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    20 June 2024

    2024 Travel Trends: 'Overtourism: The Importance of Promoting Sustainable Tourism'

    Hotelbeds overtourism

    Overtourism is when a destination receives too many visitors. According to McKinsey, 80% of travellers visit just 10% of the world’s tourist destinations. Such imbalanced numbers cause infrastructure problems, harm natural and cultural sites, and frustrate locals.


    A small town in Austria, Hallstatt is an example of a destination experiencing overtourism. Despite its population of 800, the town receives around 10,000 visitors per day in peak season. This caused the town’s locals to protest against overtourism, while holding signs saying “tourism yes, mass tourism no.”


    Similarly, around 250,000 people live in Venice, yet, the Italian city accommodates 20 million tourists per year. In 2024, Venice introduced a €5 fee for visitors who would like to access the city centre between 8:30am and 4pm during peak travel season. The main reason behind it was to reduce the congestion in the city, especially due to day-trippers who are exempt from the overnight tourist tax.


    Like Venice, other popular destinations implemented regulations in 2023 and 2024. Athens capped Acropolis visitors at 20,000 per day. Bali implemented a tourist tax of IDR 150,000 (around €9). And Amsterdam banned the construction of new hotels, to name a few.

    What are the risks of overtourism? 

    Overtourism poses risks to destinations and locals, while changing the travel experience for tourists and the booking experience for travel agents.


    Here is what happens:

    For destinations 

    In 2023, the Canary Islands welcomed 14.1 million foreign visitors, which locals found unsustainable given the islands’ limited resources and increasing prices. In a 2024 protest in Tenerife, a local said their rent was €800 while they earned a salary of €900. Another activist complained about short-term booking websites, saying they increased housing prices for locals, who now have to sleep in cars and caves.


    Besides increasing the prices for locals, overtourism may also damage the monuments and wildlife. The 20,000 visitor per day cap in Acropolis was put in for this exact reason, as the authorities wanted to protect the UNESCO World Heritage site. 

    For the environment

    In 2023, Peru announced it would suspend visits to Machu Picchu as overtourism caused erosion on some stone structures. Millions of people visit the ancient citadel every year, which is not sustainable in the long run. Later that year, Peru reopened Machu Picchu, but put visitor caps to protect it.


    The influx of too many tourists also means more pollution. Although Italy’s tourism industry was hard hit during the 2020 coronavirus lockdown, locals in Venice reported cleaner waters and better air quality, as there were no visitors.

    For travellers

    When travellers stand in long queues, experience visitor caps, and pay tourist taxes, they may get frustrated with the destination. This also reduces the authenticity of the travel experience, which is increasingly important for tourists. In a recent report, 47% of survey respondents said they’d like to connect with locals in less-travelled areas, and 56% said they wanted to explore off the beaten path. 


    For travel providers

    Destinations suffering from overtourism may disappoint your clients because of long queues and crowds. This can lead to negative reviews and dissatisfaction, damaging your reputation.


    In the eyes of some clients, recommending over-crowded destinations during peak season may appear inconsiderate, given the rise of sustainable tourism. According to recent studies, 43% of travellers feel guilty when they make less sustainable travel choices. Nearly half of survey respondents also believe travel service providers are responsible for addressing environmental factors, which include sustainable travel options.


    Want to know more about how we as a travel ecosystem player can take your business further? 


    Read more about how to offer comprehensive travel services with Hotelbeds here.

    Why should travel providers consider overtourism when promoting destinations?

    Did you know that 44% of travellers have said they were interested in visiting less-touristy spots? As the Vayable CEO Jamie Wong said, “People want to reclaim what’s real. Mass tourism is no longer sufficient.”


    Experiential travel is on the rise. Travellers are looking for experiences rather than just visiting hotspots. American Express’ Global Travel Trends Report found that 77% of travellers prioritise having the right travel experience over the cost of the trip. And for travel agents, it’s more difficult to hit the right spot with over-crowded destinations. With more off-the-beaten-path destinations, local activities, authentic experiences, and sustainable choices are more likely to happen.


    Tourism accounts for 8% of carbon emissions globally, and is set to recover from the pandemic. In Q1 2024, international travel reached 97% of pre-pandemic levels. Given that most people visit the same tourist destinations, the environment is at risk. To help clients make more responsible travel choices, educate them on the risks of overtourism.


