Skift Take

Overtourism is one of the biggest challenges faced by the travel industry. Quantifying it helps diagnose and fight the issue. Our new method of measuring local sentiment toward tourists can build upon and complement existing overtourism metrics.

We’re excited to publish our latest report, which is the result of an experimental project that the Skift Research team has been fine-tuning over the past few months. In essence, we’re analyzing articles published in local media outlets to help indicate the sentiments of residents toward tourism.

Our new data will contribute to the growing body of research available on overtourism. The term overtourism was itself coined by Skift, and the industry was quick to adopt this catchword. This report adds quantitative insights to supplement existing data points in the ongoing overtourism discussion across the industry.

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Overtourism manifests itself differently in every locale, but most destinations recognize the importance of local sentiment in understanding the problem. To evaluate this aspect of overtourism, Skift Research constructed an index that analyzes the text of a large set of over 17,000 local media reports and measures the frequency of stories that indicate a negative press sentiment toward arriving tourists.

Our theory is that struggles with overtourism will show up in the form of negative stories reported in media outlets. By measuring the level of negative tourism stories reported in the local press, we aim to create an index that can indicate overtourism. Higher results on the index indicate that communities are struggling with the negative impact of overtourism.

To test our new methodology, we focused on Iceland as a case study. Iceland was an early example of this destabilizing trend. International visits to Iceland exploded starting around 2012 and have barely slowed since, reshaping the nation’s economy in the process.

We found that our new gauge of negative media sentiment worked well as an indicator of overtourism. The index rises during the peak summer months of maximum tourist arrivals, as one would predict. It correlates well with other data points that are established as being important inputs into the overtourism discussion, such as visitor arrivals, visitor dispersion, and tourism employment. Our tourism media sentiment index also tracks well with traditional opinion polls.

We also began the process of expanding our index to new locations, beginning with Barcelona. The indicator shows steadily growing negative sentiment in Barcelona from 2015 through 2017, which is what we would expect to see based on our understanding of the local situation there.

While there can be no one all-encompassing metric to gauge overtourism, our measurement of local media sentiment adds new information to the conversation that was previously difficult to quantify. It also gives us the ability to tie changes in overtourism back to underlying variations in the economy and visitor flows. Our analysis demonstrates the need for multipronged responses to high levels of tourism if destinations hope to be effective in combating negative local sentiment.

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What you’ll learn from this report:

  • Why we believe it’s important to quantify local sentiment in tourism destination
  • Our proprietary measure of negative media sentiment toward tourists
  • Case study applying our overtourism gauge to Iceland and comparing it with existing data points
  • Negative media sentiment in Barcelona from 2015–2018
  • Description of methodology and process

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Tags: iceland, overtourism, sentiment, skift research, travel media

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