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Overtourism: Growth is not the Enemy, it is How we manage it

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Over 60 ministers of tourism and private sector leaders gathered on 7 November in London for the UNWTO / WTM Ministers’ Summit on ‘overtourism’. Moderated by CNN International’s Max Foster, the Summit concluded on the need for the tourism sector to engage more and better with local communities.

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Community engagement, communication, congestion management, adequate planning and product diversification were highlighted as key aspects in dealing with ‘overtourism’.

Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), said opening the Summit: “growth is not the enemy; numbers are not the enemy; the key is to manage the growth sustainably, responsibly and intelligently and use the power of growth to our advantage”.

“We cannot continue to build five-star hotels in three-star communities. Jobs and charity are not enough – we need to diversify visitors’ activities, reduce seasonality and raise awareness of less busy destinations” he added.

Participants agreed on the need to build awareness among communities of the benefits of the sector, improve the use of big data to measure and manage the impact of tourists and tourist flows, and promote the development of tourism experiences that engage and benefit communities directly.

The emergence of new platform tourism services, or the so called sharing-economy, was discussed at length, with participants recognizing that they will continue to expand and need to be understood and managed by destinations on a case-by-case basis.

Speakers in the Summit included:

H.E. Mr. Mauricio Ventura Aragón, Minister of Tourism, Costa Rica

H.E. Ms. Elena Kountoura, Minister of Tourism, Greece

Mr. Ryoichi Matsuyama, President, Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO)

H.E. Mr. Mohamed Sajid, Minister of Tourism, Air Transport, Handicraft and Social Economy, Morocco

H.E. Mr. Enrique de la Madrid, Secretary of Tourism, Mexico

H.E. Mr. Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), United Arab Emirates

H.E. Mr. John Glen, Minister of Arts Heritage and Tourism, United Kingdom   

Mr. Istvan Ujhelyi, Vice-Chair of the Committee on Transport and Tourism, European Parliament

Ms. Gloria Guevara, President and CEO, World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC)

Mr. Patrick Robinson, Head of Policy for EMEA, Airbnb

Ms. Inge Huijbrechts, Vice-President, Responsible Business, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group

Ms. Kate Gibson, Vice-President, Global Corporate Responsibility, Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG)

Mr. Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio, Chairman, Silversea Cruises