New Zealand's growing overtourism problem [New Zealand Listener, 08/01/20]
Visitor numbers have grown to 3.9 million annually. In five years, they’re expected to pass the five million mark, and urgent action is needed to avoid the fate of overseas hot spots.
A new word recently entered the English lexicon: overtourism. It describes a situation where the number of visitors to a tourist destination reaches the point where local inhabitants, and even tourists themselves, are negatively affected.
A less polite term is people pollution. From Stavanger, Norway, to Queenstown, New Zealand, local authorities are embracing the economic benefits of mass tourism while simultaneously wrestling with the infrastructural demands it creates and striving to mitigate the environmental and societal costs.
The statistics tell the story. Worldwide, an estimated 25 million people travelled internationally in the 1950s. Now, the figure is 1.5 billion and rising.
The global tourism boom has been brought about by the growth of the middle class, the availability of cheap flights and the proliferation of ever-larger cruise ships that sometimes penetrate the very hearts of environmentally vulnerable cities – witness Venice – and tower intimidatingly over the historic buildings that their passengers have come to admire.
Popular culture has come into play, too, notably the demand for travel to destinations made desirable by their use as locations for movies and television series.