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The Problem of Overtourism in the Cruise Tourism Industry

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For a destination to be classified as suffering from overtourism means that both locals and visitors sense a disruption in the destination’s quality of both experience and lifestyle to a point that it may become unmanageable (UNWTO, 2018). Overtourism is a result of mass tourism which may lead to an imbalance of the multidisciplinary elements of social, economic and environment – the triple bottom line of sustainability (Weaver and Lawton, 2014). Destinations that become unsustainable due to overtourism can lead to host community stakeholders becoming irritable, if the destination’s government does not manage the inflow of visitors.

The cruise ship tourism sector is a severe concern for coastal cities such as Venice due to the collateral damage caused, yet it is not regulated, as there is a dependency on inbound tourists (Gonzalez, 2018). The cruise ship industry is an increasing issue, as there is an endangerment to the natural environment (Weaver and Lawton, 2014). Venice is one of many cities affected by the industry. A destination's carrying capacity is the maximum limit of tourism development before there is rejection from both visitors and residents (Van der Borg et al., 1996, via Séraphin et al., 2018). It has not only caused an overflow of the city's carrying capacity inland but has caused an imbalance with the lagoon. Gonzalez (2018) describes that cruise ships that dock at the city's lagoon are invasive and have disrupted the quietness of Venice. The 2.5 million yearly cruise ship tourists inbound to Venice promotes instant mass tourism, from which the city suffers collateral damage to the lagoon and canals (Gonzalez, 2018). Whilst this has contributed to the city's pollution and is a threat to the local ecosystem, it has not yet steered tourists away from visiting. Thus, Venice has maintained in the stagnation stage of Butler's (1980, via Weaver and Lawton, 2014) destination lifecycle. However, due to the fact that the government of Venice does not impose rules, the number of visitors will continue to grow. A higher concentration in the city that will become unmanageable and perhaps cause the destination to decline in attraction (Gonzalez, 2018). Weaver and Lawton (2014) suggest that cruises have become an enemy to many cities, yet abolishing or reducing cruise ship entrance to Venice is not being considered (Gonzalez, 2018). Venice is in both economic and demographic crises and is what caused the need to promote mass tourism, now fully dependent on the tourism sector for their economy (Seguí, 2009, via Gonzalez, 2018). The high number of cruises that arrive at Venice daily has resulted in mass tourism, with the city suffering the environmental consequences in order to survive economically.

Regulating the inbound tourists that are impacting Venice's carrying capacity can be resolved by Venice's tourism government sector introducing boundaries. Weaver and Lawton (2014) suggest a strategy of sectoring a destination into frontstage and backstage, which will assist in the respect between tourists and residents. Frontstage changes that could have the possibility of reducing an overflow of tourists have been recommended by Wall and Mathieson (2008, via Wall. G, 2020) and these can either be direct or indirect. Weaver and Lawton's (2014) suggestion of frontstage tourism being commodified for the bulk number of tourists could be applied to Venice through techniques outlined by Wall (2020). Through blocking areas of Venice to prevent overtourism occurring, it provides hope of significantly reducing the inflow of tourists via the lagoon (Wall. G, 2020). Directly managing the areas with an influx of tourism, can lead to the assumption that the authentic culture of Venice will be preserved and respected. Venice will not be required to entirely commodify to satisfy tourist demands (Weaver and Lawton, 2014). A destination may be able to recognize that all the elements are multidisciplinary and necessary to achieving a more sustainable destination (Mihalic, 2020), only if there is an understanding of the field and theories of the triple bottom line. As Venice is unable to enforce new destination management strategies, as Gonzalez et al. (2018, via Séraphin et al., 2019) suggest, the destination will face destruction along with the dissatisfaction of tourists.

Besides commodifying an area of Venice for mass tourism, overtourism may also be reduced through the restricted allowance of tourists entering what Weaver and Lawton (2014) describe as backstage areas of a destination. These backstage areas of Venice should only be offered to locals, tourists that are visiting friends and relatives (VFR) and some allocentric tourists (Weaver and Lawton, 2014). If Venice were to consider reconstructing their flow of tourism, it would be assumed in theory that they can reach the triple bottom line of sustainability. Operating with the objectives of protecting their lagoon and preservation of local residential, cultural lifestyle, whilst still offering a frontstage cultural experience to tourists, Venice may be able to become a more sustainable destination.

