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June 18, 2019

Nature of overtourism and its management

  • By Hnin Lei (Tourism)
Tourists climb the Great Wall in Beijing on Oct 3, 2018. PHOTO:XINHUA

Meaning of overtourism
The word overtourism is very popular in countries with developed tourism industry. Overtourism is interrelated with the word overcrowding meaning more tourists arrival at a destination than the carrying capacity to host it. In fact, overtourism had a bad and negative impact on the local at the destination as well as the visitors to it.

Double edged sword
Fame is a double edged sword in travel industry. The meaning is that when a destination became popular among travellers there can be benefits such as arrival of more travellers, development of basic infrastructures, increased employment opportunities and improvement in social economic situation of the local people. On the other hand, more travellers mean more degradation of the travel destination resulting in environmental damages, invasion into privacy of the local and tourism phobia brought about by unwelcomed, unappreciated and unvalued increase in numbers of travellers.
Root cause of overtourism
Overcrowded tour destination was the result of the fame of the destination. It was also the result of placing emphasis on quantity over quality. Offering cheap service (budget airlines, budget hotels etc.) to make quick money that didn’t even cover the cost of maintaining the natural or man-made resources will result in overtourism. And this eventually and quickly destroy the natural or man-made resources of the destination making it less of an attraction.

 

Countries suffering impacts of overtourism
Places that had overtoursim attract most interest for traveller result of which is a higher numbers of tourists visiting it. Places that had overtourism will face locals opposing tourism as huge numbers of tourists were destroying the way of life and cultural heritages. The increased income and opportunity for locals from tourism was no longer attractive or wanted. For example, major tour cities in Europe such as Amsterdam, Barcelona and Venice which were receiving increasing numbers of tourists yearly have adopted and are implementing new policies for tourism industry in order to prevent overtourism. Maya Beach in Thailand made famous due to a film “The Beach” was recently closed to make much needed repairs and respite to the ecosystem that was adversely affected by the huge number of tourist arrival.
Borocay Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Philippines. The Travel+Leisure honoured the beach as the best beach in 2012. As tourist arrival went over 2 million, weak management and irresponsible acts of tourists themselves degraded the environment. The beauty of the beach was damaged by littering resulting in travel to the beach restricted for six months to repair the damages caused effecting those relying on tourists to face hardships. Philippines government is now reducing airline flights to this destination, perform educative programmes to ensure tourists to be responsible and put up more garbage bins.
In the same way tourists arrival was increasing in the Republic of Korea year by year. Tourist arrival hit 13 million in 2017 and overtourism occurred in Bukchon Hanok Village. Bukchon is a peaceful and tranquil village where houses were traditional Korean style houses. Visitors put on Korean traditional costumes, wonder around traditional houses and observe the traditional culture and custom of Korea. This attracts many visitors and local people at first accepted the visits. But as more and more visitors came, locals start erecting signboards saying “Tourists, go home” and “Your tourism kills my neighbours” as the tourists were affecting the freedom of locals, increasing prices of lands, rental charges not to mention noisy, nosy and undisciplined guests destroying the tranquillity of the area.
Now, the Korean government is implementing programme for the convenient of both the locals and tourists by limiting number of tourist arrivals to the village, appointment of volunteers to hush noisy tourists and putting up “Silence Here” notice boards.

How to control overtourism
According to United Nations World Tourism Organization, numbers of international tourists reached 1.4 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach 1.8 billion in 2030. Tourism industry is the third largest export service of the world creating 10.4 per cent of global Gross Domestic Products directly and indirectly. Countries strive to develop tourism industry because it creates employment and develops the country’s economy. So these countries try to encourage more and more visitors but some countries are starting to come to face with overtourism. UNWTO therefore has adopted and implementing tactics to solve the problem of overtourism and recommended the following.

1. Search new tourist destinations, offer new package tours and enhance the visits
Large number of travellers to a destination with limited services available causes overtourism. Visitors to these destinations can be reduced by searching new and alternative destinations, informing and enhancing visits of travellers to these new destinations and beefing up the management of the destinations.

2. Reviewing situations, rules and laws of tourism industry
Government need to review the visiting time and set acceptable number of tourists to the main destination where overtourism was occurring and enact effective rules and laws to reduce the impact of overtourism. For example, a total of 1.4 million international tourists visit Machu Picchu, a UNESCO recognized ancient cultural site in Peru in 2016. As from July 2017 Peru launched a system for tourist to book visits to visit the site either on a morning session 6 a.m. to 12 noon or afternoon session 12 noon to 5:30 p.m. via designated routes and prevented overcrowding or overtourism.
3. Informing local people on benefit of tourism industry and authorities cooperating with the local people
Key player for success in tourism industry are local people. Their keenness in tourism services, heartfelt welcome of tourists and clarifying dos and donts to travellers directly relates to the development of tourism industry in the region. As such local people must be informed of the benefit of the tourism industry and participate in the tourism management. Authorities on the other hand are to carry out appropriate moves in line with the wishes of the locals to beef up participation and cooperation of local people in the tourism industry.

Tourism industry in Myanmar
Myanmar is full of cultural heritages and natural environment, Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan and Inlay were the regions that receive the highest numbers of international tourists. Myanmar has been practising open door economic system since 2012 and tourist arrival had been rising. Although 3.55 million international visitors visited Myanmar in 2018, this was comparatively lower than neighbouring countries. Ministry of Hotels and Tourism is striving toward increasing the number of visitors through appointment of tour ambassadors, promote tourism services in Myanmar through digital marketing and social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The government was also allowing visa exemption to citizens of Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Macao starting from 1 October 2018 to encourage more visitors.
According to Myanmar Tourism Rules enacted on 17 September 2018, regional tourism work committees led by relevant State/Region Chief Ministers were to take up more responsibilities to manage tour destinations and supervise businesses related to tourism industry. These work committees observe the actual situation and tourism services at the existing destinations and create opportunities for local people to enjoy the fruits of the tourism industry while managing as necessary to ensure a sustainable tourism services that’ll serve the interest of the people and not cause undesirables such as overtourism.
All in all, it needs to make the utmost efforts for the emergence of a sustainable tourism industry. Take lesson from experiences of countries that had faced the bad impacts of overtourism and create opportunities for locals while offering pleasant and enjoyable visits for visitors. We all need to join hand to ensure a sustainable tourism according to the motto “Let’s joint to develop State tourism industry in the long run.”
Translated by Than Tun Aung
Reference
UNWTO e-library (2018), “Overtourism-Understanding and Managing Urban Tourism Growth beyond Perceptions”
Reuters (2018), “Overtourism: Philippines restricts visits to tourist island Borocay,” Times of Manila
Da-min, Jung and Min-ho, Jung (2018), “Bukchon residents protect excessive tourism,” The Korea Times.

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