By Brett Jardine, Managing Director, Council of Australian Tour Operators
WITH pent up demand for outbound land-based leisure travel now at unprecedented levels, what have destinations around the world considered in regard to providing a more sustainable visitor experience whilst tourism dollars have been virtually non-existent.
Has there been any sort of examination or consideration of the impact over-tourism has, particularly at locations that rely heavily on the flow of foreign visitors?
Over-tourism is generally defined as “the impact of tourism on a destination, that excessively influences the quality of visitor experience in a negative way”. It is not a new issue, but it’s getting renewed discussion as travel numbers slowly begin to climb toward pre-pandemic levels.
There are numerous destinations around the world that have always relied on tourism dollars for their livelihood, and like many within our industry here, the financial suffering during COVID was difficult to accept.
Over-tourism can occur almost anywhere, and with a sense of need to “make up for lost earnings”, there is every chance that authorities in charge of some of our most precious cultural and historic attractions, may also lose sight of long-term prosperity, and continue to view short-term tourist dollars as a prize worth keeping.
A recent personal experience in Petra, Jordan was certainly eye opening with disrespectful tourists climbing on monuments, hollering at the top of their voices, shoving and jostling just to get the ‘insta-worthy’ picture.
Conversely, a few kilometres away is Little Petra, relatively unknown and with significantly less tourists – all of whom were respectful and delicate toward the precious surroundings.
Destinations need to take ownership and prioritise long-term health. By encouraging responsible travel, focusing on sustainable partnerships, and maximising the quality of visits, they can help protect their future.
CATO believes it is important for our members to pro-actively participate in a more responsible approach to tourism, which can help mitigate the negative effects.