Post-Pandemic and Overtourism


Post-Pandemic and Overtourism

  • The tourism industry stands as one of the hardest-hit sectors during the pandemic, with losses reaching a staggering $4.5 trillion in 2020, as indicated by a study by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). The GDP contribution plummeted by 49.1% compared to 2019. Furthermore, the industry suffered an 18.5% employment reduction, leading to the loss of approximately 62 million jobs.Major tourist cities worldwide were greatly impacted. Even New York, which saw a record-breaking 60 million visitors in 2019, faced substantial challenges in 2020 due to the pandemic’s effects. Prior to lockdowns, New York’s tourism industry contributed 400,000 jobs and $46 billion in annual spending, but the March 2020 lockdown resulted in a 14.1% unemployment rate, surpassing the national average by twice the margin. New York became an unprecedentedly deserted city with no tourists.Interestingly, the response from local residents was not entirely negative. They enjoyed the tranquility that came from not constantly being surrounded by tourists throughout the year. Facilities such as museums limited capacity to 25% and introduced timed ticketing, allowing citizens to enjoy exhibitions without long queues or crowds. Even amusement parks like Coney Island were enjoyed without the overwhelming presence of tourists.While the pandemic-induced lockdown had a significant negative impact on the tourism industry, it brought temporary respite to citizens by creating an environment with fewer tourists.However, the economic impact that the tourism industry brings to New York is immense, making the revival of tourism a necessity for economic recovery. Organizations like NYC & Co., New York’s tourism recovery agency, have invested $30 million to entice tourists back through advertising campaigns. Although the recovery of tourist numbers is expected to take considerable time, signs of recovery are becoming more apparent.

    The pandemic has revealed both “saturated tourism” and “relaxed tourism” trends. These trends are likely to bring new dynamics to the future of tourism.

    • 69.4%: Decrease in expenditure by international tourists in 2020
    • 4.9%: Change in global GDP due to mobility restrictions in 2020 (YoY)
    • 3.7%: Change in tourism’s contribution to global GDP in 2020 (YoY)

    Source: WTTC Economic Impact Research

When New York Was Ours Alone


Seeking Immersive Slow Travel

In the midst of the pandemic, the concept of slow travel has gained attention. For instance, in Europe, there’s a movement away from high-impact air travel to traditional train journeys. A startup in France announced plans to connect 12 European cities through overnight train journeys, and in Germany, state-owned railway companies are considering reopening 20 disused railway lines.

Slowing down doesn’t just apply to the mode of transportation; it extends to the duration and locations of stays. Trends in domestic travel within the US are shifting away from major cities to smaller towns and nature-rich areas. Airbnb’s CEO, Brian Chesky, revealed that about 25% of their bookings are for stays lasting 28 days or more, suggesting a trend towards longer stays.

This shift in the travel landscape might be a reaction to the suppressed and short-term needs caused by the pandemic. I believe that slow travel is associated with a desire for “deep immersion” in the travel experience, leading to a potential long-term trend. My personal journey into the realm of slow travel began during a trip to Spain in early 2020.

Contrastingly, the feeling of shallow immersion struck me while traveling. In an era where the internet offers “superficial immersive experiences,” we can easily access images and videos from around the world, connect in real-time, and order products from distant places. What might be sought after in travel today is the pursuit of deep immersion, experiences that can only be obtained at the destination. This transition from fast travel to slow travel could offer a solution.

Urban Sustainability

Amidst the sparsely populated streets of tourists and the contrastingly vibrant scenes of locals enjoying a recovering New York, the images portrayed in the highlighted article evoke a sense of leisure and humanity.

This resonates with my memories from a trip to New York two years ago – the bustling Times Square, the High Line with pedestrians passing by, and the Brooklyn Bridge. The scenes from the article differ greatly from these memories.

What can we learn from these scenes? This is something I ponder.

In books I’ve read before, such as “Capitalism in the Web of Life” and “The Business of the Future: Towards a More Human Economy,” there are hints that offer insights.

“Capitalism in the Web of Life” discusses how modernization, economic growth, mass production, and mass consumption – which promised a prosperous life – have led to the current environmental crisis, imposing its consequences on the Global South. “The Business of the Future” explores the historical mission of economics, shedding light on the collapse of growth-driven businesses, and examining the evolution of economies beyond growth.

From these books, it becomes evident that a reevaluation of the purpose of economic growth is necessary.

Regarding the issue of overtourism, while there are numerous cities reevaluating their tourism policies such as Barcelona, Florence, and Prague, my personal focus is on Amsterdam’s efforts toward post-pandemic tourism. Amsterdam, known for its annual tourism revenue of €82 billion (equivalent to ¥10 trillion in 2019), faces challenges related to excessive tourism, sex tourism, pollution, and rising property values due to increased tourism.

Amidst the drastic reduction in visitors during the pandemic in 2020, Amsterdam seized the opportunity to enact positive change. They implemented regulations and guidelines, such as banning guided tours in entertainment districts and imposing restrictions on vacation rental platforms for short-term travelers. They also took steps to support sex workers. These measures aim to foster sustainable tourism for the future.

The article also mentions the risk of monoculture in cities due to tourism – a phenomenon where local identity is lost due to the proliferation of tourism-focused facilities and merchandise.

What I perceive from these cases, such as New York and Amsterdam, is the significance of departing from an economy-first mindset and focusing on preserving local culture and passing down unique traditions for the future.

As Tokyo approaches the Olympics next week, I can’t help but feel the emptiness of these efforts. The city is filled with Tokyo 2020 banners and advertisements promoting sustainability, yet they seem to focus solely on “how” without addressing the “why.”

What is the true purpose of economic growth?

As I gaze upon the cityscape from my new office in Gaiemmae, I contemplate these questions.

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