This is the question we repeatedly ask ourselves as we wait in line at tourist attractions, watch entire economies shift from shipping to tourism, or hear our neighbor’s Airbnb blasting music at 4 am on a Tuesday.
Skift has defined overtourism as the potential hazard posed to popular destinations where the dynamic forces powering tourism start to inflict unavoidable negative consequences. These cities and countries often lack the adequate framework to balance the economic, environmental, and sociocultural effects of tourism. And we’ve explored its impact in destinations from Iceland to Amsterdam and historical sites from the Great Wall of China to Machu Picchu.
The risk of overtourism brings up some interesting questions such as:
Who does a city belong to?
What is the right balance between economic benefit and quality of life?
What role does the government have in regulating private travel businesses?
Does everyone deserve access to travel via cheap flights and beds?
In Skift’s inaugural Skift Lens documentary, we explore the impact of overtourism in one of the world’s most popular destinations: Barcelona.
Spain is one of Europe’s fastest growing tourism destinations with a record 75.3 million international visitors arriving in 2016. Barcelona is driving much of that growth with 80 percent of its estimated 30 million visitors coming from abroad.
As tourism continues to grow, Barcelona is also becoming a ripe example of how European destinations must now grapple with the effect of overtourism.
The industry, largely responsible for helping the economy stay afloat throughout the recession, is now to blame for changing the landscape of the city, whether it be too many tourists in Las Ramblas, environmental damage from a growing airport and cruise port, or Airbnb guests disrupting the everyday lives of families.
What follows is an investigation into the social, economic and geographic challenges and opportunities presented by unprecedented tourism growth which include an expanding but regulated hotel industry, thousands of illegal Airbnb listings, the sustainability of the city’s cultural institutions, erosion of public life, conflicting demands and technological changes for tour operators, and rampant pickpocketing.
We spoke to more than a dozen stakeholders in the tourism industry from government officials to the founders of boutique hotels and lifelong residents to weekend trippers to learn what their largest concerns are and how those are — or are not — getting addressed.
More than 16 hours of footage were cut down to this quick 10-minute documentary that gives you insights into the issue, what’s been done, and where Barcelona is headed in the future.