Can architecture solve the problem of touristification? What does this concept refer to? We are going to talk about a very trending topic: the influence of tourism in cities and how massification affects tourist environments in cities.
Overtourism as a global problem
Overtourism is a consequence of capitalism and touristification. This problem is not new. Overtourism is defined as an excessive growth of visitors, resulting in the overcrowding of areas where local population resides. These areas suffer permanent changes that affect lifestyles, services or the general well-being of the residents.
For example, in 2017, Barcelona accommodated 30 million tourists, when the resident population does not exceed 2 million people. Tourism affects and has an impact on local residents, and this impact is not exactly positive; it also causes damage to the landscape and natural environments of the touristically overcrowded areas.
In addition, excessive tourism brings a change in the real estate market, filling cities with tourist apartments. From the point of view of urban planning, touristification is a problem. This phenomenon occurs when tourist activity exceeds the capacity of an area, transforming it and leading to the loss of the features and character that make it attractive.
Overtourism is a consequence of touristification, and vice versa. It is a loop fed by the excess of tourists arriving in cities, which has effects on tourist accommodations in cities, that change under the new forms of supply and demand.
Tourist accommodations, as Airbnb, have emerged as a way to meet a need and have become a collaborative economy phenomenon that creates a new model in the touristic offer. This format attracts investors who compete with the most traditional and necessary rents for families and young people in the cities.
This situation causes population movements to the periphery, evictions encouraged by the massive purchase of apartments destined for this new form of tourism, and an uprooting of the city center, turning it into a "weekend" area. The pressure of the real estate market, the impact on local economies, the lack of public space, the change in the supply of stores in overcrowded tourist areas, and even excessive noise, expel residents to other quieter areas.
How to control overtourism
Touristification deteriorates the quality of life in tourist destinations. For this reason, a series of measures are necessary to minimize the effect of excessive tourism. We will list now some measures that could be implemented to control the overcrowding of tourism.
Precise legislation of this issue
Regulations must respond to these problems. Legislation must put an end to a problem that so negatively affects large cities, limiting tourist apartment licenses or reducing daily visitors to tourist areas, for instance.
Information about responsible tourism
Other types of tourism, such as ecotourism, are aimed at preserving the natural environment. But it is necessary to inform and educate about other types of tourism, where you can do outdoor sports or enjoy natural areas full of flora and fauna. Especially in times of pandemic, where being able to maintain social distance and staying outdoors is something highly valued and demanded by tourists.
Boosting the local economy
Touristification has caused local businesses be to transformed into tourism-focused businesses. From more traditional sectors, such as agriculture, they are moving to the service sector, driven by an excess of tourists seeking other types of services. All this makes some areas completely dependent on tourism, which causes an impoverishment of the inhabitants and a shortage of local products. Administrations should promote the local economy, with aid and subsidies that enrich these areas beyond tourism activities.
The idea is to spread tourism beyond the most crowded places or times of the year. However, this is only possible in some cases. Iconic and landmarked places always attract people, but it is necessary to protect areas that tend to be saturated, while other less visited areas are promoted.
There is a contradiction when tourists are invited to visit a central area and then, they are not allowed to enter, because it is too crowded. Before doing that, it is necessary to adopt a preventive approach to access control.
Touristification after the pandemic
One of the positive aspects of the pandemic is that it has temporarily paused the massive affluence of tourists to cities, which has allowed us to perceive them again as they were before this phenomenon spread globally.
This historic moment is also an extraordinary opportunity for cities like Venice, Barcelona and many others, to reinvent themselves, or to find a balance that allows them to combine healthy lifestyles for their citizens with the reception of visitors from all over the world.
The Master of Advanced Studies in Collective Housing is a professional and international postgraduate programme that is developed on a full-time basis, dealing with advanced architectural design in the city and housing. It is designed and taught jointly by the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH).
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