A note on overtourism, solve for the equilibrium

“At the end, this story is just a numbers problem,” Mr. Tourtellot said. He noted that in 1960, when the jet age began, around 25 million international trips were taken. Last year, the number was 1.3 billion.

As for the cities that are the major destinations? They are “the same size they were back in 1959, and they’ll probably stay that way,” he said.

That is from Farhad Manjoo at the NYT.


First they came for the immigrants, now they come after the tourists .... what's next?

Tourists should die though especially the Asian ones.

asians are crazy rich tho. if they die, then where the moneyz gonna come from?

They're Chinese.

From a repentant immigrant, and occasional (though rarely, and more and more so) tourist: Immigration, invasion, and tourism are three aspects of the same destructive behavior. It is ample time that humanity get beyond that.

Same could be said about reproductive sex. Root of all evil.

What's the destructive behavior here exactly? Crossing over the largely arbitrary jurisdictional lines that constitute borders?

No. The point is that human cultures (by which I mean not only culture in the restrictive sense, but the architecture, ways of leaving, of cooking of eating, of spending leisure times, of working, etc.) are very fragile and subtle constructions. The arrival of a massive population of people not belonging to a culture is bound to dilute and dull it, and also reduces the beautiful diversity of culture on earth.

The destructive effects of tourism on the architecture of the cities and village, the quality of food and services offered, the visual and sonore pollution, are obvious and have already been discussed in this thread of comments. This can be summarized by saying that though tourists brings money to some economic actors in their host countries, the population at large of this country suffers massive negative externalities.

No explanation is needed for the destructive character of invasions. Immigration is the mildest form of the three, and is in general beneficial in small amounts, but when massive enough (relatively to the size of the target population, the level of cultural differences, the willingness of the immigrants to adopt smoothly the indigenous culture, etc.) its effect become very similar to that of invasions. It is telling that after 1500 years, the question over whether the arrival of many (mostly) germanic tribes on the territory of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth and sixth century is best described as migrations or as invasions is still actively debated.

The cultural decay I'm seeing these days come from our mostly native-born elites though, not immigrants. If an immigrants prefers to eat tacos for lunch and speaks a little spanish, so what? That's in no way destructive compared to the damage wreaked by the latest $10M+ "donation" by elites to subvert our institutions, our media, our laws.

A.) Things only stop changing when they're dead and done decaying. The "culture" of a place is going to die all on its own due to the passage of time. Whether the change is due to cultural shift, technological change, input from immigrants, or input from trade shouldn't make much of a difference. This is merely aesthetic preference.

B.) You speak as if immigrants can either adopt the "indigenous" ways or keep their "native" ways which makes no sense. The people immigrating are different from the people in the country they emigrated from. And being in a novel environment around different people means that over time, the culture of an immigrant group in one country is going to evolve into something distinct from that same ethnic group in their home country. This increases cultural diversity, it doesn't decrease it.

From the perspective of the tourist, this is easily solvable. Just go to a second tier destination, which will be just as interesting, cheaper, not be crowded, and have better food.

There are dozens of cities in Europe that the average tourist has never heard of but would enjoy at least as much as Amsterdam, Paris, etc.

If you must tick Amsterdam off your list, then visit it for a day, and then stay in any city that is an hour or two away by train for a week.

Nice as they may be, Utrecht or Rotterdam are not really worth more than a couple of days. Haarlem or Eindhoven or Den Helder probably not even a couple of days.

As for Amsterdam, enjoy a day at the beach at Zandvoort - and spend at least a few minutes walking around the Haarlem train station coming or going, as the station is an Art Nouveau jewel (the iron work especially).

Amsterdam gets boring fast. Rotterdam has large amounts of interesting modernist architecture throughout the city and is a delight to walk through. The Hague also offers a lot while being quite uncrowded.

I remember a few numbers about Spain to provide some context. On 1969 Benidorm did not exist and tourism to the Canary and Balearic islands was minimal. Today, around 40 million tourists visit Spain's islands. Thus the framing of "visited places are the same" does not hold.

