Seven suggestions for removing destinations from over-tourism


Addressing overtourism is crucial, with 61% of travellers avoiding destinations due to it in the past year; and to do so, destinations should use a holistic, data-led approach to balance local resources, community welfare, and tourism growth. This is one of the conclusions of the white paper “A Roadmap to Move Destinations Away from Overtourism”, developed by Mabrian, the global travel intelligence company, in collaboration with Phocuswright.

Overtourism is a key issue for sustainable destination management. Dealing with the problem starts in measuring seven key dimensions, that according to Mabrian and Phocuswright, contribute decisively  to lay the foundations of a long-lasting sustainable strategy, based on data intelligence.

Released ahead of the Phocuswright Europe event in Barcelona (June 10-12), this white paper aims at including overtourism in broader discussions on sustainable destination management. It highlights the need for innovative analysis and planning using integral performance key indicators and a data-driven tools.

The report utilizes data intelligence from Mabrian and Phocuswright’s studies to explore how various dimensions of sustainability translate into useful indicators for destination planning.

Finding the balance: from measuring to policy making 

The white paper offers insights, benchmarking, and performance goals for destinations to create their own tourism sustainability models, aiming to address overtourism.

• Distribution of Tourist Spend: A destination less affected by overtourism tends to have a more evenly spread distribution of spending across its territory, which benefits both its economy and local welfare. This was exemplified by Lanzarote’s Cabildo and Tourism Board, who tracked the distribution of spending during the 2023 Saborea Lanzarote festival and found that tickets in restaurants and other gastro experiences increased year over year, reaching 37% of the island’s total average tourism spending. Ultimately, it’s about capitalizing on travellers’ preferences, as research from Phocuswright indicates that between half and two-thirds of travellers want their spending to support the communities they visit.

Carbon Footprint – CO2 emissions: Analysing CO2 emissions over time per source market and visitor, as well as the ratio of travellers’ spending to emissions generated, can help destinations target segments with better spending-to-emissions ratios. For example, Tourspain implemented such strategies and, by 2023, achieved a 4.9% reduction in the carbon footprint per visitor to Spain and a 5.1% increase in tourism income per traveller.

• Concentration of Tourism Offer: According to Phocuswright data, while 43-61% of travellers avoided destinations in the past year due to sustainability concerns, only 13-21% see visiting less crowded destinations as sustainable. Understanding the clustering of accommodations and attractions is crucial for both traveller comfort and community welfare. Mabrian & Phocuswright analysis cites the case of Costa Rica’s Tamarindo region DMO, that utilized data intelligence to map accommodation density, resulting in a 16% decrease over five years and significant improvements in Hotel and Destination Satisfaction Indexes.

• Perception of Tourism Sustainability: An effective sustainable approach to overtourism involves aligning policy-making with its impact on both locals and visitors to mitigate what Phocuswright terms as “sustainability dissonance” – the gap between the intention to travel sustainably and actual traveller choices. Targeted messaging and engagement strategies play a central role in shaping perceptions of tourism sustainability, as demonstrated by Seville’s “Smart Streets” campaign, deployed by Sevilla City Office. This initiative highlighted the city’s sustainable achievements, enhancing the experience for both locals and visitors.

As explained by Madeline List, senior analyst at Phocuswright: “A successful, consistent sustainable strategy involves formulating good practices but operationalizing them expediently.” Implementing effective measures against overtourism entails “having a transparent, honest and data-centric approach of the impact of tourism on destinations, based on a holistic model able to create a long-standing balance that benefits the businesses, locals and visitors alike while preserving the environment”, according to Carlos Cendra, Partner & Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Mabrian.

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