Tourism is one of the most lucrative industries on the planet, offering commercial benefits to many destinations around the world. However, the negative effects of tourism are becoming more and more known. Destination management is key in developing strategies for the protection of a destination.

Tourism, one of the world’s largest industries, can offer commercial benefits to many destinations around the globe. Tourism can inject a much-needed shot of economic vitality, profitability and opportunity into a community. However, tourism can also bring many challenges, such as overcrowding, uneven distribution of wealth, strains on natural resources and a loss of local authenticity. Small island communities are particularly at risk, with destinations such as the Maldives experiencing high levels of tourism growth across a small and environmentally vulnerable landmass.

It’s wonderful thing that so many people are travelling and exploring what the world has to offer, but many destinations can no longer handle the rising onslaught of tourism. To tackle these issues, many local governments and communities have started implementing measures to preserve the cultural heritage and environmental integrity of destinations. These methods encourage responsible tourism and provide visitors with a more authentic experience whilst reducing their carbon footprint.

The main challenges destinations face include:


Have you ever been on vacation and had to push through crowds of tourists trying to get the best look at a painting in a museum or a natural viewpoint? This is a result of overtourism. Simply put, overtourism occurs when there are too many visitors in one area, leading to a decline in the quality of life and experience felt by both the locals and visitors. Overtourism has been much debated in recent years and is one of the most pressing issues the tourism industry faces today. However, it is not a new phenomenon. People have been travelling for hundreds of years and popular destinations have had to deal with the impact for just as long.

A main cause of overtourism is the increasing availability of affordable flights to the most popular destinations. Airlines like Ryanair and travel websites like Jetcost offer tourists flights to major cities, such as Barcelona, one of the most affected cities, for extremely low prices. While this may sound exciting if you are looking to travel on a budget, it is not helpful for cities trying to combat overtourism.

Effects of overtourism include:

  • overcrowding of public areas such as restaurants
  • increased congestion on roads
  • increase of tourist-focused businesses such as souvenir shops
  • decline of local businesses
  • damage to natural landscapes
  • pollution (noise and air) leading to public health risks
  • waste
  • rent increase for locals
  • degraded tourist experience
  • risk of damage to cultural heritage

Loss of authenticity

Overtourism can lead to the loss of authenticity of a destination. A place can lose its character when catering to a large influx of tourists and cause a deterioration of the residents’ identification with their home. The dominating provisions made for tourists can alienate the locals. For instance, numerous bars and nightclubs may be opened for tourists who seek ‘nightlife,’ diluting the original culture and infrastructure. The crowds these venues bring in may also unintentionally disrespect the local customs through inappropriate behaviours. Often, the built environment is drastically changed to cater for these tourist activities. The influx of hotels and enclave resorts can create a divide between locals and tourists, strengthening an unhealthy power dynamic.


Tourism requires a lot of travel via, road, rail, warer, air or a combination of all four. This increases emissions from automobiles and planes, which are the biggest causes of air pollution. Tourists now account for nearly 60% of air travel, meaning that our vacations are contributing the most to carbon pollution. The volume of vehicles on roads in tourism destinations is also a contributor, as well as a cause for mass congestion.

As well as air pollution, popular destinations tend to have trouble with noise. In addition to cars, the loud music of tourist nightlife disturbs both the locals and wildlife. The natural activity of the destination is therefore altered long-term, sometimes drastically, depending on the location. The late-night character of these establishments and increased use of artificial and excessive light can also lead to an issue with light pollution. Though less environmentally damaging than carbon pollution, superfluous light emissions can disrupt the sleep of locals and tourists, waste billions of dollars on energy and interfere with avian navigation (flight patterns of birds).

Strains on resources

Tourism also affects a destination’s natural resources. In tropical destinations especially, water is often used in favour of fortourism over agriculture. This can causes a rift between locals and tourists. A 2012 study from the University of the West of England showed that 60% of Bali’s water was being consumed by the tourism industry. This negatively impacts farmers and food supplysupplies for locals. However, there are ways to help reduce your impact while on vacation. In addition to shorter showers and reusing towels at your hotel, you can opt to eat at local restaurants and shop at local markets to help profits reach the nativelocal population.

Possible solutions

Destination Management Organizations

Destination management is a key aspect in the development of sustainable tourism. When destinations are well managed, through combined efforts of their governments and local organisations, benefits from tourism can be reaped.

Therefore, solutions for the challenges destinations face, can lie in Destination Management Organisations (DMOs). DMOs help represent a specific destination and develop tourism locally by offering a range of services. The logistic services usually include sorting transportation, accommodation, activities, tours etc. for visitors. Most DMOs are not-for-profit and focus on supporting community economic development by collaborating with local independent businesses that rely on tourism for income. The core values of many DMOs are to ensure economic and environmental sustainability through their services, thus serving sustainable tourism goals. By collaborating with local communities for tourism management, the destinations retain their cultural richness while creating community well-being and tourist satisfaction.

Marketing as a powerful tool in the fight against overtourism

Another way overtourism can be combatted is through marketing strategies. If a destination is becoming over crowdedovercrowded, marketing to higher end, ‘quality travellers’ looking for a more in-depth, cultural experience can help some of the aforementioned issues. This traveller is more likely to visit for a longer period of time and contribute more to the local economy. For example, Amsterdam & Partners is the official marketing and branding organisation for the city and works to downplay attractions such as the Red Light District or the infamous “coffeeshops” in order to bring focus to the city’s more esoteric attractions and attempts to welcome more business and conference tourism.

