The number of senior industry professionals who think tourism caps are a good way to curb overcrowding at key attractions has increased year-on-year, according to World Travel Market London research released today (Monday 7 November) at the event.
Three-quarters of the 2,000 industry professionals surveyed agreed with the statement that ‘tourism caps are a practical solution to the problems of overcrowding’. Last year, when the same statement was put to respondents, 65% agreed.
The increase highlights a growing problem faced by destinations and attractions that are becoming a victim of their own success and are finding themselves having to cope with overcrowding.
Of the 75% of respondents who agree with the measures, 30% said tourism caps are ‘somewhat useful’; 27% think they are ‘quite useful’ and 18% find caps to be ‘extremely useful’ in dealing with the problem. Only 5% said tourism caps are ‘not at all’ a practical solution to overcrowding and 11% said caps are ‘not very’ useful.
The 2015 report highlighted a marked difference between the number of industry professionals that thought tourism caps were a good idea in theory, and those who approved the measure in practice. However, this year’s results show this gap is narrowing.
When asked whether caps would be a good thing for their own city, company or destination, 61% of those who took part in the 2016 research agreed. Only 8% said caps had no benefit to their own city/company/destination and 15% said a cap was ‘not very’ useful. Last year only 36% agreed that a cap would be a good thing for their own city, company or destination, with 34% disagreeing.
A number of hot spots and protected areas have recently announced plans to cap visitors, showing the situation is becoming more concerning.
For example, Thailand has banned visitors from four islands: Koh Khai Nok, Koh Khai Nui, Koh Khai Nai and Koh Tachai in a bid to save coral reef from permanent damage. Before the ban, at least 60 speedboats visited the sites each day. Shops and cafes have been closed down, meaning local traders have no income from tourists.
Italian officials have announced a cap on tourists to Cinque Terre, a picturesque group of five villages along the Ligurian Sea, which wants to see numbers down from 2.5 million to 1.5 million each year.
The Seychelles is looking at curbing its annual visitor numbers. Its Minister of Tourism and Culture, Alain St. Ange, has said in the past: “We don’t want to demean the value of the Seychelles. We’re reaching 250,000 people, six times the number of people who live there.”
Iceland has said it can’t keep pace with the huge increase in visitors in recent years. The destination has a population of 335,000, yet expects to welcome 1.6 million visitors in 2016, a 29% increase on 2015.
Iceland Tourist Board Director General Ólöf Ýrr Atladóttir has said: “We can’t just endlessly receive more and more people at any particular tourist site and live under the assumption that we are offering the type of experience that people have paid for.”
Iceland is also becoming choosier about those who do visit and is asking people to be more environmentally and socially aware, going so far as to launch an etiquette guide. Its plan to target the ‘enlightened tourist’ is a key theme at WTM London.
WTM London, Senior Director, Simon Press, said: “Destinations and attractions have a tricky job getting the balance right between attracting more visitors, but not attracting more than can be accommodated. With a growing worldwide population and more people wanting to travel, this issue is one that will not go away.
“As well as affecting local communities, putting a huge strain on infrastructure and even threatening wildlife, too many tourists lead to huge queues and being hurried along at sites of interest that visitors really want to see. Experiences like that can really spoil a holiday and that is not in anyone’s interest.”
WTM London is the event where the travel and tourism industry conducts its business deals. Buyers from the WTM Buyers’ Club have a combined purchasing responsibility of $22.6 billion (£15.8bn) and sign deals at the event worth $3.6 billion (£2.5bn). The annual gathering of 50,000 senior travel industry professionals takes place at ExCeL – London from Monday 7 to Wednesday 9 November 2016.