Europe: the population against overtourism

Europe: the population against overtourism

Expert Reports  

Tourist attendance in many European cities has already returned to the indicators of the pre-pandemic 2019.

However, this pleases residents of not all settlements of the Old World popular among travelers. The population often complains that foreigners bring inconveniences into their daily lives and have a negative impact on the environment.

Under the pressure of local residents, the authorities of a number of Belgian, Italian, French, Spanish and other European cities are forced to take measures to protect themselves from the massive influx of tourists, leading to congestion of streets, attractions and infrastructure.

Challenges for the population

"We have reached the Red Line. We don't need more tourists, we have too many of them already. The capacity of the historical center is significantly exceeded," complains one of the residents of the city of Bruges in Belgian Flanders.

While acknowledging the positive effects on the economy and employment, he does not welcome the unbalanced tourism that has turned his hometown into an open-air museum.

Bruges is called the "Venice of the North" for the canals that permeate the town. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the tourist pearl of Flanders with a population of only 119 thousand people receives eight million visitors annually. Most of them come in the summer and usually for a period of no more than one day.

The number of tourists visiting Bruges has returned to the level of 2019, in particular, thanks to cruise liners moored in the nearby port of Zeebrugge.

The authorities of the "Venice of the North" are afraid that it will not repeat the fate of Venice itself, since UNESCO has already threatened to include the Italian city in the list of World Heritage in danger because of the hype demand for its visit.

The Municipality of Venice was forced to introduce additional restrictions for tourists in the historical part of the city. Bars, cafes and restaurants there were obliged to close at two o'clock in the morning, while there should be no music both inside and outside after 23 o'clock. And the sale of alcoholic beverages is ordered to stop until 01.30.

In addition, gastronomic shops, with the exception of ice cream parlors, were obliged to close their doors at 23.00, and food outlets that offer takeaway food at 20.00.

The strictures were adopted in connection with the increase in cases of antisocial behavior as a result of excessive alcohol consumption. Venice has gained particular popularity among Canadians and Australians who come here to celebrate graduations and bachelor parties.

This year, Venice was also supposed to charge tourists a fee for visiting the city on the water in the amount of 3 to 10 euros, but this measure was postponed until 2024.

In addition, in order to protect the ecosystem and historical heritage of Venice, cruise liners are prohibited from leaving the Venetian Lagoon from 2019.

Consequences of excessive tourism

The consequences of excessive tourism are numerous. It is also an increase in real estate prices in tourist areas and an adverse impact on the environment, not to mention the rejection of tourists by the local population.

In order to protect against overturism, the Amsterdam City Council in the Netherlands at the end of July this year decided to ban ocean liners from entering the city port in the coming months.

And the mayor's office of Portofino, an elite tourist city about 30 kilometers from the Italian Genoa with a population of only 400 people, established two "red zones" in May 2022 in order to wean tourists from "lingering" in popular places for photographing.

A fine of 68 to 275 euros is provided for violations of the regulation.

For their part, the authorities of the Italian island of Sardinia have imposed restrictions on the number of visitors on several beaches with a requirement to pay a fee of 1 to 10 euros, depending on the type of transport used to visit it.

And in the Croatian fortress city of Dubrovnik, crowded with fans of the TV series "Game of Thrones" and which has become a sad symbol of mass tourism, there is even a counter at the entrance with a limit of 4 thousand visitors per day.

In the ranking of the most visited European tourist destinations compiled in August 2022 by the online platform for short-term rental housing, Holidu, Dubrovnik took first place after Venice, Bruges and Rhodes Island in terms of the number of tourists. It is estimated that there are 36 tourists for every local resident of Dubrovnik.

The capital of Catalonia, Barcelona, also suffered from an endless flow of tourists, which only intensified after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Barcelona, whose population has repeatedly organized protests against excessive tourism, the construction of new hotels, hostels or rented apartments in the city center is now prohibited.

Resorts are also suffering  

Due to the influx of tourists in the high season, cultural and historical heritage sites and the environment outside the cities of tourist significance are also under threat.

To protect the ecosystem of the bays of Marseille, the authorities of this Mediterranean city of France have introduced a system of booking places on the beaches during the entire summer season.

Sugiton Bay today receives a maximum of 400 visitors a day, whereas earlier in this place it was possible to see an average of 1.200 people, and on peak days – up to 2.500.

Quotas on the number of tourists visiting them have also been introduced by other French tourist zones, the ecosystem of which is under threat. These include the picturesque island of Brea off the coast of Brittany, the National Park of Port Cros, the islands of Porquerolles and Levant, located off the coast of the Riviera between Marseille and Nice.

In order to solve the problem of overturism, the French government announced in June the launch of a plan to regulate tourist flows, in particular, during peak attendance periods.

"France is the leading tourist destination in the world. We will create a national observatory on the main tourist sites in order to create a common information base and indicators that will facilitate the work on the analysis of flows," Minister-Delegate for Trade Olivia Gregoire said in an interview with Le Figaro newspaper.

According to the authorities, 80% of tourist activity in France is concentrated on 20% of the country's territory.

By the end of 2023, a working group of representatives of institutional, research and professional federations was instructed to develop a practical guide for defining the concepts of "excessive tourism", "excessive frequency" and "peaks of attendance" - in order to ensure a unified approach to solving the problems associated with them.