Above: A still from the documentary.
A new documentary claims that the issue of overtourism has reached a critical point. Crowded Out: The Story of Overtourism was produced by activist travel company Responsible Travel, and documents the experiences in popular holiday destinations (such as Venice and Barcelona) from the perspective of local people. The short but insightful documentary comes hot on the heels of a recent piece in The Wall Street Journal which described tourists swarming holiday hotspots as generating a ‘global backlash’.
“The world’s population explosion has finally arrived. It has manifested itself not in global waves of famine as was feared half a century ago, but in waves of Airbuses, tour buses, and minibuses. Tourists by the millions,” Jonathan Tourtellot wrote in a blog post for National Geographic late last year. “This population explosion overwhelms St Mark’s Square in Venice. It pushes through the streets of Barcelona, angering residents. It forms hours-long queues in China for the cable cars up Mount Huangshan and fills all the lanes in the World Heritage Village of Hongcun.”
Alongside statistics on the growth of tourism and tourist numbers over the years, the documentary features input from a number of experts, including Elizabeth Becker, a former International Economics Correspondent at The New York Times who described the challenge for those campaigning for change as being “up against some very powerful, wealthy interests who don’t want this change”.
Overtourism was among the topics discussed at the recent World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) in Buenos Aires, although there has been some disagreement on what exactly it means and what solutions might be put in place. The conversation around the documentary may provide tourist agencies and local authorities with food for thought in their own regions and their responsibilities in ensuring their tourist plans and processes are sustainable, catering to the needs not of just incoming travellers but those who live there.
“This is a key moment in tourism’s history. We are on the cusp of a new era of travel. We’re witnessing, for the first time on such scale, direct conflict between governments and local people as residents take action and make their voices heard,” said Justin Francis, CEO and founder of Responsible Travel. “Change is on the horizon: the travel industry will now be asked to justify itself by locals and governments alike. Growth at all costs is no longer sustainable. It’s a momentous realisation.”
The documentary is available to view at responsibletravel.com.