COVID-19 has brought many issues to light, and when things return to “normal”, it will surely be different. In the next 5 years, you’re about to see some major changes. It’s all due to a movement supporting sustainable and smart tourism!
A Briefing about the Problem
Many popular tourist destinations have been experiencing civil unrest in response to the rise in tourism rates over the past few years. Local communities in Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Thailand, Indonesia, and the United States are speaking up. The tourism industry has affected their homes and daily lives, and the local culture is slowly disappearing. Barcelona is no longer Barcelona, Amsterdam is no longer Amsterdam, and Venice is no longer Venice.
[Read more about overtourism in this blog: “Will Overtouism Force Cultures into Extinction?”]
Cue COVID-19, the global killer (and, oddly enough, global healer). We have all appreciated its effect on recovering ecosystems worldwide. But, only locals can appreciate the overwhelming serenity of a city center now vacant of tourists. Now, tourist destinations are finding ways to heal as the realization grows: locals don’t run these places. Tourists do.
Major tourist destinations are recovering from the effects of overcrowding, but they also need it back. As tourism grew, the economy grew to support it. Economies that grew to support tourism, and even depend on it, are now falling apart without it. The very thing that was destroying the local communities needs to return to save them.
It’s safe to say that tourism is a good thing. But too much tourism, the type that drives out the local people and disrespects the culture and land, becomes toxic. Tourism can support the people, but it can also create dependency.
COVID-19 has exposed a huge imbalance in communities which has been manifesting for years. Finally.
As travel begins to return, locals and advocates are demanding major changes through Sustainable Tourism Development. Many policy makers and community leaders have plans to implement sustainable changes since at least the early 2000s, but now, those plans are being placed higher on the to-do list.
One organization has created a program that seems to stand out above the rest in both scale and standard. It’s a form of Smart Tourism, and we think it’s beautifully executed!
Introducing: European Capital of Smart Tourism
The European Capital of Smart Tourism is a relatively new organization that has established standards for European cities’ tourism growth.
They rate European cities using 4 pillars: accessibility, sustainability, digitization, and cultural heritage.
Each pillar feeds into the other to create a system that is innovative and successful. It also aims to be beneficial for both the tourism industry and the locals alike. Every year, two cities that best meet these standards are rewarded for their efforts and hold the prestigious title until the next year.
How will this affect your travel experience?
Tourist destinations will be working to use innovative technology to improve the tourist experience while protecting the daily lives of the locals. This includes:
- Promoting incoming travel during off-season and discouraging a “tourist” season.
- Educating tourists on other districts and nearby cities to divert large groups away from areas that tend to be overcrowded.
- Promoting eco-friendly accommodations over the less eco-friendly options.
- Restricting automobile traffic through the city.
- Using apps to provide information rather than physical pamphlets and maps.
- Organizing more educational events & festivals for locals and tourists to celebrate local culture and heritage together.
[Check out more at Travel Massive.]
Look at the changes for yourself – check out these videos from the 2020 winners Gothenburg and Málaga!
Here are the 2019 winners, Lyon and Helsinki!
Tourism is headed in a healthy, exciting direction for tourists and locals alike. What do you think about European Capital of Smart Tourism and its initiatives? Let us know and don’t forget to support this initiative by sharing!