Recent protests in Mallorca and other popular European tourist destinations have highlighted the rising tensions amongst local communities as the repercussions of overtourism take shape. Bloated property prices and broader affordability issues, plus an unsustainable environmental impact further illustrate the need for a delicate balance to be struck between the economic benefits of tourism and the price currently paid for popularity.

Tourism is a double-edged sword, with sustainable tourism encouraging growth, infrastructure development, and job creation. The fact that the tourism industry contributed to 12.8% of Spain’s GDP in 2023 and that it currently contributes to around 35% of GDP for the Canary Islands underscores this. 

Globally, the sector contributed 9.2% to GDP in 2023 and has driven initiatives that improve regional infrastructure, environmental conservation, and cultural preservation. However, vulnerable ecological environments, inadequate infrastructure in destinations, and the sheer volume of visitors to the most popular destinations are exacerbating the problem. 

Careful control with all stakeholders involved

Our recent panel discussion delved into the pressing issue of overtourism and explored ways to balance the benefits amongst consumers, travel operators, and local communities.

Ineffectively controlled, it is a lose-lose situation for all parties – negative customer experiences and local backlash – which ultimately harm both tourism operators and the destinations themselves.

To move forward in a suitably sustainable manner, all stakeholder groups must be involved – from tourists and industry operators to governments and local residents. Tourism taxes need to be better invested in local communities and infrastructure projects, with greater transparency around where the money is to be directed. Positive signs from travel operators already making investments into local communities will be welcomed, but there is a further role for them to play in encouraging customers to explore lesser-known destinations to reduce pressure on popular sites, and in harnessing the power of AI to better predict and manage tourist flows. And, of course, there will be more that tourists themselves can do from an education perspective regarding respectful and sustainable travel practices.

The popularity of tourism will not wane, with travel set to reach or exceed pre-pandemic levels this summer. Without the appropriate level of engagement and forward planning, visitor experiences will almost certainly suffer, as will the quality of life for local residents, at a time when, post-pandemic, the world is once again back in motion.

Discover more from our recent World In Motion: Overtourism panel discussion.