CROWDED OUT: The Story of Overtourism

Narrated by Justin Francis

[Responsible Travel, 2018, 23:20 minutes]

Crowded Out: The Story of Overtourism is a documentary about the growing concern over the negative impact the increasing number of tourists is having on the culture and infrastructure of vacation hotspots.

Although this problem has been decades in the making, 2017 was a turning point, brought on by local residents across Europe protesting the lack of responsible planning for managing the issues caused by an overabundance of vacationing visitors. It seems tourism, as an industry, has reached a tipping point that’s no longer viable and residents are feeling the brunt of it.

Traveller Justin Francis explores “Overtourism”

The film is narrated by Justin Francis, himself a world traveller with 17 years of experience arranging tours for other tourists. Francis brings a unique firsthand perspective to the idea of “Overtourism,” a term that was originally coined in 1987 by Jost Krippendorf.

“Overtourism” can be defined as the rapidly increasing volume of visitors to popular destinations that results in damage to historical sites, a reduced quality of life for residents and the upheaval of local housing markets. As the CEO and founder of Responsible Travel, Francis explores the topic of Overtourism with a variety of experts in the tourism field, as well as local residents who voice their concerns and experiences.

Francis uses Venice [Italy], Barcelona [Spain] and Gili Trawangan [Indonesia] as case studies, and the viewer is exposed to the pressure the local communities are under. The unavailability of long-term flatlets, a lack of everyday amenities and disintegrating cultural authenticity are driving many long-term residents away from their homes, in order to escape the plethora of vacationers who are often disrespectful in their actions: drinking, jostling and littering without regard to the fact that they’re holidaying in a place someone else calls home.

The growth of the hospitality and tourism industry

The tourism industry seems impervious to economic or political turmoil, growing exponentially every year. Francis comments that worldwide, there were about 25 million active tourists in 1950, which grew to 1.3 billion in 2017—and that number is still climbing.

The documentary outlines the six main reasons tourism is such a boom:

  • Ever-cheaper flight deals
  • Travel writing that frequently covers the same hotspots
  • As a result of this travel writing, the creation of “Honeypot” sites that become overrun
  • Cruise lines
  • The increase in availability of short-term rental apartments
  • Changes in demographics which show that China produces the most tourists, with retired Baby Boomers becoming a major source as well

No concrete plans to manage the problem

The most surprising thing is that there seem to be no governing bodies managing the worldwide problem of Overtourism, so there’s little control or restrictions to manage the influx of tourists. This is very worrisome, as it’s clear from the statistics that the problem is only getting worse, yet there are no major plans or initiatives in place to do anything about it.

Without any regulation, local residents in “Honeypot” locales will continue to feel the pressure, and these places will increasingly lose their authenticity, which is what makes them special destinations for holidayers in the first place.

Personal views

Group of tourists on Ponte della Paglia Venice- Crowded out

The Ponte della Paglia in Venice, Italy

As a full-time traveller, I’ve been to many places (Venice and Barcelona included), and I can say firsthand that tourism is becoming out of control. I’ve seen throngs of crowds so thick that I couldn’t traverse them, and groups of party-makers that were drunk senseless, picking fights and destroying property.

I’ve come to the point where I now avoid popular destinations in favour of less well-known ones, or at least stay out of the core tourist areas when I do visit popular vacation spots.

I can only imagine what it’ll be like 10 years from now, if a solution isn’t found to better manage tourism. I’ve come to the point where I now avoid popular destinations in favour of less well-known ones, or at least stay out of the core tourist areas when I do visit popular vacation spots.

Responsible Travel offers some guidance for travellers, residents and governments as to actions they can take to reduce the pressure of Overtourism. These can be found on their website at

I believe we all have a responsibility to not only respect our environment but also the impact we have on local communities, whether at home or abroad. The documentary Crowded Out: The Story of Overtourism will be a real eye-opener for vacationers and residents alike.

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image: Wikimedia Commons