The World Tourism Organization defines overtourism as the impact that tourism has on a destination that negatively affects this destination’s local population and visitors’ experiences. The big question is, has the COVID-19 pandemic ended overtourism? Well, in 2020 the problem of overtourism came to an abrupt halt due to pandemic travel restrictions. Its changed the way that many view tourism and made people realize how much overtourism changes the soul of a city. The pandemic has also facilitated discussions on how to make urban sustainability a goal in overtourism destinations including Venice, Barcelona, and Dubrovnik.
All of these tourism destinations take the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, into consideration when making the change to more sustainable cities. To find out more about the goals of the UN and SDGs read, how tourism contributes to the UN’s SDGs.
Venice is the destination most associated with overtourism, and prior to the pandemic this quaint Italian city received about 20 million visitors annually. The economy grew to rely heavily upon tourism, but this crisis has created an opportunity to make Venice one of the top sustainable cities in the world, and that’s the new goal. Relaunching more sustainable tourism in Venice will require diverting tourists to different destinations, discouraging day trips, and enabling the repopulation of the city with new residents.
In 2021, the city added a 2.7-million-pound control room that allows officials to track tourists’ phones. The information that is collected includes where a tourist is from, where they are going and any method of transport they take to get in or around the city. The Italian Government also banned any cruise ships that weighed over 55000 tons from entering the main canal of Venice in 2021.
Plans For The Future
Visitors are encouraged to be slow tourists, because the longer a visitor stays in Venice, the smaller their impact on the territory and environment. This system will include an access fee to manage day visitors because they have the most negative impact on urban sustainability.
Beginning in summer of 2022, day trippers will need to book tickets to Venice in advance and pay a fee of €3 to €10. Tourists will also need to register to use any city services, including public transportation and museums. Free registration will be given to overnighters. There is a limit on the amount of registrations per day, with a maximum of 341, 200 tourists a day for safety and sustainability.
Barcelona has been a tourist hot spot since the early 90’s with nearly 14 million annual visitors. The pandemic has served to reinforce the importance of controlling overtourism and sustainability. Barcelona has made great strides in utilizing the pandemic to embrace a complete overhaul in urban sustainability.
Barcelona is making a comeback that is greener and more car free. They’ve made major changes to the Consell de Cent, a broad street that runs through the center of the city. It lost 2 of its 3 lanes for cars and widened its sidewalks making Barcelona a more walkable city. And even more green changes are underway, as the city plans to convert 21 streets, totalling 20 miles, into pedestrian green spaces. This push also hopes to add Barcelona to the list of sustainable cities by improving the air quality.
Plans For The Future
In the future, when visiting Barcelona be prepared to walk or bicycle in the city. They are discouraging any travel by car in hopes of lowering their carbon footprint and improving the air quality in the city. All vehicles that are driven within the city must pass testing and are given an environmental sticker that’s issued by the DGT (Dirección General de Tráfico). The groupings are made up of five types of vehicles, from the least to the most polluting.
Barcelona’s local government recently conceived the idea of dividing the city into superblocks to encourage community cohesiveness and reduce noise and other negative environmental issues. If you visit the city you can now use the Check Barcelona app to see how crowded the most popular sites are at any given time. This helps tourists in Barcelona steer clear of the most populated attractions and cuts down on overcrowding.
In Dubrovnik you’ll find terra cotta roof tops against the backdrop of the gorgeous Adriatic Sea. Overtourism began due to popular movies and tv shows and the cruise ship industry. When the pandemic hit, Dubrovnik closed its borders and tourists completely stopped visiting.
The city is looking for a more sustainable and focused future and the pandemic is facilitating some major changes in adding Dubrovnik to the list of sustainable cities. Making drastic changes to the number of cruise ships that can dock in the city at once will have a substantial impact on the city’s carbon footprint. The city is only allowing 5 cruise ships to dock at a time, and each ship can only be carrying a maximum of 5,000 passengers. They’ve also improved the schedule of arrivals and departures for cruise ships, which significantly reduces the amount of tourists in the city at once. Dubrovnik is now increasingly becoming known as a city that is managing tourism in a sustainable way.
Plans For The Future
If you are visiting Dubrovnik in the future there are few things you can do to help facilitate urban sustainability. Those interested in eco friendly tourism can find plenty of options in the city. By visiting earlier or later in the year, the weather is still nice, but there are far fewer tourists and subsequently a lower environmental impact. Also, consider agrotourism, which allows you to experience rural farm life firsthand. For more on agrotourism check out, what is agrotourism?
While these are not the only cities making strides in urban sustainability they are doing a wonderful job of utilizing the pandemic to put an end to overtourism and creating a more sustainable future.
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