Speaking at today’s UNWTO & WTM Ministers’ Summit Taleb Rifai, secretary general of the UNWTO said possible ways to counter overtourism could be diversifying the type and location of visitor activities, and offering incentives for the private sector to invest beyond key tourist sites.
With global tourists expected to reach 1.8 billion by 2030, Rifai said: “How we manage this unstoppable growth is a real challenge.”
He added: “Numbers are not the enemy. We must use the power of growth to our advantage.”
Rifai cited the example of Spain’s Barcelona saying that even half a kilometre beyond the city there are far fewer tourists and local people who would welcome them.
Yet the panel also highlighted that not all destinations experience overtourism in the same way.
Enrique de la Madrid, Mexico’s secretary of tourism, said despite being a big player in global tourism the country was “still undervisited”, explaining that 80% of its tourists arrive in five destinations.
“We are developing traditional towns that are capable of receiving more tourists,” he said. “We are far from feeling overcrowded.”
John Glen, the UK’s minister for the arts, heritage and tourism, highlighted the role data could play, saying one solution could be using it to understand where tourists want to go and when.
“We need to collaborate, share best practice and manage data well,” he said.