Hit by a Tourist Boom, Cities Wonder When to Stop Self-Promotion



A tourist takes a photo of the Vancouver skyline. The Canadian city expects 10 million visitors this year.

Vancouver, BC—It’s early morning when the first cruise liner of the day approaches Vancouver’s waterfront. The vessel is one of more than 230 similar ships that will dock here this year, adding its passengers to the stream of 10 million overnight guests that the Western Canada city will host this year.

From now until the end of the summer season, Vancouver will be at 95 percent tourism capacity, according to Gwendal Castellan, manager of Sustainable Destination Development at Tourism Vancouver. That is presenting him and his colleagues with a once-unthinkable challenge: Do they just stop promoting the city?

“We’ve been watching this happen all over the world,” Castellan says. “We haven’t hit those edges [of oversaturation] yet, but we’re not far off.”

The global tourism boom that’s inundated legacy destinations like Venice, Amsterdam, and Barcelona has birthed a term—overtourism—to describe the harried state of a city besieged by too many visitors. A recent report by the World Travel and Tourism Council, Destination 2030, looked at cities’ readiness for tourism growth and concluded that Vancouver, as well as other traditional favorites Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris, Prague, Rome, San Francisco, Stockholm, and Toronto, had “visitor volumes and activities with potential to cause strain on the city.”

In Vancouver, some signs of this strain can already be seen as the summer tourist season heats up. Quarry Rock, a community hiking trail in North Vancouver, became an international destination seemingly overnight, drawing tour buses that local parking lots were never intended to accommodate. The sudden popularity led to gridlock and community tension, with signs for miles away warning that the trailhead was full and people should turn back. New parking laws, fines, and overflow areas have attempted to curb some of the crowds. And Tourism Vancouver has stopped promoting the trail altogether in response to residents’ and local officials’ requests.

For Castellan, the Quarry Rock problem was another sign of how visitors who come to Vancouver to enjoy its abundance of natural areas can quickly come into conflict with residents who prize a certain amount of serenity. In the city’s centerpiece downtown green space, Stanley Park, tourists are crowding bike trails and making rider etiquette a growing issue. “We have to ask, are we at the edge yet, when we need to move cyclists (off the trails and onto the streets)?” Castellan asked. “The challenge is, what is the signal? You want to determine how to respond appropriately.”

Another challenge: where to put everyone. As in many cities, Vancouver has seen an explosion of house-sharing availability, thanks to the rise of services like Airbnb. But the number of hotel rooms in the city hasn’t kept pace with other major developments, including the expansion of the Vancouver Convention Center in 2009.

Vancouver has been trying to divert city visitors into nearby communities that could also use the tourist dollars: Castellan coordinates with the 13 surrounding towns and tourism boards to spread out the hotel rooms, promote attractions, and schedule signature events, often in the “shoulder season.” And the city is no longer promoting summer travel at all in any of their traditional or online marketing outreach, opting instead to focus on lesser-traveled seasons.  

In the Pacific Northwest, one key that helps cities manage their tourism flows is to collaborate with former regional competitors. During last summer’s fire season, for example, Oregon officials worked with counterparts in California and Washington to redirect visitors away from smoke-shrouded attractions.“A lot of our visitors are the same. They’re probably driving from San Francisco up to Portland, or vice versa, and we need to provide the resources they need,” says Linea Gagliano director of global communications for Travel Oregon. “Fire and smoke doesn’t care about borders, so why do we care about borders?”

Overtourism mitigation is old hat in Europe, and the continent’s municipal marketers have pioneered a host of tactics for controlling crowds. In the tiny city-state of Monaco, for example, tourism boosters aim their promotional efforts only at visitors who can stay in the limited stock of Monte Carlo hotels: “The Monaco Government Tourist Authority does not develop the sector of day-trippers that is only fed by the notoriety and events in the Principality,” Guy Antognelli, general manager of the Monaco Government Tourist and Convention Authority, told CityLab. All tour buses into Monte Carlo are managed by a control center that allocates hours of entry and exit, and they’re banned entirely from the city center.

Vienna’s tourist office on Albertinaplatz, meanwhile, is equipped with a “random experience generator,” which directs visitors to less-heralded attractions. The Netherlands has stopped all tourism promotion and is contemplating shutting down certain Amsterdam tourist attractions entirely. Bruges has capped its daily cruise ship allowance from five to two, and like Monte Carlo, is attempting to dramatically reduce the number of day-trippers by yanking advertisements from Paris and Brussels.

