As we argued in past editions, a deceleration in global growth won’t affect global tourism (and wellness tourism) in a proportional/linear manner. The rise of the global middle class combined with the rise of discount travel (plus the insatiable human appetite to discover new places) means that tourism will continue to grow, (almost) no matter what. It did even in the midst of the great financial crisis (2009-2010), so there is no reason to think it won’t when the next crisis strikes.
To put this into perspective, there were 2.21 billion global air passengers in 2007. This number increased slightly in 2008, 2009 and 2010 before resuming its sharp increase. Last year, it reached 3.98 billion (tourists accounted for slightly more than 1.2 billion).
It’s official! Overtourism is now one of the defining issues of the travel and tourism industry. It’s bound to get worse over the years to come. Since the publication last year of the groundbreaking WTTC/McKinsey report, the issue has become mainstream with hundreds of articles addressing it. This is particularly so in Europe where the phenomenon is more acute than elsewhere and has occasionally gone as far as local inhabitants physically rejecting tourists.
In a revealing sign, the hometown of the Monthly Barometer (Chamonix—the world capital of alpinism) has just decided to require a permit to climb the Mont-Blanc. The sheer number of climbers on Europe’s highest peak means that you can see stains of what they “leave behind” from the valley.
Apart from the issue of sustainability (addressed in past issues), overtourism begs the following question: How can wellness tourism prosper in places inundated by tourists? In the same way that air pollution negatively impacts the wellness experience in places where one cannot breathe, will overtourism do the same in places where one cannot move?
For example, will a high-end customer be willing to travel to Venice where some hotels now advertise their luxurious wellness facilities by promising that you can “escape the crowd” by remaining “locked” in an extra-exclusive compound?
How will that affect the wellness experience as a whole? Wellbeing and overcrowding are bad bedfellows. In the years to come, wellness resorts that offer calm and serenity (even possibly a bit of solitude) will benefit from a premium.