Risk of overcrowding for tourism in Durban, Cape Town in spotlight

Cape Town - While there is a low risk of overcrowding making a negative impact on tourism in Cape Town, the risk of that happening in Durban is much higher, according to a report by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

The report, produced in conjunction with McKinsey & Company, analysed the impact of "overcrowding", "overtourism" and "tourismphobia" on 68 destinations in the world. It found that popular tourism spots need to understand their situations, identify early warning signs and plan accordingly.

Analysing the sample of 68 cities, the report identified five types of problems created by overcrowding in general. These are alienation of local residents; constrained infrastructure; diminished tourist experience; damage to natural resources; and a threat to cultural heritage.

Cape Town was placed in the bottom 20% of the cities analysed concerning the risk of overcrowding leading to negative tourist experiences, while Durban was among the top 40%.

The two cities - the only South African cities analysed for the report - appear to face the same level of risk of overcrowding alienating local residents. This is regarded as low (in the bottom 20% to 40% of the sample).

Cape Town is seen as having a medium risk level of overcrowding leading to overloaded infrastructure due to seasonality (among the top 60% of the sample). The risk of overcrowding damaging nature was, however found to be low.


Although the risk of overloading infrastructure due to arrival seasonality was found to be low in Durban, the risk of infrastructure overload due to attraction concentration was found to be very high (among the top 20% of the sample). (Picture: iStock)

Cape Town:


In both Cape Town and Durban the risk of overcrowding impacting culture and heritage was found to be low (bottom 20% of the sample). (Picture: iStock)


Types of problems

Gloria Guevara, president and CEO of the WTTC, explains in the report that some destinations capture a significant share of the travel and tourism pie and may be threatened by their own popularity. The threat can be in environmental, social or aesthetic terms.

Cape Town:

(Picture: iStock)

Practical solutions offered by the report for problems created by overcrowding include smoothing visitor numbers over time; spreading visitors across sites; adjusting pricing to balance supply and demand; regulating accommodation supply; and limiting access and activities.

According to the report, local tourism managers must work with all public and private stakeholders to develop a coherent plan to create and manage tourism growth that puts people and communities at its heart. Such a plan must be long-term and fact-based. Results must have a positive impacts for those who host tourists as well as enhancing experiences for tourists.

“Tourism creates jobs and economic growth. In 2017 travel and tourism will contribute nearly $7.9trn to the global economy. One billion more people will be in the global middle class by 2030 and with travel becoming ever more accessible, our sector will continue to grow," said Guevara.

Overcrowding is easier to prevent than to recover from and good management is vital for all tourism destinations, according to Alex Dichter, a senior partner at McKinsey & Company.

“There is no easy, one-size-fits-all fix. Once destinations have sorted out the fact base, strategy, stakeholders, and funding, they must then identify and execute practical actions, both for the long- and the short-term," said Dichter.

The report points out that “value over volume” is a focus for many destinations. It points out that one could, on the other hand, ask whether it is reasonable to reduce visitor numbers to a more sustainable level if that action also makes the destination accessible only to the wealthy.

WTTC research found the challenges associated with overcrowding are real and cannot be solved with a uniform approach.

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