The UNWTO Commission for Europe and workshop on “growth, innovation and partnerships”

At the end of May representatives of UNWTO membership countries gathered for the 64th time, this time in Zagreb. The meeting was organised by the Regional Department for Europe, which is responsible for the cooperation and activities with 42 Members and 2 Associate Members. The meeting was visited by 1-2 representatives per country, for example, by high-level government representatives responsible for shaping tourism policies, directors/secretaries general, State Secretaries, Assistant and Deputy Ministers, Ministers, representatives of the private sector (including UNWTO Affiliate Members, Google, and Horwarth HTL) and academic experts.

An interactive workshop on ‘overtourism’

Usually, the second day takes the form of a seminar with a series of presentations. However, this time UNWTO opted for an approach that would create more interaction between the countries and challenge the delegates to share their views on a specific theme. The organisers in Zagreb chose overtourism as the subject to focus on. CELTH and ETFI contributed to the moderation of an interactive workshop related to the studies they did with UNWTO on overtourism. Although a number of 50 attendees was expected, the registration list counted over 80.

Stimulating interaction and sharing viewpoints on how tourism flows can be managed

Sandra Carvao, Chief  Tourism Market Intelligence and Competitiveness at UNWTO headquarters in Madrid, kicked-off with a presentation on the reports on overtourism, the key challenges and the strategies to manage tourism flows. Next, Albert Postma, the professor of strategic foresight & scenario planning at ETFI,  took over for the interactive part of the workshop. In general, overtourism is often interpreted as a function of tourist numbers, but in practice the notion of overtourism is multidimensional. Given the diversity of the group, with different levels of knowledge of and experience with overtourism, Albert Postma designed a workshop to get the delegates acquainted with the complexity and different interpretations of overtourism, to stimulate interaction, to share viewpoints and to discuss how tourism flows can better be planned and managed.

Different ways in which overtourism can be defined

In the beautiful dome of the Esplanade Hotel, the delegates worked in 10 mixed groups on the five different ways in which overtourism can be defined: as an excess of

  • Physical capacity
  • Environmental or ecological capacity
  • Economic capacity
  • Perceptual or psychological capacity, and/or
  • Social capacity

Discussing overtourism and presenting outcomes

Each group discussed the type of overtourism, how it could be monitored, and which strategies from the report would be favoured to manage it. For each of the strategies, the groups had to define the level of:

  • robustness (the extent to which it prepares for multiple futures)
  • suitability (the extent to which it addresses the excess of the type of capacity)
  • acceptability (the extent to which is acceptable to stakeholders concerning risks and returns
  • feasibility (the extent to which resources are available to put the strategy in practice)
  • risk (the extent to which it is likely that something could go wrong)
  • scalability (the ease with which the strategy can be up-scaled in case of increasing demand)

The workshop should take the diversity of the group into account, the need for interpreters in some cases, as well as the variety in the knowledge of and experience with the topic under consideration. The groups were asked to write down the outcomes of the discussions on a pre-structured poster and to present the outcomes afterwards.