How to avoid overtourism in the future?

This text is part of the special Plaisirs booklet

On the initiative of Voyage à Nantes, a flagship event in Loire-Atlantique, a conference on tourism of the future brought together experts from different backgrounds and disciplines on September 7 and 8. Several themes were discussed in front of some 700 students, tourism professionals and simply curious, all masked and provided with the compulsory health pass. First text in a series of three by our journalist who went to France to take part in the event.

“Think about the street where you live and imagine that tourists from 100 coaches are walking there. There are so many people that you can’t even go to your restaurants and bars anymore. There is garbage everywhere… But it is an economic windfall. Would you allow such a situation to happen where you live? “

Tourism expert based in Sweden, Doug Lansky has a sense of the word. After launching the question to the audience, he adds, “I take it that you love tourism, but you hate tourists. “

For more than an hour and a half, Mr. Lansky shared the stage with Signe Jungersted, co-founder of the NAO group, Xavier Marcé, tourism and creative industries assistant at Barcelona City Hall, and the colloquium host, the sociologist Jean Viard. The questions that arose at the end of the presentations left no doubt about the interest of the subject.

“We must define more specifically what overtourism is”, believes the Danish Signe Jungersted, who was notably director of development for Wonderful Copenhagen – and lived for a year in Rouyn-Noranda to learn French when she was teenage girl.

In 2017, the Copenhagen tourist promotion office declared the end of tourism as we had known it until then, a turn “which was partly due to the changes brought about by social networks” according to Jungersted. The era of classic marketing is over: henceforth, the promotional strategy also had to go through the citizen.

If tourism doesn’t work for local people, then tourism doesn’t work

Even if social networks have largely contributed to the phenomenon of overcrowding certain sites, they have also accelerated perceptions and led to a certain emancipation, believes the strategist. “Tourists are not a united block: they are people. It’s you and me, and we each have interests of our own, which we bring with us when we travel. “

The citizen first

The importance of a better harmony between tourists and citizens was mentioned by each of the participants of the round table. After portraying the four types of visitors to Barcelona – business, cruise, leisure and day visitors – Xavier Marcé stressed the importance of finding solutions for each of them. The challenge is particularly great in this city where the consequences of mass tourism are clearly visible. A detail not to be overlooked: the port of Barcelona is located in the heart of the Catalan capital, which makes access to its center easy for cruise ship passengers.

“When I work with tourists who only come for one day, my answer is mobility,” explains Marcé. To those who come repeatedly, namely the delegates, we must offer a cultural diversification, that is to say cultural poles, but also sporting and scientific ones, powerful enough to survive this repetition of visits to the local heritage that are Gaudi and so many others. This aspect is linked to the search for complicity with citizens. “

According to Mr. Marcé, even if the various actors of the tourism industry are involved in the search for other possibilities, it is necessary to include the people of Barcelona in the reflection. “What interests the tourist must also be something that interests the inhabitants of the city. “

Signs Jungersted abounds in the same direction. She insists on the importance of a representation of tourism that citizens will recognize. “More and more taxes on tourism are being created,” she observes, for example, in Amsterdam and Barcelona. In particular, new taxes have been added for cruise passengers. The money is then invested in local groups for local infrastructure. […] More dialogues and conversations with local people about tourism are needed. “

Like cities like Amsterdam which, after declaring that they no longer want to do tourism marketing, have changed their minds to reclaim their own story. According to her, destinations must determine what they want to highlight and try to rebalance the flows. A few years ago, the capital of the Netherlands, for example, suggested that travelers stay in Rotterdam, which is less popular. “The change in perception is that we see tourism less as an end in itself, but more as a means,” she says. It’s a change of approach. You have to stop thinking about what a city can do for tourism and think about what tourism can do for a destination. “

“If tourism doesn’t work for the locals, then tourism doesn’t work,” Doug Lansky concludes. In other words, a city can have tourists, but tourists cannot have the city. “

The thorny issue of tourist flows

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