In addition to luxury marketing, destinations have begun to market themselves as sustainable by adhering to a tourism pledge. This means that the destination creates a campaign to ask tourists to be environmentally conscious during their trip. Although this can easily be seen as a public relations stunt, it actually attracts the high-value travellers destinations are looking to host.

Tourism pledges also help educate visitors about global sustainability issues and how they can manage their impact as ‘responsible tourists.’ This benefits both the location and the tourists, as they will be better equipped to travel sustainably in the future.

Regenerative Tourism

Regenerative tourism is a component of responsible tourism that specifically aims at restoring the land, wildlife and culture of destinations. It can include engaging visitors with long term and on-going community projects, such as tree plantings and beach clean-ups. It can also incorporate culturally significant festivals and events to celebrate local heritage.

It focuses on regenerating communities with on-going, long-term methods that further involve visitors. For instance, excursions such as tree planting, ocean clean-ups and festivals celebrating the local culture. These activities give back to communities whilst allowing the tourists to contribute to a lasting positive impact on the destinations they visit.

Sourcing local food is another way to promote the regeneration of a destination. Markets provide locally produced foods, which in turn create environmental and social benefits. Locally produced food is not only more sustainable, but it buying local foods helps maintain regional identities. The create economic benefits ofby increasing profits for local communities will help keep traditions alive and allow locals and tourists alike to enjoy culturally important foods. Moreover, visitors should be encouraged to shop at local stores for crafts, instead of souvenir shops, in order to benefit the local economy.

Native populations can also reap income-generating benefits of tourism through homestays. Further than income, homestays provide environmental and cultural benefits.Homestays can range from a family home setting to more rural community-based accommodation. In comparison to hotels, they use far less energy and resources, often utilising efficient water and waste management. They also provide a richer and more authentic tourism experience by offering the chance to learn about local customs and traditions.Unlike hotels, homes do not consume large amounts of energy and resources because water consumption and waste management are usually more efficient. Through a homestay experience, tourists also gain an authentic insight into the lives of the community members.

Local policying

Tourism can be regulated through the implementation of local policylocal policing. But what exactly does tourism policy look like? Tourism policy and planning can be defined as a set of practices, decisions and guidelines, often in collaboration with governments and local/private actors, with the intention of achieving long term tourism development. This includes plans for attractions and activities, accommodation, transportation and infrastructure. Effective local policy This isis essential in order for a tourism industry to run smoothly; however, many countries, especially underdeveloped destinations in the Global South, do not have the proper planning set in place. Destination management can therefore be unstructured and underfunded. Tourism planning will vary between destinations but is essential to optimise the contribution of tourism to human welfare and environmental quality.

An effective method of tourism planning is to encourage public-private partnerships. A public-private partnership is unique to every country, but generally, private entities and NGOs contribute financing, management expertise and advice to public entities in order to create tourism plans. This partnership is helpful for both parties as the destruction of natural or cultural assets, resulting in decreased visitor demand, hurts private business as well as the public sector. In some cases, governments, NGOs and the local community can collaborate to achieve a common goal. A good example of this is The Tsodilo Hills World Heritage Site, which through collaborative planning, was promoted as a tourism attraction and developed to include a craft centre for the community to sell their crafts.

Tourism planning will vary between destinations, but is essential to achieve sustainability as it seeks to optimise the contribution of tourism to human welfare and environmental quality.

Community led approach

An approach to overtourism led by the community is a great way to tackle the environmental issues and educate people at the same time. Public-private partnerships help streamline sustainability. A public-private partnership is unique to every country, but generally, private entities and NGOs contribute financing, management expertise and advice to the public entities in order to create tourism plans. This partnership is helpful for both parties because the destruction of natural or cultural assets, resulting in decreased visitor demand, hurts private business as well as the public sector.

Community based tourism

Community based tourism is a tourism practice in which local residents open up their communities to visitors. This enables residents to earn a living by inviting tourists in and working as land managers, entrepreneurs, service providers and employees and more. Then, part of the profit from tourism is set aside to benefit the local community as a whole. Not only does this benefit the destination’s local economy, but tourists also get to feel more a part of the traditional culture and discover local habitats and wildlife. Community based tourism is promoted as being the opposite to mass tourism, as it is developed and operated by the local community. It can encourage and possibly reinforce local culture, heritage and traditions. As such, it increases people’s ownership of tourism at the destination end and enables control to stay within the local community. In this tourism plan, communities supply visitors with accommodation sufficient for Westerners, access to a phone and access to email. The community can partner with private companies to provide capital and marketing or other expertise. This model has been successful in the past, in destinations such as the Bolivian Amazon, and allows local families to receive direct economic benefits from tourism.

However, community tourism can suffer from the same limitations as other forms of tourism. Lack of coordination or information can limit the success of community based initiatives, as well as a lack of financial resources. Again, this brings us back to the idea of local policy and tourism planning, which can help alleviate the strain if properly implemented.

Impact of Destination Management

Properly planning for tourists will help destinations prepare for the environmental impact that comes along with them. Tourists should be able to visit and participate in local experiences. However, in order for this to be a sustainable endeavour, greater importance must be placed on tourism management and the impact locals feel from visitors.