Managing Urban Tourism Growth

Terms such as ‘overtourism’ or ‘tourismphobia’ have made headlines in recent times. They reflect challenges of managing growing tourism flows into urban destinations and the impact of tourism on cities and its residents.

Over half of the world’s population lives in urban areas and it is estimated that, by 2050, this proportion will reach 70%. In addition, the growing number of urban tourists increases the use of natural resources, causes socio- cultural impact, and exerts pressure on infrastructure, mobility and other facilities.

Urban tourism will only be sustainable if developed and managed considering both visitors and local communities.

Adequately managing tourism to the benefit of visitors and residents alike has always been a fundamental issue for the sector. Long before the emergence of buzzwords such as ‘overtourism’, UNWTO defined tourism’s carrying capacity as “the maximum number of people that may visit a tourist destination at the same time, without causing destruction of the physical, economic and sociocultural environment and an unacceptable decrease in the quality of visitors’ satisfaction”.

But what can be done to encourage smart and sustainable urban tourism?  Good tourism helps to generate income, preserve culture and foster better understanding, so its important we get this right. The UNWTO has a few suggestions on how municipalities and business and government leaders can strike the right balance.

Strategy 1 – Promote the dispersal of visitors within the city and beyond
  • Host more events in less visited parts of the city and in its surroundings
  • Develop and promote visitor attractions and facilities in less visited parts of the city and in its
  • surroundings
  • Improve capacity of and time spent at attractions
  • Create joint identity of city and its surroundings
  • Implement travel card for unlimited local travel
  • Mark entire city as inner-city to stimulate visitation of less visited parts
Strategy 2 – Promote time-based dispersal of visitors
  • Promote experiences during off- peak months
  • Promote dynamic pricing
  • Stimulate events in off-peak months
  • Set timeslots for popular attractions and/or events aided by real-time monitoring
  • Use new technologies (apps and others) to stimulate dynamic time-based dispersal
Strategy 3 – Stimulate new visitor itineraries and attractions
  • Promote new itineraries at the city entry points and through the visitor’s journey, including at tourist
  • information centres
  • Offer combined discounts for new itineraries and attractions
  • Produce city guides and books highlighting hidden treasures
  • Create dynamic experiences and routes for niche visitors
  • Stimulate development of guided tours through less-visited parts of the cityDevelop virtual reality applications to famous sites and attractions to complement onsite visits
Strategy 4 – Review and adapt regulation
  • Review opening times of visitor attractions
  • Review regulation on access for large groups to popular attractions
  • Review regulation on traffic in busy parts of the city
  • Ensure visitors use parking facilities at the edge of city
  • Create specific drop-off zones for coaches in suitable places
  • Create pedestrian-only zones
  • Review regulation and taxation on new platform tourism services
  • Review regulation and taxation on hotels and other accommodation
  • Define the carrying capacity of the city and of critical areas and attractions etc.
  • Consider an operator’s licence system to monitor all operators etc.
  • Review regulation on access to certain areas of the city for tourist related-activities
Strategy 5 – Enhance visitors’ segmentation
  • Identify and target visitor segments with lower impact according to the specific city context and
  • objectives
  • Target repeat-visitors
  • Discourage visitation of the city of certain visitors segments
Strategy 6 – Ensure local communities benefit from tourism
  • Increase the level of employment in tourism and strive to create decent jobs
  • Promote the positive impacts of tourism, create awareness and knowledge of the sector amongst
  • local communities
  • Engage local communities in the development of new tourism products
  • Conduct an analysis of supply-demand potential of the local communities and promote their
  • integration in the tourism value chain
  • Improve quality of infrastructure and services considering residents and visitors
  • Stimulate development of impoverished neighbourhoods through tourism

By following these strategies cities can better ensure that they will be able to create and manage better and more responsible tourism.