Vacation season is coming to an end on the Northern hemisphere and this summer has seen a lot of new trends and some surprising lessons on how humans behave when they are not in direct danger.
Travelling after the pandemic started low-key but just as water always finds a way when there is an obstacle, limiting ourselves seems like a poorly constructed dam right now. Festivals, air travel, hotels and outdoors activities are as fully booked as before and with the constant and global mental lockdown is over, living up the planet’s resources could continue. Formulaic comments on sustainability and environmentally friendly excursions and programs are welcome additions but their promise is shattered once met by the disregard of tourists themselves.
Tourism is Challenged but is on the Bounce-back
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s experts, the economic situation is still the main factor weighing on the recovery of international tourism in 2023. The key problems are high inflation and rising oil prices which in turn increase transport and accommodations costs. As a result, tourists increasingly seek value for money and travel closer to home. Uncertainty derived from the Russian aggression against Ukraine and other mounting geopolitical tensions, also continue to represent downside risks.
Seeing as how Ukrainian and especially Russian travelers were always on the wealthier side, their countries being at war has a direct impact from the get-go. According to the analysis by social enterprise and growth hub Emerging Europe, the loss of Russian and Ukrainian tourists affected the sector greatly as people from these countries spent a combined 45 billion US dollars per year prior to the Covid-19 pandemic (around eight percent of the global total).
Tourists from other countries are happy to take their places however. In the first quarter of 2023, almost 90 percent of the pre-pandemic, 2019 performance of the sector. The Middle East could even grow compared to what happened four years ago and everywhere else the situation seems to have improved as well.
Which brings us to another set of emerging problems that can have a lasting and devastating impact on the lives of many: overtourism.
Increased Taxation, Entrance Fees and the Price of that Instagram Post
Touristic sites have always struck a delicate balance with foreigners and out-of-town people arriving but the pandemic’s lockdown, uncertainty and what we see in the media (films, television series) have driven up wanderlust that has left a mark on these spots – if we look at the Colosseum in Rome, quite literally.
Cities and the managers of natural points of interest have long tried to combat overtourism. This spectrum of steps ranges from new taxes to limiting the arrival numbers of certain groups of people in order to preserve these places to our successors.
Barcelona recently announced an incremental growth of this city tax over the next two years that will vary based on the accommodation type. Amsterdam, is focused on combating overtourism by decreasing visitors to its famed Red Light District. The limitations are specifically targeted at British male visitors aged 18-35, who tend to focus their travels on drinking and using drugs. Venice’s historic center, the city implemented a new rule according to which day trippers will no longer be able to just show up in the historic center; rather, they must first make an online reservation and pay a fee. Since about 80 percent of the city’s visitors are day trippers (approximately 19 million per year), the new policy stands to have a tremendous impact.
Thanks to different campaigns from different organizations, the environmental impact of a plane ride is known by almost everybody, but on-site behavior leaves much to be desired. Brian Young from G Adventures told British newspaper Independent: “The most interesting thing is that customers say it’s important, but they’re not willing to pay more for it. They assume the tour operator will think about sustainability and the impact of travel – they don’t have to worry.”
It would be worthy to worry, or at least to pick up some consideration because if we cannot travel anywhere because of the heat, the limitations, the rightfully grumpy locals, or if the surroundings are covered in garbage, everybody’s Instagram feed will get really boring really fast.