How Has a Year Without Tourists Impacted the Overtourism Problem?

Photo Courtesy: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images

All press is good press — until that press goes too well. Although the Netherlands’ beautiful, canal-filled city of Amsterdam garners about $91.5 billion a year through tourism, the city and its residents feel more overwhelmed than grateful. In 2018, a whopping 18 million people visited Amsterdam, and experts estimate that number will climb to 42 million visitors by 2030. Longtime resident Ellen van Loon told CNN, "We [the Dutch] don't want to turn into a Venice."

Italy’s similarly canaled destination attracts 28 million visitors annually — while 2,000 residents abandon the city each year due to those same tourists. Of course, Amsterdam and Venice aren’t the only cities that have become synonymous with overtourism. In fact, hotspots all over the world, from beaches in Thailand to ancient sites in Peru, have simply attracted too many curious tourists. This phenomenon, known as overtourism, has led to environmental and ecological damage as well as a great deal of strain for locals who must navigate living amongst tourists and their economic impact.

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has stymied travel, shutting down airports, cities, borders and entire nations. According to the U.S. Travel Association, travel spending declined by an unheard of 42% in 2020; international and business travel suffered the most, with spending falling 76% and 70%, respectively. So, after a year of virtually no tourism, how are these (normally too heavily traveled) places, and the people that call them home, faring?