Overwhelmed by their own success

The problem is that wherever large numbers of tourists go, difficulties soon follow. Take the scenic cove in Thailand popularized by the movie The Beach, which has now been forced to close indefinitely following extensive ecological damage to corals, seawater and plant life. Or Venice, which is planning to reroute cruise ships to other ports to avoid damage from overcrowding.

In Barcelona, the annual influx of visitors – 32 million versus the city’s 1.2 million residents – has caused a groundswell of anti-tourist sentiment among locals. Competition for accommodation has driven up real-estate prices and crowds have overwhelmed the city’s coastal areas, in some cases accelerating shore erosion.

For these destinations and elsewhere, learning how to manage the flow of people is key. The report suggests various ways to do this, such as encouraging visitors to come at off-peak times, consulting residents about tourism-related policy decisions, and charging visitors a fee for entry, as has started happening in Venice. On the other side of the world, New Zealand and the island of Palau even made the bold move of asking new arrivals to sign an eco-pledge in order to safeguard their embattled ecosystems.

But one of the most important strategies outlined by this latest Travel and Tourism report centres on infrastructure. The surest way for a country to benefit from its tourist industry, it explains, is to invest in infrastructure that keeps the needs of local residents as well as visitors in mind.