Also, why visit Paris and Amsterdam during summer. those places are not beautiful beaches which can be enjoyed only with sunny weather. cultural activities slow down or stop because of summer vacations (i.e. no ballet ). I was in Milano last New Year. A bit rainy and cold but it was great. Shops not packed, free tables in most restaurants, even the metro was comfortable.

I travel with my wife and AirBnB prices are high for what the value you get. an average hotel (Ibis) most of times costs the same as a dirty AirBnB. perhaps it makes sense for low budget families, but never forget you get what you pay for.

If the plan is to go to the AirBnB when the sun goes down, you can do the very same in a cabin in the mountains.

London, Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona. The attractive feature of big cities is NIGHTLIFE: restaurants, music, dance, clubs, bars, strip bars, etc. Be creative: it's such a pleasure to drive around the the City of Lights at 2AM and have sparkling wine for breakfast at noon.

'those places are not beautiful beaches which can be enjoyed only with sunny weather'

Zandvoort is quite a nice beach, at least from an American East Coast beach perspective, and it is trivial to get to from Amsterdam using the train. It is also quite large - even on the hottest cloudless beach days, it never gets really crowded if you are willing to walk a bit.

'it's such a pleasure to drive around the the City of Lights at 2AM'

In my experience (quite a while ago, admittedly), the French police are also enjoying themselves then, checking every car that strikes their fancy at checkpoints when driving on the ring/Boulevard Périphérique.

Being sober is hard but it pays sometimes. So, no worries with police =)

Well, apart from the 15 minutes spent before they let you leave again, in my personal experience.

It seems like the parts of Europe that weren't flattened in wars have a remarkable number of superb small cities. They don't have famous museums, but the art in most museums can be studied online at more leisure. Granted, art museums are often spectacular buildings worth visiting, but European train stations are often even more spectacular, and you can take in train stations while changing trains en route to small towns.

'but the art in most museums can be studied online at more leisure'

I'm guessing that impasto is not something you consider relevant, but then, most people only see paintings as two dimensional reproductions - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Still_Life:_Vase_with_Pink_Roses

Compare any picture of that work with the actual painting at the National Gallery of Art - a picture cannot represent what Van Gogh achieves.

'but the art in most museums can be studied online at more leisure' ... I'm sure he has a 8k (or higher) resolution 65" HDR10 monitor, which covers what, 80%?, of average human color space. He also misses the (obvious) point that the "art" can be studied even more "leisurely" using a book, no electricity needed.

I'm thinking you are missing the point about impasto - which cannot be reproduced in a two dimensional format.

Van Gogh was an extreme practitioner, admittedly - some of his paintings are basically sculptures. Sadly, I cannot find a catalog of the Stedelijk exhibition of something liek 50 of his skull paintings from a couple of decades ago, but one in particular would be like looking at a sculpture as a picture, and saying the experience is the same.

The other thing, of course, is scale. Most paintings (not all, of course) are larger than a screen or book. This is especially apparent when travelling through the parts of Italy marked by having the works of great painters in such abundance that after a certain point, one is no longer impressed by another church's or cathedral's paintings. This is actually a real problem in Rome, where basically any church has such fantastic artistic work on display that one rapidly grows jaded, instead of peering into each building to see what treasures can be seen from some of the best painters in human history.

Of course, Rome is not a small city.

Your note on scale is a good one. I never really understood what the big deal was with Rothko, for example, until I saw them in person. It's one thing to see an image consisting of varying shades of red. It's another thing altogether to stand before a wall of red that fills up your entire field of vision.

Yoyoi Kusama's "Infinity Mirrors" exhibits also benefit greatly from full immersion into the experience.

Everyone wants to live in a nice neighborhood but most end up settling for visiting one for a few days a year.

The interesting things are usually not in a nice neighborhoods. I go to visit and then go back to my nice neighborhood.

“At the end, this story is just a numbers problem,”

Surely it's a conflicts of interest problem?

