Travel to some European cities is about to change. Officials are taking aggressive steps to curb overtourism, which can alter your travel plans.
Barcelona City Tours
Barcelona, Spain, is now limiting tour groups in an effort to ease overcrowding. Where you are visiting will dictate how many people can be in your tour group. For District One, which includes the busy Barcelona city center and popular neighborhoods such as the Gothic Quarter and La Barceloneta, tour groups cannot exceed 30 people. For smaller areas, tour groups can only have 15 people. In addition to the caps, officials are enforcing one-way directions on 24 of the city’s streets. This move will hopefully keep crowds moving — instead of being held up and blocked in certain locations.
Going one step further, Barcelona is also putting limits on noise by banning all megaphones within the city. Tour guides must instead use radio-based equipment or whisper devices to convey information to the tour group. Groups must also use these devices while on city public transportation. Local tour groups seem to welcome the changes, saying they are already taking steps to comply.
“The brands already use whisper devices to ensure noise levels do not disrupt those not on tour. Travel directors have been working diligently to ensure the group size limitations are followed while not affecting the day-to-day activities on the trip,” says The Travel Corporation president, Melissa da Silva.
Overtourism is not just for the big cities. Part of the French countryside is feeling the squeeze from too many visitors as well. During the COVID-19 pandemic, travelers leery of big cities instead flocked to the more spacious countryside and national parks. Some small towns saw more foot traffic than Paris. “During the past two years, there were tens of thousands of people coming, especially from the metro Paris region, to this small village which is tucked away between two cliffs,” says Ben Collier, Normandy Tourism Marketing Manager for English-Speaking Markets. “What the locals complained about were the people who came from Paris for the day who didn’t take care of the local community.”
In order to help alleviate the strain of overtourism in these small towns and parks, officials are implementing daily quotas. For instance, Calanques park is only allowing 500 visitors per day into one of its more popular areas. For perspective, the park normally sees about 3,000 visitors a day. And if you want to visit one of the places affected, then you will first need to make a reservation. In addition, local residents will be given first priority over any tourists.
The new rules will immediately help ease crowds during these peak summer travel months, but looking ahead, officials want to encourage travelers to visit these areas in non-peak times as well in the hopes of evening out the crowds and lessening congestion. “What we’re trying to do, especially for the national markets like Paris and the French people, is to get people to come year around rather than the summer months or peak periods,” said Collier.
Overtourism is quickly becoming a problem in many cities across the world as people start traveling after the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials in Venice, Italy, for instance, say tourist overcrowding is literally sinking the city. To ease the problem, Venice will soon impose a tourism tax for anyone wanting to visit the city. The price will depend on demand for that day. Prior to limiting tour groups, Barcelona was the first major European city to ban short-term rentals in order to manage tourism numbers.
Here are some articles to help inspire your next trip to Barcelona or France: