Growth pains

Overtourism ‘is the exception, not the rule’, claims German association

Barcelona is often cited as an example of overtourism.
Barcelona is often cited as an example of overtourism.

Overtourism is clearly a problem demanding solutions in some destinations but remains the exception and not the rule around the world, according to the German Tourism Federation (BTW).

The continuing growth of global tourism is increasingly causing problems such as overcrowding and congestion in various destinations around the world. Top destinations such as Venice, Dubrovnik and Barcelona have all faced challenges once again this summer coping with the flood of holidaymakers arriving by plane, car or cruise ship.

But these headline-grabbing problems should not give the impression that ‘overtourism’ is a global phenomenon affecting all destinations, underlined the BTW, an umbrella organisation whose members represent the outbound, inbound and domestic German tourism sectors.

BTW president Michael Frenzel, the former long-serving TUI CEO and ex-WTTC chairman who is also now a WTTC ‘global ambassador’, declared: “Overtourism is a specific problem and not a wildfire, even if this impression is increasingly given.

“In the current public debate and media reporting on the topic of overtourism you get the feeling that every single city and beach on this planet are overcrowded. This is definitely not the case.”

Most destinations around the world, including Germany, are far from being impacted by overtourism and would welcome more visitors, he emphasised. Tourism brings people and nations together, creates jobs for local people, and makes an important contribution to the economy.

Instead, the BTW called for a public debate that will help clearly affected destinations to solve their problems without taking away the public’s general wish to travel. “We need solutions that take the discontent of the population and tourists seriously, solve them and ideally prevent similar problems in other places,” Frenzel said.

Such solutions include better destination management and investments to steer visitor flows, diversification with new routes and excursions, longer holiday seasons and more offers for the off-season, according to the association.

However, Frenzel himself already contributed to the overtourism debate this year when he warned at ITB that tourism risked becoming a victim of its own success by causing problems such as overcrowding and impacting on the environment.