World Tourism Council: Innovative strategies to combat overtourism

Photo courtesy of Bangkok Post

Tourism is in crisis as overtourism sparks protests and unrest across the globe. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has a plan to turn the tide, urging cooperation between businesses and local communities to manage the influx of visitors.

As travel demand skyrockets post-pandemic, locals in several countries are pushing back, calling for measures to control the surge of tourists.

Julia Simpson, WTTC president and CEO stated that overtourism arguably started in the 18th century, and it’s been a question of how you manage the tourism flow.

Simpson emphasised the need for businesses to collaborate with local authorities. She suggested that encouraging off-season travel and digital ticketing for popular sites could alleviate the pressure on overcrowded destinations.

During a recent panel at the International Air Transport Association’s annual general meeting in Dubai, Simpson highlighted successful examples of destination management. In Rwanda, tourists pay US$1,500 (approximately 55,000 baht) to see mountain gorillas, with fees supporting local farmers and community services. This initiative has helped increase the gorilla population and boost local incomes, demonstrating how tourism can foster regeneration.

Barcelona’s approach also garnered praise. Tourists can purchase digital tickets to visit multiple sites showcasing Antoni Gaudí’s works, including the iconic Sagrada Familia. This system not only spreads visitors across various locations but also supports local employment and cultural preservation.

However, challenges persist, such as skyrocketing property prices in tourist hotspots like Spain’s Balearic Islands.

Thailand tourism

Turning to Thailand, a globally renowned destination, Simpson noted the country’s potential to offer authentic experiences, from Thai cuisine to bustling markets. She urged Thailand to develop infrastructure that encourages tourists to explore beyond major areas, enhancing their travel experiences and distributing the economic benefits more widely.

Thailand’s efforts in marketing, luxury travel promotion, and expanding visa-free travel have been commendable. Simpson dismissed concerns about overdependence on tourism, suggesting Thailand diversify its economy while maintaining tourism as a key sector.

She also mentioned countries like Saudi Arabia, which are investing in tourism as a tool for soft power and cultural diplomacy.

Simpson shared insights from a tourism conference in war-torn Ukraine. Despite the conflict, Ukrainians recognised that travel and tourism would be vital for the nation’s post-war reconstruction.

According to the WTTC, the travel and tourism sector, encompassing hotels, airlines, and other distributors, is projected to reach US$11.1 trillion this year, employing over 348 million people worldwide, reported Bangkok Post.

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Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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