The overtourism debate needs to focus on the infrastructure of smaller communities more than tourist numbers in iconic destinations, according to G Adventures’ founder.
There are “two sides” to the overtourism argument, according to Bruce Poon Tip, who said he was “not a big believer” in the scare stories of overcrowding at destinations such as Machu Picchu, the Pyramids in Egypt and Angkor Wat.
Speaking at G Adventures’ Change Makers Summit in Peru, he said: “It’s almost like talking about regulating traffic in Disneyland, because there are so many people that want to see the Pyramids or Machu Picchu. Those attractions can handle huge capacity and, sometimes, turn out to be more like amusement parks than attractions.”
He warned that the rise in tourists seeking unique experiences had led to “tour companies taking people to remote areas that don’t have the infrastructure for tourism”.
G Adventures had learnt from its own mistakes when expanding rapidly and bringing “too much wealth” into small communities, Poon Tip added.
Justin Francis, chief executive of environmental campaigning operator Responsible Travel, agreed that small, growing destinations needed support, but said “staggering growth” would affect big and small destinations.
“One hundred people in a small community has the same effect as a million people in a city,” he said.
“If you ask the residents of Dubrovnik, Venice or Barcelona if they have an overtourism problem, they will say yes. Larger places can manage larger numbers, but they still have a limit.”
Francis accepted that “theme parks and all-inclusive resorts do a very good job at handling large numbers of tourists without having a large impact on local residents” but said: “I don’t want Angkor Wat or Machu Picchu to become like theme parks.”
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