Tourism is a fast-growing industry where challenges are abundant. Participants of the panel Tourism for All Destinations: Dispersal over Place and Time touched on some of them, highlighting the excessive growth of tourism.
Panellists agreed that excessive tourism should be addressed with adequate management, tailored to each individual destination. Good management is possible only with know-how and cooperation, they stressed.
According to Mr Zdravko Počivalšek, Slovenian Minister of Economic Development and Technology, tourism is an important part of the Slovenian economy. 2018 was another record year for Slovenian tourism and the trend continued in the first eight months of his year, he said.
Like other panellists, he highlighted excessive tourism growth as a major challenge. Digitalisation has created new services, information travels faster, travelling has become cheaper and more accessible, he said. “We need know-how and skills to address these challenges,” he said.
Ms Maja Pak, Director of the Slovenian Tourist Board, also stressed the need to manage tourist flows. She said the town hosting the Strategic Forum, Bled, was a textbook example of an iconic destination that everyone wants to visit to take a photo and put it on social media.
Ms Daniela Wagner, Regional Director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at the UK organisation PATA, said people visited the so-called “Instagram destinations”, because they had been heavily promoted. It is therefore up to tourist organisations to promote other, less prominent destinations, she believes.
She pointed to Thailand as an example, where tourists are encouraged to visit islands that few others visit.
Ms Wagner believes the destinations which have a clear long-term vision built on solid foundations are more likely to achieve sustainable tourism growth and prevent excessive tourism. She thinks Slovenia is doing very well in addressing these challenges.
According to Ms Eva Štravs Podlogar, State Secretary at the Slovenian Ministry of Economic Development and Technology, said Slovenia had succeeded by building on know-how and connectivity.
But she sees a lot more potential, which could be unleashed if all stakeholders worked together. She therefore called for more know-how, more cooperation and more integration of tourist products.
Prof. Tanja Mihalič, Professor at the School of Economics and Business at the University of Ljubljana, stressed that numbers were not the only indicator of excessive tourism. Locals and tourists will say when a destination becomes too crowded and loses appeal, she noted.
Ms Valeria Duflot, Co-founder and CEO of Venezia Autentica and Overtourism Solution from Italy, said Venice was close to reaching that point. Locals do not benefit from tourism much, and the experience is not pleasant for tourists either, she said. They do not stay long in Venice, they do not take the time to enjoy the food, history.
Tourism growth was highlighted as a challenge also by Mr Marjan Beltram, Chief Travel and Mobility Officer at Nomago, Slovenia. He said the industry and people’s mobility had been transformed by digitalisation in the last decade.
Nowadays people no longer travel by car but book a holiday. In the future, travelling habits will also be affected by virtual reality, he said.
Mr Andrew Agius Muscat, Secretary General at the Mediterranean Tourism Foundation in Malta, stressed that tourism is good news, and that everyone should be more aware of this.
When people talk about tourism, they put political and religious differences aside and look for opportunities for cooperation, he said. Tourists are not a problem but protagonists for good stories, Mr Muscat added.