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What is Overtourism: How does it impacts Environment?

What is Overtourism: How does it impacts Environment?

One of the fastest-growing sectors in the world is the tourism sector. Tourism has many economic, social, cultural and environmental dimensions. But Overtourism occurs when the number of tourists or the management of the tourism industry at a destination or attraction becomes unsustainable. Since its inception, tourism has been considered a benign activity.

International tourism has experienced exponential growth in recent years. If the sector has a positive impact on the economic development of the territories, it also has negative effects. Pollution, inflation, degradation of sites.

What is overtourism?

Overtourism is a neologism that indicates the mass of tourists in a tourist destination. The term was first inserted into the Oxford Dictionary in 2018 and nominated for word of the year. Overtourism, literally “too much tourism”, is a complex phenomenon that we must analyze from various points of view. In essence, we could summarize the concept in one question.

What are the consequences of Overtourism?

Environmental degradation, increase in living costs or cultural impoverishment are the most prominent effects of overtourism. In addition, because of this popularity, the phenomenon of mass tourism that occurs prevents you from enjoying the destination. 

Source: Needpix.com

In addition, there must be added the bad practices of companies together with large tour operators, who, far from solving the problem, aggravate it, hastily destroying everything that interferes with their “tourist experiences” such as houses, villages, forests or causing evictions at the national level.

Overtourism and Climate Change

The global outlook for the impacts of overtourism and climate change is overwhelmingly bleak despite widespread calls for solutions to both. The immensity of the problem is so huge that it can be daunting to even conceptualize a plan for the future.

Travel and transportation are suspected to account for about 8 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, with consumer travel accounting for about half of those emissions. Air travel has doubled in frequency in the last 15 years and is expected to double again by 2030, according to the International Air Transport Association.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to travel, countless environmental impacts go unnoticed around the world. It is easier to point to the carbon emissions produced by airlines or cruise ships than to quantify the effect that a 10 per cent annual increase in tourism has on Reykjavik’s stressed waste management system, for example, or on the supply of problematic water of Barcelona.

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This reflects the diversity of different political models and the complex web of bureaucracy developed to oversee destinations around the world.

Adverse consequences for the environment

Beyond the negative repercussions on the local population, overtourism inevitably exerts pressure on the environment.

  • Overconsumption of natural resources: Tourist activity increases the need for energy, food and water (for example to fill hotel swimming pools, in countries where the resource is already limited, such as Africa or Asia).
  • Water and soil pollution that harms biodiversity: In 2018, the Philippines closed the island of Boracay to tourists for six months, because it was polluted by hotels that discharged their sewage directly into the sea. The government had to improve its sanitary facilities which were not adapted to the number of tourists.
  • Destruction of ecosystems (coastal concreting, deforestation): In Thailand, the country’s most famous beach, Maya Bay, has been closed by Thai authorities until 2021 to allow coral reefs to reform and prevent the bay from eroding. The fragile ecosystem of the place has been damaged for years by motorboats that have parked in the bay to show the beach to tourists.
  • The disappearance of biodiversity: Preserved places, still unknown a few years ago, has been popularized by the Internet and social networks. This is the case of Iceland, which went from 500,000 tourists in 2010 to more than 2 million in 2017. Sites such as the Reykjadalur valley had to be temporarily closed to the public in 2019 because the vegetation had suffered from the continual passage of visitors.

Cultural tourism, a new trend

One of the trends of the moment is tourism influenced by mass culture. Under this type of tourism, people choose the destination based on social media, influencers, TV shows, and movies.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Tourism influenced by the products of the cinema and television series, also known as film tourism, has in some cases caused real disasters.

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