Overtourism and the need for more vitamin C

(Published in www.tornosnews.gr: 06.02.2024, in greek)

Source: UN Tourism

Overtourism is a term that in recent years appears frequently in the public debate on tourism. It is described and defined by many diverse sources, in ways and definitions that little differ from each other. The World Tourism Organization defines overtourism as “the impact of tourism on a destination, or parts thereof, that excessively influences the perceived quality of life of citizens and/or quality of visitor experiences in a negative way”[1].

Slightly different, but within the same framework, the European Parliament defines overtourism as: “... the situation in which the impact of tourism, at certain times and in certain locations, exceeds the limits of physical, ecological, social, economic, psychological and/or and political ability”[2].

Source: Tourism Generis, adapted from Perkumienė, D., & Pranskūnienė, R., 2019. «Overtourism: Between the Right to Travel and Residents’ Rights. Sustainability, 11(7), 2138. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11072138»

The European Parliament also points out that “the suspicion or appearance of overtourism phenomena for a few days in a tourist destination cannot fully characterize it and over time”.  

The phenomenon of overtourism does not exist in Greece, as a country-tourist destination. However, it can be an issue for a handful of places. Obviously, the host communities and not the remote “experts”, have the first say. In the tourist host communities, most residents make their living from tourism, while some of them do not realize the relation between tourism and their prosperity. Yes, it is true that any “pressure” exercised on a destination by an increasing number of tourists and visitors negatively affects the tourist experience and yes, it lowers the standard of living of the host community. But, neither the tourists, nor the businesspeople, nor the permanent residents are to blame for the problem. So, who is to blame? 

In Greece, 90% of the tourism activity takes place in 5 Regions. This will not change in the medium term and has limited chances in the long term. This is where the non-rational tourism development starts and is “maintained”, significantly reducing the contribution of tourism to regional development. Poor management of the tourism resources at local level completes the picture.

The sustainability of destinations cannot be achieved within the framework of a recent law, as it allows the legal entities of the Regional Governments and Municipalities to rename themselves as "Destination Management Organizations". In Greece, there are 13 Regions and 332 Municipalities. Imagine 345 DMMOs... However, and thanks to the remarkably high degree of bureaucracy introduced by this law, few entities will dare, fewer will succeed and none will get the job done properly. So, the only solution is the planning and management of the destinations to be done in close collaboration with the private sector. This is not yet visible, due to the lack of vitamin C (C=Cooperation-Collaboration-Coordination) to all stakeholders. 

Conclusion: overtourism is the result of a lack of planning and inefficient management at destination level. It is not a side effect of the rational tourist development. More vitamin C is needed, as the public and the private sector need to cooperate/collaborate/coordinate at every stage of planning and management of the destinations.  


George Drakopoulos



[1] UNWTO, 2018. “’Overtourism’? Understanding and Managing Urban Tourism Growth beyond Perceptions”.

[2] European Parliament (EP), 2018. “Research for TRAN Committee (European Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN)) - Overtourism: impact and possible policy responses”.