MoreDebate: How big an issue is over-tourism?

Travel companies should help disperse visitors from the world’s ‘iconic sites’ to combat over-tourism, say industry leaders.

And over-crowded cities such as Barcelona should consider imposing taxes on visitors, according to a senior cruise industry figure.

Intrepid Travel co-founder and executive chairman Darrell Wade told fellow industry executives: “Over-tourism is the antithesis of responsible tourism. Tour operators have a responsibility.”

Addressing a group of senior industry figures gathered for the World Travel & Tourism Council Summit in Buenos Aires earlier this year, Wade said: “Tourism is supposed to be a mutual benefit – good for the host community and good for the traveller.

“We need to keep these things in balance and we’ve more chance of doing that by spreading tourism than just going to the same iconic sites.”

Carnival UK chief executive David Dingle agreed, saying: “We do have to see more dispersion. It’s more likely [to be accomplished] by finding different places to take people than by saying, ‘Don’t go to St. Mark’s Square.’”

He suggested imposing taxes at over-crowded sites, saying: “If tourists paid a tax for the benefit of visiting Barcelona, there could be enormous wealth generation for the city which could be redirected into public transport or services.”

However, Dingle said: “If you closed the cruise industry tomorrow it would make zero difference to over-tourism because we are such a small part of the total industry.

“The reason cruise is often referred to is that it’s an easy target. You know when 2,000 or 3,000 people turn up in a port.”

Royal Caribbean Cruises vice-chairman Adam Goldstein agreed. He said: “The cruise industry goes to about 1,000 places. The majority want more tourists, not less.”

However, Wade referred to “ice cream tourists” saying: “There is not a lot left behind from a cruise passenger. They get all their meals on the ship and get off to buy ice cream and that is the end of the economic impact in the community.”

Matthew Upchurch, chief executive of luxury travel network Virtuoso, pointed out raising prices would also restrict numbers.

He said: “You could look at this as a populist issue or like German automakers producing BMWs and decide special access has a price tag. You can extract more value at a lower impact.”

MoreDebate: How big an issue is over-tourism?