OpScoop Chapter II Issue V: Administering crowds and organizing overpopulated tourist destinations!

Travel and tourism is an ever-expanding stakeholder of the global economy as it already accounts for 10.2 percent of global GDP, and 292 million jobs. Due to expanding global middle class, improved digital and physical connectivity, and human curiosity the sector is bound to grow even more rapidly. If we could spread out the travellers around the world evenly, tourism would be relatively easy to absorb. That is not possible, not even in the future which is sufficed by the fact that by 2020, the 20 most popular countries will add more international travellers than the rest of the world combined.

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Hence, the occurrences of imbalances in cities and individual sites such as the overcrowding in popular places like Thailand’s Koh Khai Islands, Peru’s Machu Picchu, and Venice have raised eyebrows of the local authorities who are worrying about the side effects of the tourism they depend on. Hence it is the need of the hour to come up with a data-driven diagnostic to help destination leaders identify and address the challenges they face so that it is facile enough for the destinations to prevent overcrowding in the first place than to recover from it. Therefore, good planning and management will make sure that long-term success can be attained. The main priorities are a) Building a comprehensive fact base and updating it regularly, b) Establishing a sustainable growth strategy through rigorous, long-term planning, c) Involve all sections of society—commercial, public, and social and d) finding new sources of funding.

These are the top five strategies or approaches for destinations already struggling with overcrowding: a) during harrowing situations, limit access and activities to protect natural and cultural integrity, b) introducing variable or tiered pricing so as to adjust pricing to balance supply and demand, c) smoothing the effect by incentivizing travel during nonpeak times of day, season, and year through actions such as surge-ticketing and keeping a limit on arrivals, d) Introducing regulations on home-sharing and additional hotel rooms to fine tune accommodation shortages and e) developing new attractions and promoting less-popular sites and areas to spread travellers across sites. These suggestions are just the beginning as this should kindle conversations among government leaders, tourism businesses, and residents. It is always better to prevent overcrowding rather than finding ways to manage it.

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