DRIVING AT THE HEART OF SUSTAINABLE TOURISM

Asian Property Review talks to Samantha Bray, Managing Director of Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) on how to deal with overtourism, the result of international tourism’s increasing popularity.

 

1. In recent months, cities and beaches like Venice, Barcelona, Boracay and Maya Bay (Thailand) are limiting or completely banning tourists. What are the pros and cons and are there other alternatives to these drastic measures?

Overtourism is an issue we’re looking at very closely at CREST, and we will be hosting a forum to discuss solutions on World Tourism Day, September 27, this year. International tourism is a wonderful and necessary occurrence for our global community. It puts much-needed money into economies and is a form of soft diplomacy – a tool for peace and understanding – when planned for and managed appropriately.

Unfortunately, the number of visitors coming to our world’s wonderful places are, in some cases, leading the places to be “loved to death.” We are all still grappling with how to manage this. In some situations, the environments of these places are in such danger, or the local communities have become so fed up, that banning or limiting visitors, at least for a short amount of time until a plan can be put into place, is the only option.

However, there are certainly other options: Staggering entry times for cruise or bus tourists; implementing ticketing or reservation systems; and levying new tourism taxes are options.

There are also more opportunities to promote lesser-known attractions to spread out the visitors. Amsterdam has been very innovative, creating an app called “Discover the City,” which sends the user a notification when certain sites are busier than normal and suggests alternatives.

Venice has recently proposed charging day-trippers to come into the city center, as stay-over visitors leave behind much more in the local economy. Dubrovnik, Croatia, has implemented a strategy to stagger cruise arrivals so as not to overwhelm the city, and has been backed in this effort by Cruise Lines International Association. Machu Picchu now only has two timed entries a day.

We will be exploring solutions to many different types of tourist destinations at our Forum, and shortly thereafter coming out with a book of compiled solutions that will be useful for other destinations grappling with how to enjoy the economic stimulus and cultural exchange of tourism but at the same time needing to ensure their precious sites are available for generations to come.

2. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being extremely successful), how has sustainable tourism fared so far compared to mass or mainstream tourism?

I would say we’re at about a 6, which is headed in the right direction! At CREST,
we view sustainable tourism as a three- pronged approach, involving socio-cultural, environmental, and economic planning. All three must be considered for a destination to truly be sustainable. The “sustainable tourism” movement really started in the 70s and 80s with small-scale ecotourism, and was given a worldwide platform when the United Nations designated 2002 as the International Year of Ecotourism. We just hit another landmark last year when 2017 was designated by the United Nations as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

We are seeing an increasing number of travellers who are interested in authentic, localized experiences. They are turned off by run-of-the-mill attractions you could find anywhere. We are also seeing a growing number of destinations realizing that the very resources and attractions that draw tourists to visit them are in danger, so they are working to protect their environments, wildlife, and unique cultural attractions. These environments and cultures are what differentiates one destination from another.

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