Overtourism Is Everyone's Challenge

Travel advisors need to be aware of the options available to clients concerned about sustainable travel By: Kenneth Shapiro
Shapiro // © 2018 TravelAge West
Shapiro // © 2018 TravelAge West

In this issue’s cover story, “Roads Less Taken” (page 12), we look at the topic of overtourism, which could be a major factor in the future of travel. In the story, we share our picks for destinations that, despite delivering great experiences, are often overlooked and therefore less impacted by crowds. Of course, there are always going to be clients who are determined to visit a particular iconic sight — and that’s totally understandable — but for travelers who are looking for a similar experience that’s off the beaten path and perhaps more hassle-free, we have a list you can count on.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), global international tourist arrivals grew by 7 percent in 2017 to reach more than 1.3 billion. And this momentum is expected to continue in 2018 at a rate of 4 to 5 percent. That means approximately 60 million additional people will travel this year. Of course, there are no additional Machu Picchus being built or Great Barrier Reefs forming, and there will still be only one Venice, Italy. With the number of travelers increasing every year, it’s easy to see how beloved travel destinations could become overwhelmed — or even destroyed — if authorities don’t take precautions.

Some advisors might think that this situation has nothing to do with them, but all of us in the travel industry need to be aware of the risks of overtourism because it will take a unified effort to address the problem. While most attractions are not in immediate danger, it’s important to get a head start on improving our tourism strategies now.

Before discussing the topic of overtourism with a client, an agent needs to know exactly what the customer is looking to get out of a trip. It’s important for the advisor to truly know the client and understand his or her motivation for traveling. Nobody wants to discourage people from experiencing the world; the goal is for all of us to travel in as thoughtful and sustainable a manner as possible.

While I’m sure many of us wish we didn’t have to worry about overtourism, there’s no going back to “simpler” times, and there’s no benefit to hiding one’s head in the sand. As leaders of our industry, we owe it to future travelers to do our part to preserve the wonders of our world before it’s too late.

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