Study: How tourists react to overtourism

It’s time for holidays, but not everyone is looking forward to it: More and more people are complaining about the masses of tourists flooding holiday destinations. For the first time, the IUBH has investigated the “overtourism” phenomenon from the perspective of travellers.


“Overtourism” means that “too many” tourists flock to the same holiday destination. Consequently, not only the locals feel disrupted in their everyday lives, but also the visitors’ holiday experience suffers. IUBH University of Applied Sciences has investigated the reaction of travellers to overtourism. The study is based on the answers of 384 people to an online questionnaire and shows how holidaymakers perceive overcrowded places and what effects an awareness of overtourism has on their travel choices.

Low-cost airlines and social media contribute to overtourism

The world has become more eager to travel – and travel has changed. Due to growing cruise tourism and the wide availability of low-cost flights, more and more people are going to certain places on holiday – usually for short periods. Many countries are also affected by political conflicts, which means that tourists often switch to other destinations at short notice. In addition, the social media are fuelling the phenomenon. Thanks to their reach via an image on Instagram, small towns without an existing tourist infrastructure can become very popular very quickly. Consequently, many holiday destinations are increasingly struggling with overcrowding, rising costs of living, environmental problems and the touristification of entire city districts.

Respondents are aware of the problem – many would nevertheless still take the trip

The latest results of the IUBH study show that people who are interested in travel are well aware of the issue: two out of three respondents are familiar with the problem of overtourism. They associate it primarily with the following places: Venice, Barcelona, Paris, Rome and Amsterdam. Nevertheless, the majority (53 percent) would not be deterred from travelling to the affected holiday destinations. The reason? “Many of the respondents interpret the popularity of a destination as a ‘must see’,” says Prof Dr Claudia Möller, Head of International Tourism Management at IUBH. “In other words, overcrowding proves that you simply have to see this place once.” As additional reasons for travelling respondents named the location’s “many and special attractions”, “culture”, “history” and “low-cost travel”. However, many of the respondents would prefer to visit the locations affected by overtourism during the off-season or to stay overnight in the outskirts.

Mass processing instead of personal service

However, not everyone wants to give overtourism additional fuel: A third of all respondents would prefer to avoid travelling to overcrowded holiday destinations (30 per cent) and some even explicitly refuse to do so (5 per cent). This is because the factors that are important to most respondents on their holidays – “authentic atmosphere” (95 percent), “other cultures” (93 percent), “sights and attractions” or “museums” (91 percent) – are seen as being threatened by overcrowding. From the visitors’ point of view, the most important impacts of overtourism are “loss of authenticity”, “stress”, “impaired holiday pleasure”, “increased prices”, “noise” and “environmental pollution”. “Many of the respondents dislike the feeling of mass processing, which stands in contrast to the personal service and holiday they want,” says Möller.

Different generations react differently

When deciding for or against a holiday destination known for its overcrowding, it makes no difference whether one is male or female – but age does make a difference. It is significantly more likely that the group of “15-24 year olds ” will visit places known for overtourism than the group of 35 year olds and older.  “Financial considerations probably play a role here,” says Möller. “Younger travellers are more likely to book cheap flights or cheap cruises, which in turn go to typical overcrowded holiday destinations. For those who can spend a little more money when on holiday, exclusivity rather than mass tourism is the preferred option.” Möller also suggests another reason: “Older people may have already been there in the past.”

The folder “Overtourism” can be downloaded here.

About the IUBH Touristik Radar

The IUBH Touristik Radar research series regularly focuses on topics in the field of tourism, hospitality and events. Recent research studies dealt with “Leisure Sickness”, “Medical Tourism” and “Safety and liability for consumers when choosing travel itineraries.”

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