The end of whitewashing mass tourism?

Our latest research indicates recent shifts in the public and political discourse on mass tourism in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Jerusalem and Venice. Key events marked turning points signalling that economic benefits no longer offset tourism-related impacts.

by Lukas Alexander

Last month we completed a report examining the socio-economic and political context of Amsterdam, Barcelona, Jerusalem and Venice. Crucial events and occurrences were identified to understand how tourism and related issues developed in the cities over the past two decades. This analysis will constitute the foundation for our future empirical research in SmartDest.

A common element stood out across the cities, when comparing the four case studies. At the turn of the century, tourism has been framed and debated predominantly in a positive way stressing economic advantages and infrastructural developments. However, in each city there appears to be a critical juncture or turning point, where the public and political discourse on urban tourism shifted. Economic benefits were no longer able to offset the issues engendered by mass tourism. To name some of these key events:

-In Amsterdam, the IAmsterdam sign a former symbol of opening the city to tourism, was removed in 2018 indicating the end of tourism growth-oriented policies.

-In Barcelona, public opinion on tourism tipped over in 2015 following the election of a radical left candidate who openly tackled the problem of overtourism in the city.

-In Jerusalem and Venice, it is difficult to pin down a turning point in the discourse as both cities are characterised by an interwoven political and economic context with countless stakeholders involved. However, the findings show how inhabitants increasingly mobilise against tourism impacts.

Although representing only the tip of the iceberg, these events express a fundamental process of change in the discourse. Critical voices and initiatives existed before the turning point, but they appeared to be drowned out by pro-tourism stakeholders.

In the next step, we will further examine these issues and consider the effects of the current crisis onto tourism. In early Spring 2021, we will dig deeper in public debates on tourism with a detailed discourse analysis.

#iamsterdam #barcelona #jerusalem #venice # overtourism #sustainabletourism #travel #smartdest

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