Tourism’s golden eggs at risk

Fretting about the damaging impacts of excessive tourism — also known as over-tourism — is quite needless in Ireland, where the industry works hard to ensure that each year’s overseas arrivals figure is a record — 10m in 2018 — and where the sector generates annually close to €8bn in revenue and keeps 260,000 people in jobs. 

Over-tourism is unlikely to be an item on Fáilte Ireland’s agenda any time soon. 

Its challenges are to diversify tourism regionally and seasonally, which would spread wealth and ease pressures on Dublin, Cork, Galway, Kerry, and Clare; protect the sector from the hard knocks that might come from a Brexit that leaves sterling permanently weaker; and help the tourism and hospitality industry cope with this year’s hike in value added tax, from 9% to 13.5%.

It is a topic that might interest holidaymakers, as they realise, year by year, that their favourite overseas destinations are not quite as charming as they once were, and that the welcome they get is not as wholehearted as it used to be. 

We are seeing revolts of one kind or another — hotel bed taxes, islands closed, bans on unlicensed rental accommodation, restrictions on cruise liners, “Tourists go home” protests — against tourism in some of the planet’s most favoured locations. 

A 2019 study, ‘Destinations at Risk: The Invisible Burden of Tourism,’ by The Travel Foundation and Cornell University, explains the causes of a trend seen in Asia, Europe, Africa, and Latin America. 

If the places everyone wants to see are not protected, irreplaceable cultural wonders and community life will be at risk, putting in danger a global tourism industry valued at almost €2tn.

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