‘Overtourism’: A new, global complaint
A typical day in Venice
Throughout Europe this summer, the most popular vacation destinations “have a message for tourists,” said Phil Boucher in Fortune.com: “Sorry, we’re full.” Perennial tourist magnets such as Venice, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Prague, and Dubrovnik have all been inundated with millions of selfie stick–toting tourists, jamming attractions, clogging streets, and driving the locals mad. Take Barcelona, which had 1.7 million tourists in 1990; in 2018, 32 million poured into the city (population: 1.6 million), and now its residents are actually staging protests against rampant tourism and what it’s doing to the local beaches, landscape, and rental prices.
Or consider the plight of Venice, said Kara Fox in CNN.com. In 2017, 36 million tourists flooded the iconic, canal-filled city; from April to October, some 32,000 cruise ship passengers disembark there daily, joining 465,000 day-trippers. Residents must suffer the indignity of Americans asking, “What time does the city close?” as if it were Disney World. Officials have brought in turnstiles to restrict the movements of visitors, and now plan to charge day-trippers an $11 entrance fee. Overtourism “is suddenly everywhere,” said Annie Lowrey in TheAtlantic.com. In May, beleaguered workers at the Louvre staged a one-day walkout to protest massive crowds they say have “made the place dangerous and unmanageable.” On the Spanish island of Mallorca, fed-up residents greet tourists at the airport with picket signs reading, “One Flight Every Minute Is Not Sustainable!”
“Overtourism” isn’t just a complaint—it can be quantified with data, said Leonid Bershidsky in Bloomberg.com. In 2018, global tourist arrivals reached 1.4 billion, nearly tripling from 1995. The European Parliament now classifies 105 places as suffering from overtourism. There are plenty of reasons: the cruise industry, Airbnb, a rising global middle class, and, of course, the main cause, “the incredible ease and low cost of air travel.” Allow me to suggest a solution, said Jason Horowitz in The New York Times. While the famous destinations like Venice and Amsterdam now look like mosh pits in the summer, smaller, overlooked neighbors like Treviso, Italy, provide a proverbial “oasis next door.” Treviso has its own canals, exceptional tiramisu worthy of the city in which the dessert was born, and many other charms. And it’s only a half-hour’s train ride from Venice. Such places “exist all over Europe,” and surely the world. “You just need to look.” ■