We heard much talk about limiting numbers, banning stag and hen parties, and managing the balance of the needs of tourists against the lifestyle and ambitions of local people. Unfortunately, much of that seems to have gone out of the window, with key destinations groaning once more under the burden of tourism as rents soar and local people are driven from their homes.
The vicious circle continues: local services suffer (such as schools), communities begin to disintegrate, and even those locals who remain find it hard to manage normal day-to-day lives, suffering from the same old problems of traffic, pollution, environmental damage and overtourism.
We have seen some quite lazy reporting about this problem, with many of the challenges of overtourism laid at the doorstep of the cruise industry. In the press we read widely about Venice, Barcelona and Amsterdam, to name but three, 'closing their doors to the cruise industry'. But let's take a closer look at what is actually happening.
The future of sustainable tourism in close collaboration with the cruise industry is something all the stakeholders take very seriously, and over the summer we welcomed an agreement between the Association of Mediterranean Cruise Ports (MedCruise) and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).
They have signed a long-term agreement of collaboration on the contribution of Sustainable Development in Global Cruise Industry, focusing on ports and the cruise supply chain. This is a platform which can be rolled out globally, with the aim of creating a pathway towards sustainable development which supports all parties.
Whilst it is easy for a port to hit headlines with a cruise ship ban, the fact is that local businesses rely heavily on the tourist dollar, and a single cruise ship call can bring extensive benefits to the area. The important aim is to ensure that the cruise lines invest heavily with a full understanding of the economic and social needs of the region, as well as the environmental impact of a cruise ship call.
Solutions can include high levels of investment to develop resources outside city centres, with a focus on the needs of the destination and a clear mandate to protect the environment. Wielded effectively, tourism can meet its potential as a tool for conservation and poverty alleviation.
On a contrasting basis is the work of AECO, the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators. This association was founded in 2003, with an aim to ensure that expedition cruises and tourism in the Arctic are carried out with the utmost consideration for the vulnerable, natural environment, local cultures, and cultural remains, as well as the challenging safety hazards at sea and on land.
One of their key focuses is to use the most highly qualified guides and to work with individuals who are knowledgeable and experienced in the Arctic environment and understand its natural and human history, not to mention its contemporary culture.
Key to this is the Community Engagement Programme which engages with communities, stakeholders, visitors and tourist operators across the Arctic to ensure that everyone's short- and long-term needs are met.
Whilst these two programmes appear at first glance to be very different, it is soon apparent that they are working from exactly the same premise, namely that to ensure that tourism is carefully managed as a force for good; extensive communication leading to collaboration is the way to go.