Mass tourism: destinations victims of their own success
A few weeks before the end of 2022, I would like to touch on a crucial issue for tourism and the
territories where it takes place. Any destination that claims to be successful must maintain growth
in terms of tourist arrivals and tourism spending, but what happens when the number of visitors
exceeds the density of a destination? It is then that we speak of a phenomenon called
“massification”, which in the long run generates negative effects at a social, economic, cultural
and environmental level.
Most of the time, the different actors that make up the tourist universe are not aware of the fine
line that separates a small paradise town -with a natural wealth of great value- from a metropolis
where thousands of cars and people are concentrated. However, we have witnessed how some
destinations have been victims of their own success.
We have examples worldwide in places like Barcelona, Paris, Rome and Venice, in Europe, and to a
lesser extent in New Orleans and New York, in the United States, cities that register an over
density of visitors that is already causing rejection of the local population towards tourists, giving
rise to another social phenomenon: tourismophobia.
In Mexico, the sad case of Acapulco stands out. From being the most important destination in
Mexico worldwide in the 1970s and 1980s, it suddenly became a place where only memories of its
opulence remain. Along the same path goes Playa del Carmen, in Quintana Roo; and closer to us,
Sayulita, in the Riviera Nayarit, where tourism is a pervasive phenomenon.
Although the phenomenon of overcrowding in the world is not new, it is something that has
intensified in the post-pandemic phase, since what is happening is a return, desired by many, to
what we had before, to attract thousands or millions of visitors, even if it is totally inconsistent
with the sustainability values with which destinations are promoted.
The numbers from the World Tourism Organization (WTO) give us an idea of the dimension of the
problem: there are currently more than 1.4 billion travelers a year circulating around the world
and it is expected that by 2030 there will be 1.8 billion, truly impressive figures if we bear in mind
that, according to the WTO itself, in the year 2000 there were only 674 million travelers.
It is a fact that mass tourism is not going to disappear and may intensify, especially since travel,
leisure and enjoyment have become a universal right. The challenge for tour operators is to strike
a balance. It should not be forgotten that the same travelers are looking for less touristy
destinations that are safer, more natural, and managed in a more positive way for the local
We must think less about the present and more about the future. Anticipate the consequences of
not knowing how to manage tourism growth in the destinations of this Pacific region, where the
problem has begun to appear. We’re still on time.
What do you think? Send me your comments.