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The tourism tipping point—Venice, Rome, Barcelona, Croatia, and US National Parks

Rialto bridge, Venice, Italy

When the economic upside of tourism is threatened by the downside of large numbers of tourists.

The UN World Tourism Organization has declared 2017 to be the year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. The premise is that tourism can serve as a primary catalyst for economic growth and development as long as proper planning efforts consider the negative impacts of increasing the numbers of tourists that require expanded infrastructure that could threaten heritage sites and the local or regional culture of a tourist destination. In 2016, international tourism reached record numbers, with the UNWTO recording 1.2 billion international tourism arrivals, nearly a 4% increase over the previous year.

In some countries, tourism development can cause tension between the desire for economic development (the realm of Ministries of Tourism) and the need to protect heritage sites (the realm of Ministries of Culture), and particularly in less developed countries, the desire for economic growth is seen to outweigh the need for protective measures for heritage sites. In some cases, however, the growth of tourism is reaching a tipping point, whereby local populations are beginning to campaign for greater restrictions on the numbers of tourists allowed to visit. In other cases, it is not just the number of tourists but their behavior that has become a flashpoint for protests.

Below are links to some recent articles highlighting these issues. Venetians recently voted to ban cruise ships. Anti-tourism protests are spreading across Europe to cities such as Venice, Rome, Barcelona, and Dubrovnik. Italy has begun instituting extreme procedures to control not just bad tourist behavior but a variety of civil activities by local citizens. And even US National Parks are seeking to stem the damage from record numbers of visitors. And then there is Cuba, with new opportunities to increase tourism stemming from relaxed US policies toward the island nation.


Venice, Invaded by Tourists, Risks Becoming ‘Disneyland on the Sea’

By Jason Horowitz

The New York Times

August 2, 2017

‘Imagine living with this crap’: tempers in Venice boil over in tourist high season

By Angela Giuffrida

The Guardian

July 22, 2017

Venetians vote to ban giant cruise ships from city's lagoon

By Nick Squires

The Telegraph

June 19, 2017

First Venice and Barcelona: now anti-tourism marches spread across Europe

By Will Coldwell

The Guardian

August 10, 2017

Why Is Italy Banning Everything?

By Feargus O’Sullivan


July 31, 2017

Croatian Island Wants Tourists Who Don’t Behave Badly

By Rick Lyman

The New York Times

August 8, 2017

How A Surge in Visitors Is Overwhelming America’s National Parks

By Jim Robbins

Yale Environment 360

July 31, 2017

Trump’s Cuba policy seeks to redefine ‘good’ U.S. tourism.” That includes putting tourists back on tour buses.

By Nick Miroff

The Washington Post

June 17, 2017

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