Has Covid-19 ended overtourism for good?

(CNN) — Overtourism was the journey buzzword of 2019, as locations across the globe, from the mountain climbing trails of Machu Picchu to the canals of Venice, battled the affect of throngs of tourists.

Amid all of the planning, predicting and projecting, there’s one factor these locations could not envisage: the journey business grinding to a screeching halt as Covid-19 unfold internationally.

Travel bans, quarantines and nationwide lockdowns have compelled most vacationers to remain residence, and locations that beforehand struggled with too many vacationers have been left reeling.

But is overtourism actually over for good? CNN Travel checked in with locals and officers from a few of the world’s hottest vacationer spots to search out out what it is like on the bottom in these once-bustling locations.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Tourists in Dubrovnik in July 2020.

IVAN VUKOVIC/AFP by way of Getty Images

A sea of terracotta purple roofs, a fortress-like Old Town and an affiliation with some of the fashionable TV collection of the 2010s led the Croatian capital of Dubrovnik to witness a surge in tourism numbers lately.

Alongside vacationers who flew in for lengthy weekends, Dubrovnik additionally noticed footfall from 1000’s of cruise ship passengers who disembarked for the day, flooding town’s Old Town and leaving by dusk.

Over the previous couple of years, mayor Mato Franković and different metropolis officers vowed to get the scenario below management, as town featured in “Game of Thrones” grew to become more and more packed.

New laws got here into place in 2019 to limit the variety of cruise ships within the metropolis’s previous port to only two at a time, the results of a partnership with the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).

A ban on new outside eating places was also proposed, and 80% of town’s memento outlets had been shuttered.

As 2020 started, officers questioned whether or not such new guidelines would make an affect.

Then in March, the pandemic hit Europe. Croatia closed its borders and the vacationers stopped coming.

When Dubrovnik left lockdown in early summer time and tourism tentatively restarted, the vacationers returning to Dubrovnik had been largely Croatians on staycations. It wasn’t till flights began up once more in the summertime that worldwide guests started to return.

But it wasn’t to final — Covid numbers started to rise once more and tourism declined as soon as extra.

“The UK put us on the red list, and then it went all down again. The airlines just one by one cut the number of flights,” Dubrovnik’s deputy mayor Jelka Tepšić tells CNN Travel. “Without flights and without the UK market, Dubrovnik has very low tourist figures.”

Local tour information Ivan Vukovic says it has been unusual to see Dubrovnik so quiet, despite the fact that he is loved the break from massive crowds.

“The atmosphere this summer is the atmosphere like in the 90s, when the war was going on, only the grenades were not flying all over our heads,” he tells CNN Travel.

The metropolis might have grown from the ashes of struggle right into a thriving tourism vacation spot — maybe too thriving, in lots of locals’ eyes — however now the query is whether or not it may well use the disaster of Covid-19 as an opportunity to reset.

“The atmosphere this summer is the atmosphere like in the 90s, when the war was going on, only the grenades were not flying all over our heads”

Ivan Vukovic, Dubrovnik tour information

Tepšić says the cruise guidelines — and Dubrovnik’s different overtourism restrictions — won’t be relaxed when worldwide flights recommence and town encourages guests to return.

Dubrovnik needs to make it clear to future guests that town takes each overtourism — and the virus — critically.

“At the entrance of the Old City, we have a big banner warning people to wear masks, to keep distance, to wash hands, use the sanitizers etc. and beside those rules, we have the Respect the City program rules as well,” says Tepšić.

Unlike most European locations, Croatia is allowing Americans to go to — so long as they current a adverse Covid-19 PCR check that is no older than 48 hours. An absence of flights makes this tough for the typical American to benefit from, however some elite vacationers with entry to non-public jets are benefiting from it.

Luxury tourism, says Tepšić, is one thing town will proceed to give attention to going ahead.

That mentioned, metropolis officers and people within the non-public sector are eager for all types of tourists to return — they only need a extra sustainable, centered future.

