In 2018, the Oxford English Dictionary made "overtourism," one of its words of the year -- it's defined as an excessive number of visitors heading to famous locations, damaging the environment and having a detrimental impact on resident's lives.

Overtourism, describes a situation where a place has more visitors than its infrastructure can support. From the outside, it conjures up images of crowds around the Mona Lisa or the cruise ships looming in Venice’s harbour. But for people living in places suffering from overtourism, the reality can be more traumatic. Whole apartment blocks in Barcelona’s historic neighbourhoods have been transformed into identikit Airbnb listings. Locals in New Orleans’ French Quarter describe being gaped at like zoo animals.

Think of  overtourism in terms of the health of the destination, which includes locals as a stakeholder.  When there are too many tourists, locals can no longer live a life that feels authentic to that destination and it is an impediment to living in a  place. At the worst point of overtourism long stay visitors are scared away and day visiting with little or no economic or cultural benefit to the region displace the overnight visitors. 


“Eduardo Lafforgue considered a seemingly unanswerable question: How do you decide when your town is attracting more tourists than it can handle?

“I don’t have the magic answer,” he says. “If I did, I would sell the formula to Venice, Barcelona, and some other places that desperately need to know when to stop.”

Lafforgue runs the chamber of commerce of Niagara-on-the-Lake, a picturesque Canadian town a few miles north of Niagara Falls. In the summer months, it is thronged with tourists, who fill its painfully pretty main street, snapping photos of ice-cream cones and hanging baskets. In previous years, the town of 17,500 people has welcomed 3.5 million visitors – almost twice as many per capita as Venice. Lafforgue hesitates to call it overtourism, but the volume of visitors in recent years has been enough to vex local residents, who tell stories of picnickers setting up in their backyard, or taking their lounge furniture off the front porch.”

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