Forget the flashy headlines; destinations need time to respond effectively to overtourism with the cultural fabric of popular locations at stake. The intelligent move is to thoughtfully adjust policies to limit the negative impact of tourism.
Tourism professionals and avid travelers probably saw the headlines a few weeks ago. “Netherlands revolts against over-tourism as sites trampled by influx,” read the initial story from the Telegraph, asserting that locals and authorities alike were fed up with overtourism.
The story went on to say that the Netherlands, and Amsterdam in particular, were “buckling” from the impact of tourism growth and angry locals were ready to start banning tourists from their cities altogether. A decline in travel promotion would be the first step toward fighting back.
The rest of the travel media quickly posted follow-up stories based off of the report, claiming that the Netherlands would stop promoting tourism.
The only problem? Nobody bothered to ask officials in the Netherlands whether any of it were true, because it wasn’t.
The Netherlands, in fact, released a nuanced 10-year-plan dubbed Perspective 2030 last October to explore the various issues arising from increased tourism over the next decade. No new policy initiatives regarding tourism promotion have been enacted, though, at the national or local level.
“We had a general meeting [in October] about what we can do with growing tourism in the Netherlands and how can we manage them,” said Elsje van Vuuren, a communications representative at NBTC Holland Marketing, the country’s destination marketing group. An April 25 meeting took place recently to further discuss tourism issues as well.
What didn’t happen was any sort of policy change; various stakeholders are still sorting out what exactly the next steps should be to move toward more sustainable and equitable tourism growth.
Members of the Netherlands’ government across departments involved in economic development, tourism, sustainability, and transportation took part in these discussions.
“We are doing promotion, yes, for well-known cities and regions,” said van Vuuren. “We are also focusing on product development, destination development, and big data… [that we are stopping promotion as indicated in the headlines] isn’t right.”
Provinces seeing huge jumps in tourism that are disrupting the lives of locals, obviously, can opt to reduce marketing or target only specific groups of travelers like those from top-source markets or repeat visitors.
That NBTC Holland Marketing is embracing destination management in addition to destination marketing is well in line with industry trends, as the need for management becomes a crucial component for popular destinations.
Holland’s Future Vision
The Perspective 2030 report is a thoughtful document, as far as tourism plans go. It calls for balancing the positive and negatives of tourism, along with increasing the importance of sustainability and mobility around the country.
It represents a call for politicians and officials across the Netherlands to begin to collaborate on building a tourism industry that is set up to grapple with the negative effects of travel over the next decade. Tourism in the Netherlands is expected to increase by 50 percent over the next decade to about 42 million annual visitors.
The document itself even outlines the continued importance of destination marketing to the future of the Netherlands.
“To adequately respond to current and future opportunities and challenges in the visitor economy, it is necessary to broaden the role of [destination marketing organizations] from destination marketing to destination management,” reads one section. “[Destination marketing organizations] can make connections and ensure coordination on both a local and regional level, and they can be sparring partners on a national level.”
So what is the Netherlands doing right now to deal with overtourism?
Officials involved in the national level of tourism are engaging with the leadership of various Dutch provinces to figure out next steps to either promote tourism or better manage places that are popular, according to van Vuuren.
For now, stakeholders can rally together and work to develop new policies. It’s anyone’s guess whether these will be effective. Abandoning tourism promotion, though, isn’t in the cards for the Netherlands any time soon.
You can read the full document below.
Skift Forum Europe: New Methods to Combat Overtourism
Proposing Solutions to Overtourism in Popular Destinations: A Skift Framework
What Local News Tells Us About Overtourism: New Skift Research
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Photo credit: Tourists in Amsterdam. Contrary to recent media reports, the Netherlands has not enacted any new policy initiatives regarding tourism promotion. _dchris / Flickr