The purpose, says tour information Vukovic, is not a return to overtourism — it is “some kind of ‘normal’ tourism, if possible.”

Barcelona, Spain

A Barcelona restaurant sits empty on July 27, 2020.

A Barcelona restaurant sits empty on July 27, 2020.

Cesc Maymo/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images

The Catalan metropolis of Barcelona, with its hovering Gaudi spires, sandy seashore and al fresco bars, has been a tourism hotspot because the 1992 Olympic diving competitors showcased town’s magnificence to worldwide audiences.

Today, tourism generates between 12 to 14% of town’s GDP and 9% of total employment, says Xavier Marcé, Barcelona City Council’s councilor for Tourism and Creative Industries.

But lately, metropolis officers and locals, worn down by overtourism, have began re-examining this reliance on vacation enterprise.

The pandemic has served to additional reinforce the significance of making areas within the metropolis heart that may be loved by locals in addition to vacationers, Marcé tells CNN Travel.

The eating places and companies in Barcelona’s Ciutat Vella have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, he explains.

Prior to Covid-19, Barcelona had launched a collection of measures designed to fight a few of the throes of overtourism.

The metropolis clamped down on trip leases, launched a tourism tax and inspired vacationers to go to neighborhoods exterior the overcrowded previous city.

Marcé says Barcelona will “maintain its firmness intact” in the case of these administration methods.

There are not any plans to alter the best way town clamps down on unlawful leases or vacationer habits — “although logically, the decrease in activity has led to a reduction in incidents in these areas,” provides the councilor.

Following the top of its strict lockdown, Barcelona solely had a short window during which worldwide vacationers might simply go to, earlier than Spain discovered itself on different nations’ quarantine lists.

By September, worldwide tourism was down by 77%.

Today, town, like others in Europe, is struggling to quash a recent surge of Covid-19 circumstances, and a nighttime curfew is in place to attempt to cease rising figures.

Marcé says he is not frightened about tourism failing to get better sooner or later, however he emphasizes the significance of avoiding the pitfalls of the previous.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu covid

Machu Picchu has been largely off limits to guests because the starting of the pandemic.

PERCY HURTADO/AFP by way of Getty Images

The well-known Inca citadel of Machu Picchu is atop many vacationers’ bucket lists, because of these hovering views of archaeological wonders framed by verdant mountains.

But for a lot of 2020, Peru’s most well-known landmark was out of bounds.

The South American nation went right into a strict lockdown on March 15, which lasted via June.

In the summer time, it was introduced that Machu Picchu would open to home tourism, however this didn’t materialize as Covid circumstances in Peru rose.

Sarah Miginiac, common supervisor for South America at journey firm G Adventures, who lives in Peru, tells CNN Travel that tourism operators have been working carefully with Peru’s Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Environment to ascertain new protocols to maintain guests to Machu Picchu Covid-secure — and guarantee vacationer numbers stay below management.

Since then, vacationers should pre-book tickets which are legitimate for as much as 4 hours. Under this method 5,000 folks can full the trek per day.

When Machu Picchu reopens, this quantity might be minimize additional with the intention to guarantee social distancing.

“The new rule is that there’s going to be only 75 persons allowed in Machu Picchu at a time,” says Miginiac. “The size of the group is going to be a maximum of seven people, plus a guide — we’re going from over 5,000 to only 675 per day.”

Ensuring vacationers return to Machu Picchu in a extra sustainable manner can be key, with Miginiac suggesting that the present restrictions on customer numbers might present a possibility to advertise different lovely, lesser recognized locations inside Peru.

Venice, Italy

A couple takes a selfie in Venice's normally bustling St. Mark's Square on October 3, 2020.

A pair takes a selfie in Venice’s usually bustling St. Mark’s Square on October 3, 2020.

MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/AFP by way of Getty Images

A go to to the Italian metropolis has lengthy been a preferred metropolis break, however as vacationer numbers have soared over the previous decade, locals have more and more fought again — protesting the cruise ships within the metropolis’s lagoon and vocalizing worries that Venice might turn into a theme-park-version of itself.

Various laws and new guidelines designed to deal with the inflow of tourists have been launched through the years — together with bans on new accommodations and metropolis heart quick meals spots. A steep entry price for day-trippers on fashionable dates was set to launch in July 2020, however in the end postponed.

On high of its overtourism woes, final yr the Italian metropolis battled catastrophic floods.

Northern Italy grew to become one of many first European areas to really feel the brunt of Covid-19 in late February.

Venice went into lockdown and so started months with no vacationers.

When worldwide borders reopened in the summertime, customer numbers had been nowhere close to akin to earlier years.

For some locals, it was the weird end result of what they’d been dreaming of for years — simply in horrible circumstances.

“Everyday life is a lot more pleasant without the congestion created by the crowds of tourists that came in large groups”

Jane da Mosto, Venice resident

“Everyday life is a lot more pleasant without the congestion created by the crowds of tourists that came in large groups,” says Venetian Jane da Mosto, co-founder and government director at We Are Here Venice, a non-profit affiliation that is been campaigning for a number of years to reclaim Venice for locals.

As in Dubrovnik, cruise ships grew to become a moot level because the business shut down.

Pre-Covid, an estimated 32,000 cruise ship passengers visited Venice per day and plenty of campaigners had been actively discussing their affect on town.

Fewer vacationers means “the beauty of the city, it’s architecture, water and views is much more evident,” da Mosto tells CNN Travel.

“But it has come at an enormous cost – a lot of people are out of work, shops aren’t selling much and the cultural sector has been drastically affected,” she provides.

Expert view: Tourism will bounce again

A woman walks along Kuta Beach on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on August 15, 2020.

A lady walks alongside Kuta Beach on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on August 15, 2020.

SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP/AFP by way of Getty Images

Many different locations across the phrase — from historic cities like Amsterdam and Prague to magnificence spots like Thailand’s Maya Bay and the seashores of Bali, Indonesia — have additionally suffered the implications of too many vacationers lately.

Now, they too are struggling the implications of a scarcity of tourists.

And whereas overtourism might need wreaked havoc on locations, the phenomenon additionally adopted some predictable patterns: a vacation spot grew to become fashionable, folks flocked there, the vacation spot struggled to manage, options — some efficient, some much less so — had been proposed.

Covid-19, nevertheless, is just not notably predictable, not less than not in the long run.

This, says Tony Johnston, head of tourism on the Althone Institute of Technology in Ireland, makes planning for the longer term tough.

“The [tourism] industry is an industry which has traditionally relied on very stable and very predictable models of growth,” he tells CNN Travel. “And that’s just been completely removed.

“Nobody is aware of how the following six months, 12 months and even longer-term future goes to look — so it’s totally tough for policymakers to plan, and really tough for the business facet of the business to plan.”

Johnston posits that no matter a destination’s intentions now, when and if the Covid threat is mitigated, it’ll be difficult for planners and policy makers to juggle pressure from industry lobby to bring tourists back quickly, while avoiding a return to the overtouristed problems of the past.

That said, there will be some travelers who will remain unwilling or unable to travel again, whether due to health concerns or considerations of their carbon footprint.

Still, there’s a reason these destinations were overtouristed to begin with — a lot of people want to visit them.

That’s not likely to change irrevocably, even if numbers take a while to stabilize. After all, if you’ve never visited Venice, living through a global pandemic might make you wonder why you never got around to it.

“Bucket checklist journey places are going to be one of many issues that stimulate the restoration, for certain, folks will need to do issues instantly, as soon as they’ve a possibility to take action,” suggests Johnston.

The tourism industry is “very unstable, however very, very resilient, and really adaptable,” he provides.

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