Visitor Pressure

Nowadays, many urban tourist destinations are facing the increasing challenge of tourism-related disturbances. This project aimed to chart the visitor pressure (also referred to as overtourism) for these destinations. Additionally, scenarios were developed to outline how visitor pressure might evolve in the future. Strategies were also devised to help cities manage visitor pressure effectively and prepare for the envisioned scenarios.


Upon completing his doctoral research in 2013 on how residents experience tourism in their communities, Albert Postma quickly became aware of the increasing media attention to the frustrations of city residents regarding tourists, especially in cities like Venice and Barcelona. Inspired by the findings of the doctoral research, ETFI decided to conduct further research into the intricate issue of visitor pressure in cities. In collaboration with the University of Latvia and students from International Tourism Management (ITM), the research group conducted a pilot study in Riga, Berlin, and Amsterdam. Based on the outcomes, a decision was made to conduct a study in larger European cities under the umbrella of CELTH, the Centre of Expertise in Leisure, Tourism & Hospitality. This study was commissioned by the Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) in Copenhagen, Berlin, Munich, Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Lisbon. In a second round, this was also carried out in smaller cities such as Tallinn, Salzburg, Mechelen, Ghent, Antwerp, Bruges, and Leuven.

Problem solution

This project presents strategies to address visitor pressure in various destinations. Each strategy includes a set of suggestions for specific measures that urban destinations can adopt. These measures aim to proactively anticipate and manage visitor pressure. By developing future scenarios, we outlined the potential evolution of overtourism.

The project team consisted of:
  • CELTH: CELTH was led by Hans Dominicus, former director of Amsterdam Marketing at that time.
  • The research was carried out by: Ko Koens (Breda University of Applied Sciences, BUAS), Albert Postma, and in the second round, Bernadett Papp, who was appointed for this research at ETFI.
  • Researchers from BUAS and ETFI also participated in the study. Third-year students from ITM were sent in groups to the five major cities for interviews with residents, without direct supervision but following thorough instructions.
  • The results have been published by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

The research consisted of several components. It started with a literature review conducted by the two project leaders. Subsequently, colleagues from ETFI and BUAS conducted interviews with 10 to 15 experts in the cities. Third-year ITM students from NHL Stenden conducted semi-structured interviews with 25 residents from each city. The students followed a protocol to ensure consistency in their approach. An online survey was completed by over 400 residents in each city, distributed by the Danish panel research agency Epinion in the first round and by Tourism Vlaanderen in the second round. Finally, two scenario workshops were conducted at Schiphol Airport with representatives from the DMOs in the cities in both rounds.


The project has resulted in a remarkable flow of presentations and publications, both scientific and non-scientific, providing ETFI and CELTH with significant recognition at both national and international levels. This is particularly evident due to the collaboration with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), which took charge of publishing two reports (see reference list UNWTO, 2018 and UNWTO, 2019).

A notable outcome is the special edition of our own scientific Journal of Tourism Futures, along with three spin-off projects. The first involved a study in Hamburg in collaboration with NIT in Kiel. The second included the temporary secondment of Bernadett Papp to the UNWTO. The third was a joint study by BUAS and ETFI commissioned by the TRAN Committee of the European Parliament. Each of these studies resulted in its own series of publications. The article published by Ko Koens, Albert Postma, and Bernadett Papp in the journal Sustainability in 2018 is among the first and one of the most cited scientific articles on this subject (as of March 2024, 871 citations).

The reputation established by ETFI through this project has led to enhanced collaboration with the UNWTO and other entities such as CityDNA (City Destination Alliance, formerly European Cities Marketing), ETOA (European Tour Operators Association), the World Travel and Tourism Council, the European Travel Commission, and the Travel Foundation. A chronological list of our results is provided below.

This research project ran from November 2014 till May 2019

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