A discussion about the sustainability of mass Tourism is continuing in parts of Europe.
The discussion may be unpopular to some, but there’s concern that the welcome money and jobs brought by tourism might eventually be at risk unless issues such as overcrowding are managed now.
Politics aside, there is an argument being mounted that the mixing of traditional cultures and environments with today’s massive cruise ships, Tourist coaches and increased air traffic needs to be handled carefully.
This is particularly so in ancient densely populated cities where attractions are often concentrated in an area of a few square kilometres, like Barcelona, Prague, Dubrovnik, Amsterdam and Salzburg.
Recently, we were fortunate enough to spend time in a traditional Lattari Mountain village in southern Italy, where the culture and environment appeared to have changed little for a long time.
However, only a few kilometres away – on the Amalfi Coast – we saw a big cruise ship sitting off Atrani; a almost never-ending line of Tourist Coaches crawling along the narrow coast road; and bustling crowds of people queueing for seats in the restaurants of Amalfi.
At Ravello, the picturesque Piazza Vescovado seemed to have been at least partially converted into a reception area and photographic backdrop for international weddings.
And, anyone who has been to the Greek island of Santorini, the Italian isle of Capri, or even environmentally-fragile Venice will attest to the scale of cruise ship movements in these areas.
Since 1980, the population of Venice has halved to about 60,000, at the same time as the city fills with as many as 80,000 tourists a day.
Some measures are already being discussed to ease overcrowding and the problems that it can bring.
Cinque Terre, a section of Italian coastline famed for five attractive cliffside villages, has looked at the concept of entry tickets to reduce tourists to manageable levels, while other cities are considering a visitor’s tax.
Tourism officials from several cities, including Prague, Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna, Barcelona and Berlin have started talks to learn from each other.
No one appears to be denying that Europe’s economies need and welcome the income and employment provided by mass tourism.
The question seem to be whether this income can be sustained without action to protect the very culture, environment, local residents and attractions that draw tourists in the first place.