Overtourism and Third Tier Market Growth
By Mia A. Mackman President & Owner, Mackman ES | June 09, 2019
Major cities are predictably equipped to manage large scale volume, occupancy and growth. Whereas, smaller communities are often challenged with rapid growth resulting in an abrupt strain on the local city and infrastructure. The term overtourism was coined in 2012, however it didn't become widely used until 2017. In recent years, it has become an immense global economic and environmental and tourism topic. Overtourism not only pertains to the number of visitors but the ability and capacity of which to manage them.
Popular destinations such as Amsterdam, Venice, Greece, Machu Picchu and Santorini have been seeing striking rates of tourism congestion for a while. In a recent article the Washington Post highlights alternatives to some of these popular destinations positioned as Detouring: Overbooked and Overlooked. This mentions substitute destinations that are equally rich in culture and natural beauty yet, have far less overcrowding and offer desirable experiences.
In the U.S. major cities in California, New York, Florida, and Nevada continue to be popular tourist attractions. However, since 2008 the U.S. has also experienced select but substantial increases in National Park visitors and recreational tourism. The National Park Service reported having 330 million visitors in 2016 and 2017, even more than the record-breaking 300 million visitors in 2015. Combined the National Park system reports having had 1.5 billion visitors over the last five years. The graph below depicts National Park Visitor growth from 2008 through 2017.
With rising interests circulating around nature, National Park excursions and recreational activities this presents notable changes and challenges for many third and fourth tier U.S. cities. In addition to the demands set forth with increasing park visitation, the National Parks must also accomplish increasing maintenance needs as they continue to protect conservation initiatives and municipal visitor damages.
Seasonality and Growth
First and second tier cities are expected to have strong travel attributes. These markets typically offer a robust selection of luxury, upper-upscale, and lower priced hotel options. Whereas, many third and fourth tier markets have gaps across their hotel supply. These markets typically include a few upper-upscale properties mixed with an abundance of lower profile hotels. This is a common supply scenario for places where tourism has been historically low or primarily seasonal. As seasonal cycles change with increasing tourism, supply and demand ratios are undergoing changes as well.