Dealing with Over Tourism head on

Cornwall is currently gearing up for the main holiday season.  The Spring Bank Holiday and half term usually bring the first real influx of tourists.  Easter and the Whitsun Bank Holiday can be busy, but it’s not usually sustained, whereas from early June most attractions and accommodation providers can guarantee a fairly consistent level of business.

This influx is however a mixed blessing.  Whilst tourism brings in huge revenues, provides significant employment and supports large numbers of small businesses, it also puts huge pressure on the infrastructure – roads, provision of water and waste disposal and leaves the County vulnerable to changes in fashion for holiday destination.

This concept is called over tourism and is becoming more of a problem worldwide.  Beauty spots are becoming overrun and therefore losing their appeal.  Unsympathetic development means historic locations find themselves rubbing shoulders with McDonalds or Burger King, and fragile environments are turning into rubbish tips.

No trips to The Beach allowed

Some holiday destinations are closing their doors or restricting numbers to protect their environment and infrastructure.  Maya Beach in Thailand, the location for the Danny Boyle film The Beach, regularly welcomes up to 5,000 visitors per day which is having a disastrous impact on the coral reef and ecosystems.  The beach has been closed for three months to provide the environment with some respite.  The timing of this closure, during the low season, will not impact too greatly, but there are calls for restrictions on tourists or even complete closure which will threaten the livelihoods of many related businesses such as boat trip providers.

This type of control is now becoming more prevalent around the world as destinations realise the damage over tourism can do.  Venice has responded to the impact of over-tourism by segregating tourists and locals in peak times, they are also considering limiting the numbers of cruise ships visiting, fines of €500 for noisy, wheeled suitcases, littering and loitering on bridges.

Over tourism in the UK

Over tourism is also a problem for some communities in the UK.  Towns such as St Ives, Padstow and St Mawes are no-go areas for residents during the summer months.  The car parks are overflowing, the streets packed and there isn’t any space on the beach.

Luckily, locals generally know the less visited places – the beaches with more difficult access and no ice cream hut, the village pubs off the tourist track and the secret picnic spots, but they still have to negotiate roads that turn into car parks.  Journeys that take 20 minutes in January, can take over an hour in July.

This is an urgent problem and needs addressing now.  Tourism destinations have to manage their environment, agree how many people can have access at any one time and be prepared to close their doors when they reach capacity.  If they fail to address the problems now, then their attractiveness will wane, and tourists will find new locations.

It may mean some temporary issues for businesses reliant on visitors to these locations, but surely a little bit of pain now to ensure their sustainability as tourist destinations in the long term is a price worth paying.

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