Similar techniques to dissuade, disperse, or delay visitors are showing up in North American cities hit by the tourism boom. In visitor-jammed New York City, the National Park Service has banned commercial tour groups from Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, citing overcrowding and “bad behavior” among guides and visitors alike. In San Francisco, a new bill would charge a toll to tourists who want to wind down its famously crooked Lombard Street, an effort to curb the long lines that block traffic and disturb residents in the tony Marina neighborhood.

Surge pricing, ticketing, and reservations at the most-visited attractions, along with smarter planning and management, can help with crowd control. When Sacramento, which has grown into a major culinary and wine destination, started its Farm-to-Fork Festival in 2013, 20,000 people came; last year, more than 130,000 showed up. To accommodate the ballooning crowds, officials expanded the festival’s footprint, added an extra evening, and pushed taking mass transit or biking to the event. “The extra space can go a long way for guest experience; it keeps vendors from being on top of one another and allows attendees to navigate the event without feeling trampled by their fellow visitors,” says Visit Sacramento president Mike Testa. “We’ve been able to alleviate some of the congestion that comes with increasing popularity.”

To avoid overcrowding in Washington, D.C., which drew a record 21.9 million visitors in 2018, officials are trying to get tour groups to explore off the beaten path. “We’ve been making great strides to get people to come in and yes, and see the federal treasures, visit the Smithsonian Institutions, and go to the Capitol Visitor Center,” says Kate Gibbs, a spokesperson for Destination D.C. “But more and more our marketing is about, once you’ve done that, spend the next day or weekend exploring our neighborhoods. If you’ve been to the White House, go to Anacostia to visit the Frederick Douglass house, or President Lincoln’s Cottage in Petworth, which has an amazing view of Capitol.”

Back in Vancouver, city officials are listening closely to residents: At the beginning and end of every high season, the tourism board polls residents about the impact of tourism on their city. So far, Castellan says that the results have been consistently positive; if that were to change, he and his colleagues would recalibrate their strategies accordingly. But despite the growing crowds, they don’t plan to stop promoting Vancouver altogether.

“This is still a competitive environment,” Castellan says. “We can’t take our foot off the accelerator altogether.”  

WATCH: This tour is the #1 travel experience in the world, according to TripAdvisor (provided by Travel + Leisure)


