In much of the world, the governments of countries and cities design entire economic-development strategies around attracting tourists. In Europe, however, residents of some of the most popular destinations are deciding they now have too much of a good thing. Between 2012 and 2017 visits to Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, soared by 60%. In response to concerns that these additional tourists have increased crowding for locals, and benefit from public services without paying for them, on February 7th Edinburgh’s city council voted to introduce a new tourism tax of £2 ($2.58) per visitor per day. Venice and Amsterdam are also considering restrictions.
Such a backlash may have been inevitable given the rapid growth of the industry. The internet has made learning about far-flung destinations easier than ever, and the rise of low-cost airlines has made it far cheaper to get to them. In 2018 the number of international tourists grew by 6% to 1.4bn, the second-largest annual rise since the UN’s World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) first compiled long-term forecasts. And since 2000 international arrivals have doubled. The continent with the biggest market for tourism is Europe, which received 713m overseas arrivals in 2018, 6% more than the previous year.
However, this trend now shows signs of abating. The UNWTO expects growth in visitor numbers to slow next year in every main region. Last year arrivals to Britain fell by 5%, perhaps because of concerns about Brexit. Increasing fears of an all-out trade war between China and America and a recession in the United States, which would have knock-on effects around the world, may discourage would-be tourists from spending on holidays. Edinburghers may well have got their wish of a reprieve from the onslaught of tourists even without the tax.
This article is from our Graphic detail section.