Tourism is slowly and steadily bouncing back on its feet with the gradual relaxation of COVID-19 norms around the world. Recent reports show that flight and hotel bookings have steadily increased, particularly to popular tourist destinations in the US and Europe. The global travel and hospitality industry is finally optimistic for a quick recovery after bearing the brunt of the abrupt stop in tourism for more than a year. While the pre-COVID-19 era was plagued by over-tourism issues in most of the popular travel destinations – environmental degradation, pressure on infrastructure, in some cases even a negative experience for tourists and residents – the last year has witnessed under-tourism, the tremendous one Effects on the global tourism industry. This situation has encouraged industry stakeholders to develop strategies to balance the two extremes in the future. Therefore, policy and destination management is gaining importance as a middle ground to effectively support the tourism sector.

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, some popular travel destinations around the world had effectively implemented strategies for sustainable tourism. Machu Picchu, Peru is one of the best-documented examples of the introduction of a time limit on tickets with special time slots and no re-entry in 2019, providing better visitor experience and more evenly distributed tourists throughout the year. Other examples include Dubrovnik in Croatia, which limits the number of cruise passengers while promoting the city as a year-round destination. Spain introduced a new tourist tax and Rome introduced heavy fines to increase respect for its ancient monuments. The Louvre Museum in Paris has put in place a system of mandatory reservations to improve the flow of tourists. The Cambodian government doubled ticket prices and limited the number of visitors to the central tower of Angkor Wat to reduce the heavy flow of tourists.

Venice is another prominent example, hosting 25 to 30 million tourists annually with only 55,000 local residents in the pre-COVID era. Tourism is the city’s biggest source of revenue and vital to the economy. However, the number of tourists, who outnumber the residents, has a significant impact on the city, both socially and environmentally, poses challenges for residents and deprives tourists of the quality of the city. When tourism stalled last year, Venice used the downtime to develop strategies for more sustainable tourism. The city has issued new regulations for the mooring of cruise ships and plans to build a new cruise terminal to protect the historic city center. A new fee for day visitors will be introduced with restrictions on tourists at the main attractions, as well as a tourist entry tax, due to be introduced in 2022. Additionally, a tracking system was introduced in September 2020 to accurately and instantly track travelers’ movements in real time to help the city create a sustainable tourism plan, including determining the location of turnstiles to collect entrance fees . International organizations such as the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) are also working to provide guidance and share best practices on guidelines and governance models to support the post-pandemic tourism sector.

India has also tried destination management in recent years, but so far there are few examples. For example, the price of admission to the Taj Mahal was increased significantly, the visit time to protect the monument was shortened to three hours in 2019, and vehicles in highly polluted areas of the Rohtang Pass were temporarily restricted. Several tourist places in India, especially beach destinations, hill stations and pilgrimage sites, threaten to fall victim to the negative effects of mass tourism in the future. A few weeks ago, videos and reports of traffic jams on the highway leading to the state of Himachal Pradesh went viral as several tourists traveled to hill stations following the easing of COVID-19-related restrictions in the state. With both tourists and the hospitality industry looking to return to normal, this may be the right time for authorities to assess global best practices, build models based on international guidelines, and implement strategies for effective destination management to address the problem much needed balance between tourism and sustainability.

Additional contribution to this article: Kavya Jaina, Intern at HVS ANAROCK

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