  • UNESCO adds the sprawling Mesopotamian city of Babylon to its World Heritage List, boosting Iraq's hopes of revived tourism nearly two years after jihadists ravaged other celebrated sites. Iraq had been trying since 1983 to have the site -- a massive 10-square-kilometre complex of which just 18% has been excavated thus far -- recognised by UNESCO.UNESCO lists Iraq’s Babylon as World Heritage SiteSHOTLIST HILLA, IRAQJUNE 29, 2019SOURCE: AFPTV 1. Aerial shot ruins of the historical Mesopotamian city of Babylon in Hilla, Iraq HILLA, IRAQJUNE 22, 2019SOURCE: AFPTV 2. SOUNDBITE 1 – Qahtan al-Abeed, head of the Basra Antiquities Department (male, Arabic, 21 sec): “Babylon is a symbol of identity for the Iraqis. So the city is considered a part of the history of Iraq, whether it was from the humanistic, architectural, scientific, administrative, or legislative aspect. Until today, it still has an influence on Iraqi artists.” 3. Cutaway: Aerial shot ruins of the historical city of Babylon 4. Cutaway: Aerial shot animal engraved on the ruins of the historical city of Babylon 5. SOUNDBITE 2 – Farzad Salihi, visitor (male, English, 17 sec): “From the time I was very small, and as a kid, in our schools, we have heard about Babylon and its ancient history. So it was the first time I came here, with my friends, I came here to see what was the history of Iraq.” 6. Pull focus exterior of the ruins of Babylon ///———————————————————–AFP TEXT STORY: WRAPUNESCO lists Iraq’s Babylon as World Heritage Site =(Picture)= Baghdad, July 5, 2019 (AFP) – UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee voted on Friday to list the sprawling Mesopotamian metropolis of Babylon as a World Heritage Site after three decades of lobbying efforts by Iraq.Iraq had been trying since 1983 to have the site — a massive 10-square-kilometre complex of which just 18 percent has been excavated thus far — recognised by UNESCO. Straddling Iraq’s Euphrates River about 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of Baghdad, the city was the centre of the ancient Babylonian empire more than 4,000 years ago.”What is the world heritage list without Babylon? How to tell the history of humanity without the earliest of old chapters, Babylon?” said Iraq’s representative to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee ahead of the vote. The committee met in Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku to consider Babylon and another 34 sites, including in Brazil and Burkina Faso, for the List.”It fills a gap that was evident on the list and indeed, this is a type of site that we can say this convention was actually designed to protect,” said Tunisia’s delegate.After the successful vote, Iraq’s delegation clasped hands and invited all delegates “to visit Babylon, the cradle of civilisation.” Babylon developed as a walled city of mudbrick temples and towers, known internationally for its hanging gardens, the Tower of Babel, and the Ishtar Gate.Excavation began there in the early 1800s and artefacts were sent abroad, including parts of the Ishtar Gate which remain in museums across Europe. – ‘Extremely vulnerable condition’ – The site was substantially impacted by new structures built under dictator Saddam Hussein and further damaged by soldiers during the US-led invasion that toppled him in 2003. UNESCO on Friday said the site’s “extremely vulnerable condition” sparked “serious concerns, with many structures in urgent need of conservation and several on the verge of collapse.”But it opted not to designate Babylon as a World Heritage Site in Danger after objections from Iraq, and instead said it would work with local authorities to set a plan of action for conservation. “Babylon is the largest populated city in ancient history,” said Qahtan al-Abeed, who heads the Basra Antiquities Department and led efforts to get the site listed. “The Babylonians were the civilisation of writing, administration and science,” he told AFP. The UNESCO designation “will encourage research and development of the site,” and would “be free publicity for tourists,” he added excitedly.Babylon is one of 7,000 archeological sites across Iraq, many of which were destroyed by the Islamic State group or ravaged by lucrative artefact smuggling.Five have been listed by UNESCO, including the Arbil citadel in northern Iraq and the southern Mesopotamian marshes.The three others are also on the agency’s “World Heritage in Danger” list and include Hatra, an ancient city in northern Nineweh province damaged by IS in 2014. Samarra, along the Tigris River, was added in 2007 and Ashur, the capital of the Assyrian empire, in 2003.Iraq has another 11 “tentative” sites hoping to be listed by UNESCO.After decades of back-to-back conflict, the country declared victory against IS in 2017 and is now basking in a period of relative calm.It has sought to attract both international investors and tourists, and hopes its prominence on UNESCO’s lists can do both.bur/mjg/rsc ————————————————————-AFP LogoAFP
  • a view of a mountain road10 road trips to take this summerSee the best that America has to offer from the open road. 1. Pacific Coast Highway Highway 1 stretches along much of the California Coast. Explore the outdoors with stops at Muir Woods and Big Sur. 2. Turquoise Trail Drive New Mexico State Road 14 between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Immerse yourself in Southwestern Culture where turquoise was first mined. 3. Historic Route 66 There is no other highway in the world as famous as this one. From Chicago to Los Angeles, there’s plenty of exploring to be done. 4. Great River Road This 3,000-mile road follows the Mississippi River. This road trip tells the tale of life along Ol’ Man River. 5.Sports Media Group LogoSports Media Group
  • a group of people standing in front of a building: A summer art installation in the US capital invites visitors to lounge on interactive hammocks featuring hidden speakers, and play croquet amid Corinthian columns on a 30,000-square-foot artificial lawn set within the National Building Museum’s Great Hall. The exhibition is open to the public from July 4 until September 2.A vast interactive lawn unveiled at Washington’s National Building MuseumSHOTLIST WASHINGTON, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, UNITED STATESJULY 3, 2019SOURCE: AFPTV 1. Tilt down Corinthian columns to hammocks 2. Mid shot feet of man lying in a hammock, people in the background 3. Wide shot children playing croquet on the artificial lawn 4. Mid shot children playing croquet on the artificial lawn 5. SOUNDBITE 1 – David Rockwell, founder of Rockwell Group, which designed ‘Lawn’ (male, English, 20 sec): “I was compelled by how lawns are an invitation. They’re an invitation to sit, roll. So that was the beginning of our process and everything beyond that was creating a world within a world complete with sounds, games, stories of summer, hammocks.” 6. Cutaway: Tilt down man playing cornhole / 7. Cutaway: Tilt down cornhole set / 8. Wide shot ‘Lawn’ installation 9. Pan right boy playing a video game while lying in a hammock 10. SOUNDBITE 2 – David Rockwell, founder of Rockwell Group, which designed ‘Lawn’ (male, English, 10 sec): “We live in an era where everything is Instagram, and that’s how we determine what something looks like. But I think this is a space that you have to experience by touching and rolling and being in it.” 11. Cutaway: Tilt down woman taking a picture of her friend sitting in a hammock / 12. Pull focus artificial lawn to peopleAFP LogoAFP

Travel + Leisure Logo
Source: Read Full Article