A core problem is that the economic rents associated with high-value tourist destinations cannot be captured in a way that the price balances the equilibrium. Hotel and restaurant prices can rise somewhat, but that just spurs more hotel and restaurant production without an increase in the number of historic landmarks. The tourist equilibrium is thus achieved by a balance in those increased prices and the reduction of the utility of going to those crowded landmarks. In my case, I have shifted my European tourism away from the summer to dodge the crowds, preferring the loss of daylight and increase in rain risks to the crowds.

Yep, which is why the USA created national parks, to regulate the hordes of tourists and even more so to regulate development so that e.g. no one dynamites a section of Bryce Canyon so they can fit a golf course in there.

But conservation or protection of a city or cultural area is a trickier business. Italy can't exactly turn Venice into a national park. Possibly the best achievable equilibrium is the one that you've described: some areas get over-crowded and some people respond by substituting: a different but similar place, or a different time of year, or a brief visit to the crowded place (I think I spent maybe 3 hours in the Louvre) and a longer visit to the less crowded place (the Rodin and Picasso museums).

Is the supply of interesting and beautiful places fixed? It seems like every year new holiday destinations arise. The main issue is the usual status one - if you are solely concerned about the status of the places that you visit as opposed to their quality, then we are in a zero sum game, OTH if you care just about the quality of your vacation then more tourists is a good thing because the number and quality of locations available to visit will grow.

You're correct: the second sentence in the quote is just plain wrong. In addition to the many new locations that arise (off the top of my head, Dubai, Shanghai, Malta and Djerba and many more were not on the tourist map ten years ago) the small tourist towns that have always been there do grow, in inhabitants and hotels. This is most visible in Spain (as you'll have to venture beyond the historical center if you take the bus or train to e.g. Toledo or Salamanca, with all their new construction), but is also true of many other touristy small cities (e.g. Heidelberg or Riquewihr, just to stay in the Rhine valley)

I've been going to Dresden with some regularity for the past 20 years, and it's been fascinating (and at times depressing) to watch the city grow and develop throughout the period.

The problems created by technologies like Airbnb go beyond overtourism. I have a home in the low country, and Airbnb has transformed the community from a quaint drinking village with a golfing problem (that was the local joke) into an overcrowded and overpriced swamp full of boorish tourists. As the economy began to recover, an investor bought up much of the undeveloped land, and with a cooperative local government, developed the land and has constructed hundreds of homes, single family and multifamily. So what's the problem. Little or nothing was done to prepare for it, no improvements to the roads, no improvements to the water, sewer, and drainage systems, no planning whatsoever, the goal of the investor and the local government being growth for growths sake. So what does Airbnb have to do with it? Everything. These new houses (which are poorly constructed and located in areas with a high risk of flooding) are not being purchased by residents but by non-residents, using mostly borrowed funds, non-residents who list the houses on Airbnb for short-term rental, which has created an artificial demand for the houses and tourism Hell. Airbnb enforces no limit on the number of occupants in a house, so each rental is usually shared by several families, sometimes as many as five families, as many as 15 to 20 occupants, who arrive in six, eight, ten, twelve, or more cars, parked in the driveway, in the street, in the yard, overtaxing the roads, the public utilities, and the patience of the residents. When the economic correction arrives, and it will, these houses will be the first asset the non-resident owners will try to unload, to unload in a cascade of collapsing prices. With little or no effort for upkeep, the houses soon are in disrepair, in a market with no buyers, resulting in a protracted and deep slump in the real estate market. It happened following the financial crisis and it will happen again, only this time it will be much worse because the inventory of Airbnb houses is much larger. Airbnb is the opioid of the housing market.

Also, hasn't the supply of classic tourism places declined because parts of the MENA in the last 30 years have become more difficult/less attractive.

One benefit is that there are more hip or cultural tourist destinations popping up as places that are developing bring art, youth culture and other aspects that are common to fun places to visit like NYC or Chicago but in Asia or SSA. Younger people place a premium on going to "untouristy" places.

