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Definitions in the literature

While defining overtourism is difficult, it is necessary, as tackling this phenomenon effectively starts with understanding its main characteristics.


Specialists and scholars give different definitions. The World Tourism Organisation, a specialised agency of the United Nations, defines overtourism as:

… the impact of tourism on a destination, or parts thereof, that excessively influences perceived quality of life of citizens and/or quality of visitor experiences in a negative way.

(UNTWO, 2018, p. 4)

Scholars outline different situations one can define as overtourism.

Overtourism happens when:

  • The number of tourists is higher than the number of locals
  • A destination has reached the maximum limit to tourism development, also known as carrying capacity (we’ll explore this concept further this week)
  • The destination is suffering the strain of tourism (Seraphin et al., 2018)

Your task

Do you recognise any of these situations as described in the definition? Have you experienced any of them yourself?


World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Centre of Expertise Leisure, Tourism and Hospitality, NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences, & NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences. (2018). ‘Overtourism’? – Understanding and Managing Urban Tourism Growth beyond Perceptions, Executive Summary. https://doi.org/10.18111/9789284420070

Séraphin, H., Sheeran, P. & Pilato, M. (2018). Over-tourism and the fall of Venice as a destination. Journal of Destination Marketing & Management, Vol. 9, pp. 374-376. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jdmm.2018.01.011

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