5 European Cities Suffering from Over Tourism

Tourism can be a great boost to the local economy. However, too much tourism concentrated in one area can result in overcrowding, damage, and alienation of locals. When tourists outnumber the local people, residents can find their homes transformed into something that’s only intended for visitors.

According to research carried out by Holidu, below are the European cities that are suffering the most from over tourism, with the highest numbers of tourists per inhabitant per year. We’ve taken a look at each city, delving into why it’s such a popular tourist destination and what the local authority might be doing to help lessen the impact of visitors.

If you want to visit one of these beautiful cities, don’t be put off by the levels of tourism. Visiting in the off-season is a great way to take in a city while lessening your impact on the local environment and infrastructure. When you travel, don’t forget your international travel insurance from Expatriate Group.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik is the city that suffers most from tourism, with around 36 tourists per inhabitant visiting every year.

Dubrovnik has a relatively small population – around 43,000 people – but is a hugely popular tourist destination. Offering warm and sunny weather, gorgeous beaches, stunning architecture, and plenty of Game of Thrones related tours for GoT fans (some of the blockbuster TV series was filmed there), there are plenty of reasons to visit Dubrovnik.

In addition to this, cheap and short flights have made it a hugely popular destination for people from all over Europe. The city also sees hundreds of cruise ships stop at the city every year, which contributes to the number of tourists.

While tourism can, of course, be good for the local economy, over tourism can cause issues, such as traffic jams, overcrowding, and seeing the local people pushed out of their homes. Accommodation in the city centre gets turned into holiday lets and local residents are priced out of living in their city.

In 2017, UNESCO suggested a limit be put on the number of tourists in Dubrovnik, advising only 8,000 people be permitted inside the city walls per day. The City Mayor wanted to go further, limiting the number to just 4,000. Surveillance cameras were installed to monitor and reduce the number over the next few years. Cruise ships were encouraged to stay for longer, instead of making quick stops that overloaded the city for a few hours at a time.

Tourists are encouraged to visit the city in the off-season, to spread the number of visitors throughout the year. The city’s administration has also taken steps to improve life for locals, such as building a new school. Overall, while over tourism m is currently still a problem for Dubrovnik, they are taking many steps to improve the situation.

Venice, Italy

Venice is the European city that has the joint second-most tourists per inhabitant, with 21 per resident. Only around 50,000 people live on the island city of Venice, and the city sees over 20 million visitors every year.

With a rich history and culture, as well as inviting weather and the famous Italian cuisine, there are many reasons why Venice is so popular with tourists. It also faces the same issues as Croatia, namely cheap, short flights for European tourists and cruise ships stopping at the city.

As well as the typical problems of over tourism – overcrowding, alienating locals, traffic jams – Venice faces another problem. As so many tourists concentrate on the historical sites, these are facing more and more damage. Tourists are also a huge strain on Venice’s already delicate infrastructure, which can cause a problem for both visitors and residents alike.

The over tourism problem became so bad in Venice that, once again, UNESCO stepped in. They threatened to move Venice to the list of World Heritage Sites that are in danger – although, after a consultation, they decided to not put the city on the endangered list, for now.

 As a result of over tourism, a ban was put in place in 2017 to prevent extra-large cruise ships from docking in the city centre, and instead had to dock on the mainland. The aim was to reduce visitor numbers and also protect the infrastructure.

There is also a plan to implement an entrance ticket fee to the city, which would cost around €5 and would need to be paid by any tourist who is planning to visit the city just for one day. The city has also cracked down on anti-social tourist behaviour, such as issuing fines for littering and even using noisy wheeled suitcases in certain cobbled areas.

Bruges, Belgium

Bruges faces the same level of over-tourism as Venice, with 21 tourists for every one resident. The inner city of Bruges has around 20,000 residents but sees over 8 million visitors per year, primarily consisting of people visiting for just one day.

As well as cheap European flights to the city and cruise ships docking nearby, Bruges is popular with tourists due to its picturesque, historic architecture, canals, and cobbled streets. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and offers museums, art galleries, and plenty of other things to see and do.

As over tourism was beginning to cause issues for the local people and infrastructure, in 2019, the city made a five-year plan to help balance tourist numbers. The plan’s aim is to encourage people to stay overnight, rather than just visit for the day, as well as spread tourist numbers throughout the year, and entice visitors interested in the cultural offerings of the city. There was also a ban put in place to stop accommodation for locals from being turned into hotels.

Rhodes, Greece

Rhodes faces the same level of over tourism as Bruges and Croatia, at 21 visitors for every one resident. The city of Rhodes has around 50,000 inhabitants and sees over 2.5 million visitors every year.

While Rhodes, and Greece as a whole, gains a lot from tourism – around a quarter of the country’s GDP is from tourism income – over tourism is creating problems. Overcrowding creates a host of issues, and local amenities become more geared towards tourists rather than locals. The city also faces a problem with waste disposal, which in turn leads to pollution. The local ecosystem gets damaged by the number of people visiting, especially areas such as coral reefs.

A management plan is currently in the works to help manage tourism across the entire island of Rhodes, as well as Santorini, which has also been impacted by over tourism. The aim is to manage tourism in these locations, to make it sustainable for the future.

Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik is another European city impacted by over tourism, with 16 tourists visiting for every one resident. The city has around 140,000 inhabitants and sees around 2 million visitors every year.

Reykjavik has a lot to offer tourists, with numerous art galleries and museums within the city, as well as easy access to the stunning landscapes of Iceland, and the outdoor activities provided here, including whale watching.

This has caused a problem with locals, with accommodation becoming extremely expensive. Many places have been converted to holiday lets for tourists, meaning there is a shortage of suitable housing within the city for locals. The number of tourists is also having an impact on the environment, which is such a valued part of Iceland. Visitors can cause damage to the delicate ecosystem, making it unsustainable for the future.

Recently, Iceland’s administration has made steps to encourage visitors to come to Reykjavik in the off-season, to help spread the visitors throughout the year. They are also encouraging tourists to visit other areas of Iceland, and not just the capital city.

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