The major issue is that chinese tourists don't care or don't have a sense of "kitsch family vacation" and they are the predominant tourist in this day and age. I imagine Chinese tourists wouldn't find Dakar cafes or Mumbai street food worth visiting as much as classic destinations in Europe.

Soon, add another billion or so Chinese and Indian tourists.

All the clichés are true: once an area gets converted to serving tourism, it's no longer so interesting to be there as a tourist. Switzerland becomes Disneyland. Cynicism sets in. The food is modified. You wonder if the whole world is just one tourist trap run by multinationals. You take a drug manufactured by a multinational so you can sleep at the Hilton and hope that that return flight on blah blah Airlines is not too bad.

Arguably Disneyland is better than Switzerland, have you thought about that? Visitors to CH: 36m/y. Visitors to Disneyland (3 parks):138m/y.

Switzerland becomes Disneyland. Cynicism sets in. The food is modified. You wonder if the whole world is just one tourist trap run by multinationals.

You can militate against encountering a lot of this if you just learn enough of the local language to get around. One of the main reasons tourists end up in tourist traps is because they're too scared to venture into non-English speaking parts of town.

The power of compounding. In 1955 global population growth was over 2%, even today at 1.2% it is still exponential. With exponential population growth and sea level rise, what is a "tourist destination" must change, mustn't it?

Yes, although Airbnb might have some unique characteristics, I think the article over-states the importance of the web compared to just plain population growth (and even more importantly income growth, what with travel being a superior good).

I grew up in the Pacific NW when if we wanted to go hiking we just drove to the trailhead and hiked. Probably we wouldn't see anybody on the trail. Nowadays the parking lot might be full and the trail full of hikers with varying levels of knowledge and trail etiquette. I think that could be an example of overtourism, but because most of the hikers actually live in the area maybe we should call it over-recreationism. They might be using hiking apps but the web's impact is secondary, the main thing is that Amazon, Microsoft, Intel etc. have brought hordes of more people in, many of whom like to hike.

As this is a Tyler post about cities I can only assume the goal is to decrease the relative status of Paris vis-à-vis Tyson's Corner.

"That brings us to the hand-wringing over Airbnb, which has been singled out by lawmakers across Europe as a primary driver of overtourism. In Amsterdam, the authorities are pushing to slash the number of nights that residents can rent their homes to 30 from 60."

I am struggling to see how this is a solution at all. If you are trying to curb tourism, wouldn't it make more sense to put a minimum stay requirement in place, say, 15 days? My impression is that most people traveling Europe do so in a week or two, not for a full 30- 60 days, renting a place for 2-3 nights at a time.

Yeah, that sentence in the article had me puzzled. I think what the author means is that a resident can rent OUT their home for a maximum of 60 days (e.g. 2-day stays to 30 different guests).

The notion of putting a minimum stay requirement on Airbnb rentals is an interesting one. At 15 days, that would certainly discourage the quickie tourist, in favor of long-duration tourists who might conceivably produce fewer negative externalities behaviorally. More likely, total tourism would go down, some people would stay away completely and others would rent for 15 days -- but stay only 10 or 12. Which would make the local residents happy, but not the landlords wanting to rent out their houses.

The more time people spend in the air, the less crowded the streets will be, of course.

Aren't Pigouvian taxes the traditional solution to economic activity with negative externalities? If the cities are having problems because of the large number of tourists, start taxing AirBNB.

Or just start charging higher prices at the tourist attractions for non-natives. The city of San Francisco, for example, has a beautiful botanical garden. City residents are allowed to visit for free. Non-residents have to pay $9.

If the park gets too crowded, maybe they bump that up to $12.

Just adjust prices over time and see what happens to traffic.

People blithely suggesting more Pigouvian taxes is a negative externality that should be taxed.

Asset values that vary according to a demand function, just like always?

OK, so start charging more. Offer a discount for the local citizens and charge higher prices for foreign tourists.

Make more money from fewer customers with smaller crowds putting less wear and tear on the community. Problem solved.

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