Offering the chance to “live authentically like locals” by shifting visitors’ focus to quieter, less-discovered areas was proposed as an effective way to curb overtourism by a New York tourism chief.
Representatives from the US city, Barcelona, Amsterdam and London took to the stage at WTM London to discuss methods each destination had taken to tackle the issue, which has blighted a number of famous landmarks and caused civil unrest in recent years.
Describing his city’s approach, Chris Heywood, senior vice-president of global communications at NYC & Company, said its “five boroughs” strategy was to move visitors away from the tourist hot spots of Manhattan to “move the spotlight” onto locations such as Queens and Staten Island.
Promoting the value of visiting during the first quarter of the year – when attractions are quieter and hotel rates lower – was another policy, he explained.
“It’s not just about the value of the dollar but the value of the experience for guests,” he said.
Discussing the rise of Airbnb and homeshare platforms, Joan Torrella, managing director, Turisme de Barcelona, said the city’s council was working in partnership with the companies to limit their number of properties and make sure each was properly licenced.
As a result, Torrella said Barcelona had cut the number of unregistered properties from 6,000 to around 100.
Laura Citron, chief executive of London and Partners, said destinations should only promote themselves to tourists it believed would benefit them with “good, positive growth” – citing the British capital’s pursuit of millennial travellers.
That point was echoed by Frans van der Avert, chief executive, Amsterdam Marketing, who admitted striking a balance between the needs of local businesses and visitors was “very difficult”.
“A city without visitors is boring and a city without inhabitants and businesses just feels dead – you need each other,” he said.
With this in mind, Heywood also cited another programme from NYC & Company to help local businesses in less tourism-heavy areas with classes on how to promote themselves better to visitors and the travel trade.