What is Overtourism

Updated: Jun 18, 2020

I grew up in a little town of around 15k inhabitants (the municipality conforms 8 other towns and suburbs making up to over 49k inhabitants), however, when the weekend comes, Tepoztlan centre receives a more than 2k visitors on an average weekend day (this is according to my calculations). One of its main attractions, a pyramid on top of the mountains received more than 248k visitors in 2017 only, according to the National Anthropology and History Ministry (INAH).

The pyramid is quite small, and so is the town. You can imagine how the locals feel, see, hear and smell the weekend visitors.

Tepoztlan is an interesting place to explore how tourism has changed and stimulated growth in the town, but one question that remains today is if Tepoztlan experiences Overtourism.

Overtourism occurs when there are too many visitors in a particular destination. But how would we define “too many” tourists? And what are the impacts and benefits of having an overcrowded destination?

So just to give you a little insight, Cinque Terre in (Italy) has the highest number of tourists per capita with an overall of 4 800 tourists per resident. Dubrovnik's old town has an overall ratio of a 1000 tourists per resident, followed by Venice with almost 365 tourists per resident.

In Japan this permanent overcrowding has been called 'tourism pollution', some other parts of the world experience mass tourism too. But what's makes Overtourism an issue and how are governments managing locals from backlashing at the tourism growth?

In this episode of #TheWanderandWonderPodcast our guest Professor Joseph Cheer explains what's is over tourism. We discuss on what has driven tourism destinations to think about de-growing tourism, and we reflect upon who bares the cost of tourism growth.

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 https://wakayama-u.academia.edu/JosephCheer 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. https://doi.org/10.1080/09669582.2019.1650054

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



Ana C. Lara Heyns (2013) "Lo Tragico de lo Magico. El Turismo y el Patrimonio cultural del pueblo magico de Tepoztlan." Universidad de las Americas Puebla: https://www.academia.edu/31534150/El_turismo_y_el_patrimonio_cultral_en_el_pueblo_magico_de_Tepoztlan_Ana_Cristina_Lara

The World Bank. "International tourism, number of arrivals" https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/ST.INT.ARVL?most_recent_year_desc=true&view=map

Johnny Jet (2018) "How is Overtourism impacting travel to popular destinations". Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnnyjet/2018/08/20/how-is-overtourism-impacting-travel-to-popular-destinations/#2d86654735b8

Justin Francis. "Overtourism- what is it, and how can we avoid it?". Responsible Travel:


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