Tourism executives have to strike a careful balance: They want to attract more visitors, but they also must be sensitive to the needs of the local environment and residents.
During a superpanel at Skift Global Forum in New York City in September, tourism leaders from Colombia, Jordan, and Los Angeles spoke about their unique challenges and approaches to keeping overtourism at bay.
The executives said none of their destinations were seeing the kind of crowds that have overwhelmed Barcelona, Reykjavik, or Dubrovnik yet. But they have also been paying attention to the struggles that those and other cities have been facing, and lessons that should be learned.
“We have the responsibility of not making the mistakes that other destinations have made, learning from them, and not just repeating history,” said Julián Guerrero Orozco, vice president of tourism at ProColombia.
He said Colombia is working to attract a reasonable number of higher-spending visitors, instead of a large number of tourists, in order to reduce the environmental impact of tourism.
In Los Angeles, residents are generally pro-tourism. It’s a problem, however, when too many people crowd specific areas — such as places with photo-worthy views of the famous Hollywood sign — and make life difficult for the people who live there.
“We have our pockets of issues like other major destinations around the world that we’re very concerned about,” said Ernest Wooden Jr., president and CEO of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board.
Solutions include pointing out alternate locations for photos, providing public transportation, and working with police and fire officials to reduce crowding.
“These are important issues that, unless we’re willing to sacrifice our long-term health in tourism, we’ve got to deal with,” Wooden said.
Lina Annab, Jordanian minister of tourism and antiquities, said Jordan has site management plans for popular locations. While the destination is seeing growth in visitor numbers, she said iconic sites are still relatively uncrowded.
Annab said it’s important to think about overtourism from a policy point of view.
“It did not happen overnight, overtourism in those destinations, and I think there are policy lessons to be learned,” she said. “Sometimes, we tend to focus on marketing only and we forget the other sustainable and environmental issues that need to be taken into consideration.”
Watch the entire interview above, and find more coverage of Skift Global Forum here.
At this year’s Skift Global Forum in New York City, travel leaders from around the world gathered for two days of inspiration, information, and conversation for panels such as this, as well as solo TED-like talks on the future of travel.
Visit our Skift Global Forum site for more details about 2018 events.