Ko Koens on overtourism in new publication

17 December 2018


What is overtourism, actually? What causes it? And which factors are involved? Ko Koens of Breda University of Applied Sciences and CELTH answers these questions in the recently published article Is Overtourism Overused? Understanding the Impact of Tourism in a City Context. Koens pleads for a nuanced debate. “I want policymakers, entrepreneurs and discussion partners to realise that overtourism is a ‘wicked problem’ and that we all share in the search for solutions.”

The term ‘overtourism’ has been in the news regularly in the last two years. Ko Koens has conducted research into the subject for four years now. In his most recent article, he and co-authors Albert Postma (NHL Stenden Hogeschool) and Bernadett Papp (CELTH) placed overtourism in a historical context and results of qualitative interviews with stakeholders from 13 European cities are shown.

Broad context

Currently, overtourism is a much talked-of subject, not just in the media, but also in the academic world. What makes Koens and his colleagues’ paper interesting? “Other papers often exclusively focus on tourism. We deal with the broad diversity around overtourism. We try to outline a proper framework within which stakeholders can discuss the issue.” It is for this reason that the article is easy to read and since it is open access, it is freely available to everyone.

What causes hustle and bustle?

What, for example, is important to know? “In case of overtourism you think of hustle and bustle. However, it is not just tourism that causes overcrowding in a city, social developments also have an impact. For instance, the emergence of online purchasing and shopping. The result is an increasing number of suppliers driving through town and parking in places where that is not always convenient.”

Sudden growth

“Often, a problem only becomes one when there is a sudden explosion of growth”, Koens continues. “In that case, a city or its surrounding area is not fit for purpose and rivalry arises between residents and tourists. In Paris or London there seems to be less overtourism, because fewer people have lived near attractions for many years. Another development is tourists wanting to experience more what it is like to live somewhere, rather than visiting all kinds of places of interest. As a result of this they are entering residential areas in larger numbers. Sometimes tourists are simply unfamiliar with social and cultural norms. Take cycling tourists, for example, who do not know local traffic regulations. That causes a nuisance.”

And now on our way towards solutions

Koens hopes that his paper will bring a little more differentiation to the discussion about overtourism. What are the researcher's next ambitions? “Although it is necessary to get a proper picture of overtourism, it is also interesting to look at problem-solving approaches. That is what we have been doing from the start in the European research project SCITHOS (Smart City Hospitality). By means of, among other things, serious gaming, we invite various stakeholders to jointly reflect on ways to have tourism contribute to a sustainable urban development and quality of life of the local population.”

Download the article (pdf)

More publications of Ko Koens (via Pure)