Sputnik interviewed Dr. Elisa Burrai from Leeds Beckett University's School of Events, Tourism and Hospitality Management; to find out more about places that have become too popular among tourists.
Sputnik: Edinburgh has been named alongside Amsterdam, Rome, Venice and Barcelona as one of the world's worst hotspots for "overtourism". Firstly, could you explain a little bit about what overtourism is and how significant this research is?
Elisa Burrai: Overtourism, what we're seeing is a lot of attention in the media about this phenomenon and it is becoming a huge problem for destinations around the world and not just in Europe. Overtourism occurs when there are too many people in a specific destination or city or town and this specific destination is not well-equipped in terms of taxes and infrastructure to welcome huge crowds of tourists.
There's much attention on Europe but it’s not just about Europe - it's happening in the Americas too, for example, Machu Picchu in Peru, and that's another hot spot with regards to overtourism.
Sputnik: What are the causes of overtourism and isn’t tourism, especially tourism in large cities, beneficial to the local economy and the city as whole?
Elisa Burrai: Overtourism is quite a complex concept and phenomenon. In terms of the key issues driving growth, for this phenomenon to rise, is how easy it is to reach a destination these days, and it's very easy to fly to places at very cheap prices. In regards to the effect or impact of overtourism on a non-destination; I wouldn't necessarily refer to benefits, but mainly challenges related to this phenomenon.
So for example, in terms of environmental challenges, as I said before, these destinations are generally not well-equipped in terms of infrastructure for so many tourists that are concentrated in specific areas. So there are huge environmental problems related to overtourism; one of which is easy to identify:pollution, as well as the large scale of damage of the natural resources of the places.
In terms of society, the social repercussions overtourism has on destinations, we can easily relate to the frustrations the residents experience when they see the places where they live overcrowded. So for example, prices, as I mentioned in a piece I recently wrote and published - prices go up easily. In terms of renting, houses, and multiple goods more in general. So residents cannot afford anymore to live in certain areas of these destinations because they are designed for tourists who are willing to pay more. So I wouldn't necessarily, as I said, speak about benefits (of overtourism) but mainly challenges, and that's why it's becoming such a huge problem or such a hot topic at the moment in relation to responsible tourism.
Sputnik: OK. So when we look at cities like Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Rome, Venice etc. areas that are suffering from overtourism; what can be done to prevent and protect against this wave of out-of-control tourism?
Elisa Burrai: Yeah, this is a very good question. We are trying to come up with solutions to these, as I said, very complex problems. my expertise is particularly in responsible tourism and that's why I'm trying to find some sort of answer to this problem. I think it's important to rethink responsibility in tourism. It is not enough to talk about the marketing or the growth because the concepts are very much the same.
We need to stop or engage more meaningfully with a concept of responsibility in tourism. What I mean by that is, for example, this should be a much more engagement with the politics of tourism, with the concept of capitalism that characterizes liberal society. So we have to rethink the global economic mechanism or system that characterises our Western society. We need to, in a way, consider our regulation within some government and now these can change to face or to tackle the problem of overtourism. I also think that a tourist tax not enough, it is important to limit to the arrivals.
So we need to tax the airline companies, for example, or stop, or regulate the number of numbers of tourists that entered into a specific nation. Many times we've put profits ahead of the wellbeing of places and people and this is the key problem, really. We need to think about fairer tourism and open up abilities for alternatives. I think this is the key to overcome and tackle the issue of overtourism. So it's not just about the marketing and destination because a lot of these destinations will experience similar problems to Barcelona, Rome, or Edinburgh.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of Elisa Burrai and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.