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Overtourism can result in a decline in tourists as the destination becomes undesirable, due to the anti-tourism reaction from the host community residents. Mihalic (2020) describes that overtourism and anti-tourism as interconnected, as a failure in the interest of locals, these stakeholders become irritable once their quality of life declines (Mihalic, 2020). Higgins-Desbiolles (2018) and Mihalic (2020) both recognize Barcelona residents opposing tourism, due to reaching the city's carrying capacity to the point that dissatisfaction is occurring. Barcelona developed as a destination to the point in Butler's destination lifecycle theory (1980, via Weaver and Lawton, 2014) where there is now a decline due to the negative impacts of mass tourism. Residents of Barcelona are among those host communities that have demarketed their destination with the motto 'Tourists go home' (Hughes, 2018 via Mihalic, 2020) which has caused the conflicting reaction from mass tourism. While overtourism is defined by Richardson (2017, via Séraphin et al., 2019) as a destination that is suffering from the flow of mass tourism and reaching their carrying capacity, anti-tourism differs, as it is assumed to be the response variable from overtourism. Whilst Barcelona would have a high economic income from the tourism industries due to mass tourism, the sector must attempt to mitigate the number of inbound tourists appropriately (Séraphin et al, 2019). Currently, the response to mitigate anti-tourism from residents by the Barcelona government is by placing restrictions on Airbnb rentals for tourists. However, it has been done in a hostile manner (Higgins-Desbiolles, 2018). Although residents perceive that mass tourism holds a threat to their sociocultural heritage (Adie, 2020), it is crucial to demarket the destination more appropriately. Possible demarketing strategies that could be adopted to reach sustainability through the improvement of social interactions may include offerings for Barcelona's offseason of travelling. By resolving overtourism respectfully, the concentration of tourists at a given time may decrease, hence the carrying capacity from a psychological perspective (Higgins-Desbiolles, 2018) is less challenging for residents.

As a destination sees an increase in tourist numbers, sustainable management that supports both the visitors and residents must be considered to prevent it reaching the declining stage of Butler's destination lifecycle (1980, via Weaver and Lawton, 2014). Often once a destination sees an increasing trend in tourists, the government will shift their focus from the social and environmental elements of sustainability and focus primarily on growth (Higgins-Desbiolles, 2018). Australia is an example of a nation that is at risk of suffering from overtourism. Often before a destination reaches the stagnation stage of Butler's destination lifecycle, the location is assumed to be more sustainable, both visitors and residents benefitting from the whole tourism system (WTS). Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Australia's 2020 strategy for tourism was of economic interest. Higgins-Desbiolles (2018) makes the indication that Australia has begun to disregard their sustainable tourism approaches that were once heavily focused on between 1990 and the early 2000s.

Christmas Island maintains these older interests in sustainability, stated via its tourism website (2020). They are sustainable through their economic inflows remaining in the community as local operators ( The island currently remains as alternative tourism, with a deliberate focus of protecting the Christmas Island red crab and promotion of being placed as a 'Natural Wonder' ( However, Christmas Island's government stakeholder is considering marketing the destination to attract a new Asian market with the use of partnering the Genting Dream cruise (Dream Cruises 2020). The arrival of the cruise ship not only will injure the environment but harm the socio-demographic of Christmas Island. Dream Cruises state the Genting Dream will carry over 2,000 tourists that will stop at Christmas Island. A sudden increase in a new market can lead to a change in tourism operators, becoming less local orientated and instead internationally outsourced (Weaver and Lawton, 2014). As suggested by Higgins-Desbiolles (2018), Christmas Island's tourism representatives should work closely with their local community to prepare for the possible mass tourism that could occur in the future. If strategies are not planned before overtourism occurs, Christmas Island may also fall into facing similar consequences to Venice, both their environment and local culture deteriorates.

Destinations with a high income of inbound tourists may begin to see negative effects that will impact a factor that is important to achieving sustainability. These factors may either be everlasting damage to their environment or leaving locals aggravated towards foreign visitors when the destination government focuses on economic income primarily. If not managed, the destination eventually will see a decline in tourists which can be unfavorable to the host community’s economy. Destinations that have not yet reached the stagnation stage of Butler’s destination lifecycle should be careful with attracting a new, larger market. Further developing a destination in preparation for mass tourism may result in a negative impact on local operators.

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The Problem of Overtourism in the Cruise Tourism Industry. (2022, October 28). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 21, 2024, from
“The Problem of Overtourism in the Cruise Tourism Industry.” Edubirdie, 28 Oct. 2022,
The Problem of Overtourism in the Cruise Tourism Industry. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Feb. 2024].
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