The responsibility of being a tourist

On the last episode of The Wander and Wonder Podcast, Professor Joseph Cheer and I, discussed what is Overtourism.

When we think of tourism, we think there is an economic value that benefits locals from that tourism growth. The problem is, when the sense of place is too attractive, sometimes the industry doesn't benefit the locals at all. 

A New York Times article that was recently published shares how it has been for residents of ‘overtouristed’ cities now that they are not receiving any tourists (because of the pandemic), locals are happy to share that “they have their homes to themselves”.

However, this pandemic is a one of a kind event in our history, and before all of this, many cities were drawing up strategies to limit, manage and diversify the massive tourism arrivals. We see it in destinations such as Rome, Venice or Amsterdam where officials have been applying bold measures to tackle tourist overload to preserve the livelihood of the residents.

But what is the way to tackle or manage Overtourism? Is it an issue of management, of infrastructure, of diversifying?

Diversify and distribute is about managing and planning their inbound tourism. But also, tourists have to bear some responsibility. How can travellers be more responsible? Is not that easy. What is the morality of travel? Who has the right to travel?

Is all about Tourism behaviours. Professor Cheer states that if people travel more and experience more, they will become more patient, more worldly, and less racists. Travellers will have more cross-cultural awareness, empathy.

So, in the end, is not about too many tourists, planning, or diversifying. Its more complex than that, it’s about all the interrelating issues that work together to make tourism happen.

Take for example how social media is influencing mass tourism. Travel trends such as the travellers bucket lists, travel bloggers categorising destinations in their top 10, the “must-do” selfies in iconic destinations (By the way, check out my IG account, where we have a collection of fabulous photos of tourism behaviours)… all of that is influencing the traveller’s perception of a destination. And it’s also influencing the way tourists see themselves. Are we tourists or travellers?

We need to rethink the way we travel or the reason why we do it. As Professor Cheer says ‘think how you can take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints'.

After considering who bears the cost of tourism growth and what are the strategies some countries have started to develop to tackle over tourism. Joseph Cheer and I discuss Mass Tourism, we strip the ideas and ethos behind being a tourist or a traveller. And we introduce the role Cultural Heritage and branding have in the industry, which will be the topic of our next episodes!

Listen to this episode here!

About our Guest

Prof. Joseph M. Cheer is a research professor at Center for Tourism Research, Wakayama University, Japan and Adjunct Research Fellow, Monash University, Australia. He is board member International Geographical Union (IGU) Commission on Tourism and Leisure and Global Change, and Steering Committee Member Critical Tourism Studies (CTS) Asia Pacific. His research draws from trans disciplinary perspectives, especially human/economic geography, cultural anthropology and political economy, particularly in the Asia Pacific. His work emphasizes resilience building, sustainability and social justice. Recent books include Overtourism: Excesses, Discontents and Measures in Travel and Tourism (Milano, Cheer & Novelli, 2019) and Modern Day Slavery and Orphanage Tourism (Cheer, Mathews, van Doore & Flanagan, 2019). His recent paper Tourism and Its Discontents in the Global South was published in Current History in January 2020. See for his body of work. You can also reach Professor Cheer on LinkedIn. Selected works: Tourism and community resilience in the Anthropocene: accentuating temporal overtourism Overtourism and degrowth: a social movements perspective. Overtourism and Tourismphobia: A Journey Through Four Decades of Tourism Development, Planning and Local Concerns Overtourism: Excesses, Discontents and Measures in Travel and Tourism Geographies of marginalization: encountering modern slavery in tourism


‘It Feels Like We Got the City Back for Ourselves.’ The New York Times, 2020.

Sasha Brady (2019) How cities around the world managed overtourism in 2019. Lonely Planet:

EXTRA: a few years ago I bumped into this map and haven't been able to get the source, but there are a few other references to it should you want to dig in: 

Croatia and Dubrovnik in World’s Top 3 for Overtourism per Capita map:

The Over tourism map:

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