Overtourism ahead?

Countries are slowly opening to tourism, but will this bring in enthusiastic travellers in hordes and cause another problem?

Hazel Jain

While more travellers bode well for the travel trade around the world, there might be a thin line between revenge tourism and over-tourism. Jay Bhatia, Director, Tulsidas Khimji Holidays and Vice President, Travel Agents Association of India, hopes that tourism restarts but with all health and safety protocols and SOPs in place which should be laid down at a national level for travel within India and country wise for international travellers. “Of course, full vaccinated travellers should be given priority. Even for children, we request clients that until they too are vaccinated, extra precautions must be taken. Over-tourism is likely to commence in destinations with minimum 10-12 night itineraries. Travellers will certainly want to travel for longer durations now. The UK, Europe, USA, Canada and Japan shall probably be safer, especially Eastern Europe since it is less populated. In India, of course, it’s going to be Kerala, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Himachal and Kashmir. We are seeing some developments for Odisha as well,” he says.

However, according to Benazir Nazar, CEO, Akbar Holidays, over-tourism may not be a problem. “The consequences of COVID-19 have hit everyone so badly that over-tourism may not happen. Travellers have become ever so cautious about their safety and hygiene and would rather wait than go where the herd goes. Even the countries that are and will open up have and will have health and safety protocols in place to control such issues. Destinations such as Thailand, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bali, London, Switzerland, and Paris could be prone to this though. In India, popular states such as Goa, Kerala, Himachal, and the Northeast are prone to over-tourism,” Nazar adds.

Over-tourism from an economic perspective will help countries revive from the losses they faced during the pandemic, says Henna Adl Karim, Product Development Head, Flycreative Online. “However, in terms of health and medical care things are still a blur. We don’t know to what extent the virus is about to mutate and unless its strength weakens with the help of immunization, things could turn sour again. Destinations that are reasonable, very populated and popular are in danger of this. People just want to travel! Somewhere! And with the crunch in many people’s finances, the cost will be a factor for most travellers. Cheaper and popular destinations like Thailand could get mass tourism. In India, snow-bound destinations like Himachal, fun destinations like Goa, nature-rich places like Kerala could see some rush as well,” she says.

Governments take heed
Bhatia feels that the government must ensure that travel organisers and ground handlers strictly follow the SOPs. “Overcrowding must be restricted at all levels, be in local transportation, sightseeing locations, monu-ments, banquets, in-house restaurants in hotels, public places, etc. Special restrictions must be formulated for religious destinations and places of worship where large gatherings are expected. Over-tourism is bound to happen and we are already witnessing the same in a few destinations in North India,” he says.

Meanwhile, Nazar says that as a travel company, they will strive to prevent this problem by ensuring that they operate in small groups as far as big MICE group tours are concerned. “We will also encourage travellers to get vaccinated for a safe trip for themselves and fellow travellers, and suggest destinations based on the real-time traffic survey,” she adds.

Karim, on the other hand, says pushing more niche and less-explored destinations will help. “Travel companies could also sell experiences which would be short but enjoyable,” she says.

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