Will Overtourism Return And How Can It Be Avoided? — Life-Sized Travel

Mikael Colville-Andersen
10 min readFeb 20, 2023

The conversation about the destructive nature of overtourism had been increasing steadily — and then the pandemic hit. Cities emptied around the world. The citizens who had been fighting against overtourism could all of a sudden see what victory might look like. Now the challenge is managing overtourism effectively so that we don’t just return to pre-pandemic levels.

Overtourism in Barcelona

Above is a video of me interviewing a Barcelona activist, Martí Cuso Coll from ABTS — citizen’s group fighting against overtourism in the Catalan capital. It gives you a good baseline in understanding the issue.

There are 1.6 million people in Barcelona but in 2019, the city received 30 million visitors — more than the entire country of Greece. This puts a massive strain on services like public transport. Locals just taking the metro or tram to work have to squeeze onto crowded trains in the summer as visitors head to the city’s sights. It’s a battle for space in neighbourhoods as citizens who just want to live a normal life in the city are forced to navigate crowded streets lined with kitsch souvenir shops and also deal with noise from the urban nightlife.

Tourists lining the ridge at Thingvellir National Park in Iceland

Personally, I don’t actively seek out destinations that suffer from overtourism. I spend a lot of time in Barcelona, but I never visit the overcrowded city center, preferring to enjoy other neighbourhoods where many of my local friends live. Sometimes, however, overtourism finds me, whether I like it or not.

I once had to go to Dubrovnik, Croatia for work during peak cruise ship season. I had never been to the city and wanted to explore it but it was hard to find areas within the walls where I could get a feel for the place. All the shops catered to tourists.

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Mikael Colville-Andersen

Urban designer, author and host of the global documentary series about urbanism, The Life-Sized City. Impatient Idealist.