    For example, Thailand’s Maya Bay, featured in Leonardo DiCaprio’s 2000 film The Beach, used to receive thousands of tourist boats every day. In 2018, it closed to tourists as the boats destroyed the area’s coral reefs. When it shut down, only 8% of its coral reefs were alive. The conservation efforts started paying off over the years, and in 2023, biologists reported that the coral reef population grew to 20-30%. Marine biologists estimate that it will take another 20 years for the coral reefs to become the way they were 50 years ago.


    These examples aren’t meant to put people off from travelling. Instead, they are meant to promote less-touristy beaches, eco-friendly hotels, and ethical tours that make tourism beneficial for everyone.

    How can travel providers find alternative destinations to better accommodate sustainable tourism?

    Work with Hotelbeds

    Travel providers can use tools and analytics to learn more about emerging destinations that are gaining popularity but are not yet overcrowded. 


    For example, our Hotelbeds Booking Engine lets you discover hotels, vacation rentals, transfers, tickets, and experiences. Our expansive portfolio provides options from over 170 countries around the world, making it possible to book holidays in alternative destinations.


    With Hotelbeds, you’ll also get access to Insights, a search and recommendation tool. It gives personalised recommendations on trending destinations, the most popular activities, and alternatives depending on your clients’ needs. This empowers travel providers with bespoke recommendations, improved growth opportunities and a way to keep an eye on the competition.


    Plus, Insights highlights the destinations that offer the best growth opportunity for travel providers in your specific market, which provides a framework of consideration for your destination marketing strategy; including where you want to subvert these typical expectations within your audience, and offer closely-mirrored alternatives to delight, surprise and cater for travellers looking for hidden gems.


    We have an expansive portfolio, within our Booking Engine, of 200,000+ hotels, 18,000 experiences for all sorts of travellers and destinations — including the lesser-known ones. Not only this, but you'll join a connected network of 66,000 travel distributors, all benefiting from our end to end services as a ecosystem player in the travel industry.


    Understand Traveller Needs

    For travel providers liaising directly with the end customers, or with channels of communication that reaches this audience, it's worth thinking about what recommendations will speak to travellers in different regions, countries, demographics and your bespoke targeting segments.


    Ask yourself these questions:

    • What type of experience are they looking for? - Are they looking for a vibrant culinary travel or ecotourism experience? Or are they in the mood for a city-scape?
    • Where have they enjoyed staying before - and are they looking for something similar?
    • What were they unsatisfied with in their last destination? - Understanding any unsatsifactory aspects of their trip, and how overtourism may have played into this, will help you provide a more satsifactory recommendation


    When formulating a destination marketing strategy, consider promoting alternative destinations to those firm favourites, for a better experience for travellers, and increased booking opportunities. Gone are the days when travellers were happy to settle for a superficial look at their destination of choice, 2024's travel trends (and beyond) suggest that today's (and tomorrow's) traveller wants to get under the skin of wherever they go, to understand the culture, the environment, and the people there.


    Instead of the usual Paris city center stay for a romantic getaway, why not consider suggesting Reims? Situated in the renowned Champagne region of Paris and just a short day-trip away from the city, this charming town provides a romantic ambiance featuring breathtaking Champagne houses and Gothic architecture.


    For urban enthusiasts who have been eyeing vibrant metropolises such as Tokyo, Hong Kong, or Seoul, Taipei stands out as a compelling alternative in Asia. The city boasts a rich cultural heritage, bustling night markets, and breathtaking scenic spots like Beitou and Maokong.


    For travelers looking for an adventurous yet sustainable experience, Costa Rica's cloud forests offer a life-changing and eco-friendly option. With three protected nature reserves - Monteverde, Santa Elena, and Bosque Eterno de los Niños - that showcase a wide variety of wildlife, extensive hiking trails, and rich biodiversity, this destination is a wonderful place to explore Costa Rica's ecosystems while supporting their sustainable initiatives.


    By booking these alternative destinations, you’re more likely to offer authentic experiences and sustainable options, away from the crowds of destinations experiencing overtourism. Everyone benefits from the experience — you offer an unforgettable travel experience, travellers have an amazing trip, less densely visited areas get an economic boost, and the popular destinations experience a reduction in the strain caused by mass tourism.


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    A Guide To 2024 Travel Trends for Travel Providers

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