Why is this in the news now?
Visitor numbers have been rising steadily for decades, as anyone who lives in a popular tourist city, or who has visited certain beaches or landmarks, will attest. Currently, there are around two billion tourist arrivals per year – a figure which is growing at a steady six percent.
Overtourism is, therefore, not a new problem. However, while the term itself was coined in 2012, it did not hit the headlines until the summer of 2017. This was not because of the increase in tourist numbers, which had not been particularly dramatic. What made the news in 2017 was the sudden backlash from local residents, which had not happened before on any large scale. There had been a slow drip feed of tourism into cities such as Barcelona, Venice and Dubrovnik, into places one thought of as remote such as Iceland and Skye, and finally, as the balance tipped and this new concept was given a name, the protests spread. There were marches in the streets, graffiti saying “Tourist go home”, and in some cases local authorities responded by increasing fees, refusing to issue permits for more tourist-focused businesses in city centres, and even closing entire islands to visitors. It was these responses which made the news.