Study overtourism

28 January 2019

In its study entitled ‘Overtourism: impact and possible policy responses’, an international consortium led by Breda University of Applied Sciences has mapped out the consequences of overtourism for European destinations.

Study vertourism

The research project - commissioned by the TRAN Committee of the European Parliament - zeroed in on 41 of the 105 overtourism destinations. It has brought to light that overtourism entails many risks, such as traffic issues, nuisance and harmful environmental effects, affecting not only cities, but coastal regions, islands and rural areas too. The most vulnerable destinations in terms of consequences of overtourism in the Netherlands are Amsterdam, Scheveningen, Giethoorn, Maastricht, Kinderdijk and Zaanse Schans. In addition to Breda University of Applied Sciences, the consortium consists of scholars from Brighton University, Lund University (Sweden), University of Lleida (Barcelona) and Stenden University of Applied Sciences in Leeuwarden. 

Massive visitor numbers are taking their toll

An important catalyst to overtourism is the growing supply of cheap transport combined with hypes created on social media and via digital platforms. This leads to a disproportionately large influx of visitors to a limited number of destinations utterly incapable of coping with these massive numbers. The extensive literature study has also shown that overtourism is not limited to cities, but that coastal regions, islands and rural areas are particularly vulnerable. Apart from the literature study, statistical data analyses – the first in their category – were also carried out on no fewer than 290 regions in the EU. This has revealed that overtourism is not only linked to the presence of many tourists in an area, but also to a strong presence of Airbnb and the importance that tourism represents to the local economy. Moreover, overtourism destinations are usually located close to airports or near ports where cruise ships moor, and they are often on Unesco’s World Heritage List. 

Risk areas in Europe  

The study has identified fifteen European regions as having a ‘high risk of overtourism’. These include areas such as the Canary Islands in Spain, Burgundy in France, Trento in Italy, the Algarve in Portugal, the Ionian Islands in Greece, and East Wales in the United Kingdom. Destinations susceptible to the consequences of overtourism in the Netherlands are Amsterdam, Scheveningen, Giethoorn, Maastricht, Kinderdijk and Zaanse Schans. Giethoorn is part of one of the 41 detailed case studies in the research project.  

‘Task Force on Overtourism’

The study’s main recommendation to the TRAN Committee of the European Parliament is to launch a debate on the growth of tourism in specific destinations. The monitoring of online platforms that are part of the sharing economy, such as Airbnb, should also be intensified and residents should be involved in tourism policy. The researchers recommend setting up a Task Force on Overtourism within the EU. This task force should be charged with reporting to the European Commission and making recommendations based on dialogue between all relevant parties. The task force could also develop a monitoring system to identify causes and consequences of overtourism.