Overtourism: A double-edged sword

Although over-tourism can bring many benefits to the local communities and the country at large, including income,
employment and international recognition, it can also lead to environmental and social damage. If not managed carefully, it can destroy the very assets on which it depends. Does over-tourism pose a real threat in the post-COVID world?

Hazel Jain

Benefit to local communities

There is no denying the benefits and people’s livelihoods are connected to tourism. While the COVID-19 pandemic has been a temporary salve for over-tourism, it has also revealed how reliant many destinations, jobs and industries are on the tourism industry. Even though tourism generates massive dollars, creates wealth, and provides an opportunity for growth, the sword has another side.

Environment suffers

The downside is that destinations that become popular with visitors struggle with increased pollution, waste management, overcrowding, noise, and higher property values and costs. As more property owners rent out their rooms on online sites, locals have found it difficult to find an affordable place to live, forcing them out of the city. And cities aren’t alone facing these issues.

Garners global attention

Lesser-known destinations and attractions that even the domestic population is not aware of, can receive national and global recognition once it starts to receive high footfalls. Social media has helped many a hidden treasure to receive the attention it deserves from not just domestic but also international visitors.

No social distancing

Countries are investing huge amounts of money and efforts in ensuring that their citizens remain safe during the pandemic. Once travel resumes, governments will have to continue to ensure that social distancing norms remain in place. In Machu Picchu, tickets are now time-limited, with dedicated time slots. Venice has introduced a new fee for day visitors, and Taj Mahal in India has increased entrance fee while reducing visit time.

Better infrastructure

Government investment in public works is considered one of the cost-effective measures in creating jobs. Infrastructural upgrades to residential precincts earlier affected by over-tourism in terms of traffic congestion, garbage, sewage and environmental pollution would go a long way to improve emotional well-being of the residents as well, while at the same time providing a better experience for visitors and more jobs for locals.

Economic problems

The trend of mass-tourism has brought out the economic problem of inflation and displacement of traditional occupation due to the uncontrolled increases of tourism activities. For instance, it has impacted the economy of Fort Kochi in Kerala as it saw a significant change in trends of tourist shopping. Over-tourism and a factory-made market has led to endangering of traditional craftsmanship, threatening it with extinction.


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