By Frank Martin
TTC Service.- Overtourism has essentially gone mainstream around the world. Occurs when there are too many visitors to a particular destination.
But now a parallel trend called undertourism is playing out in some emerging destinations that are framing themselves as peaceful yet exciting alternatives to the packed streets of other cities.
According to Skift Megatrends 2019 “undertourism” enters the industry’s collective consciousness, offbeat destinations or those with new stories to tell are marketing immersive experiences that build relationships with people, places, culture, and community over Instagram-worthy photo ops and mass touring.
Of course undertourism is an inadequate level of tourism.
Some experts see both concepts as antagonistic to each other. They think that the real issue is how the tourism industry make sure that it harness the great positive impacts of tourism and manage the negative impacts successfully.
The British expert Dr James Kennell wrote in his web site that examples from UK seaside towns and around the world suggest that the real danger facing most destinations is actually undertourism.
In parks and protected areas inadequate funding and maintenance leads to low visitation which leads to declining social and financial investment which leads to abandonment.
Entire national destinations, like certain countries, may suffer the same problem in much greater terms.
Destinations used to be satisfied with meeting visitor arrivals and spending goals that they set for the year and left areas such as economic development and destination management to other organizations.
Skift, a media company founded in 2012 that provides news, research, and marketing services for the travel industry added in its web site that in recent years, overtourism has turned the destination marketing model on its head as many organizations realize their responsibility to either manage visitor growth before it’s out of control or make a plan to not become the next Barcelona or Venice.
“In the short term, this might mean forgoing some revenue. But more destinations are acknowledging that a handful of affluent travelers are better than many cash-strapped tourists, and having the right plan increases the high spenders’ likelihood to return.
Destinations increasingly say that they’re committed to spreading tourism beyond congested areas to neighborhoods in need of tourism spending, or grow tourism during less popular seasons.
“But the dispersal approach, if successful, only marginally shifts the problem elsewhere rather than solving it” the Skift analysis underlined.
Multiple destinations activate undertourism messaging in recent years.
Oslo, for example, launched a campaign in 2017 that focused on “rescuing” tourists from popular cities like Paris and bringing them to Norway’s capital where museums generally lack crowds, restaurant reservations are easy to get, and public parks have plenty of free space.
Global tourism arrivals hit 1.3 billion in 2017, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, and tourism arrivals have grown for seven straight years since the official end of the 2008 to 2009 global financial crisis.
Post-financial crisis, many governments turned to tourism to help reverse course on their flagging economies, and that strategy helped to make tourism the largest industry in a tiny place like Iceland, which Skift covered in-depth in 2016.
“The answer for these and other destinations is not to undersell because of overtourism but to adopt smart strategies for marketing the alternatives that tourists didn’t know they loved”, Skift added.