D. R. (1980). The perceived impact of tourism by residents a case study in Santa Marta, Colombia. Annals of Tourism Research, 7(1), 83–101. doi:10.1016/S0160-7383(80)80008-9
Table 2. The use of the new term overtourism in contemporary studies and connections with earlier literature.
Authors who used the term Overtourism Literature Connections and roots of the phenomenon
Gonzalez, Coromina, and Galí (2018) Brougham, J.E. and Butler, R.W. (1981) Belisle, F.J. and Hoy, D.R. (1980) Ap, J. (1992) Canestrelli, E. and Costa, P. (1991) Choi, S.C., Mirjafari, A. and Weaver, H.B. (1976) Rothman, R.A. (1978) Emerson, R.M. (1976) Hernandez, S.a., Cohen, J. and Garcia, H.L. (1996) Liu, J., Sheldon, P. and Var, T. (1987) Pizam, A. (1978)
Koens, Postma, and Papp (2018) Forster, J. (1964) Wagar, J.A (1964) Doxey, G. (1975) Pizam, A. (1978) Rosenow, J.E.; Pulsipher, G.L. (1979) Van Der Borg, J (1992)
Benner (2019) Meadows, D.H., Meadows, D.L., Randers, J., Behrens, W.W. III (1972) Veiga et al. (2018) Inskeep, E. (1991)
Mathieson, A. and Wall, G. (1982), Butler (2018) No link Croce (2018) Kaspar, P.D.C. (1965)
Lanquar, R. and Raynouard, Y. (1978) Pine, B.J. and Gilmore, H.J. (1999) Maslow, A.H. (1943) Schumacher, B. (1890)
Oklevik et al. (2019) Ap, J. (1992). Doxey, G. V. (1975) Emerson, R. M. (1976). Lankford, S. V. (1994). Mok, C., Slater, B., & Cheung, V. (1991) Perdue, R. R., Long, P. T., & Kang, Y. S. (1999) Sheldon, P. J., & Var, T. (1984) Stokols, D. (1972). Turner, L., & Ash, J. (1975)
Papathanassis (2017) Ap. J. and J. Crompton (1993) Butler, R.W. (1980) Doxey, G.V. (1975) Faulkner, B. & Tideswell, C. (1997)
Chaperon (2017) Saaty, T. (1980) Perkumiene ˙and Pranskuniene (2019) Canestrelli, E.; Costa, P. (1991)
Page, S. (1995) Borg, J.; Costa, P.; Gotti, G. (1996)
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