UNWTO to discuss innovative tourism experiences in urban destinations

A view of Valladolid, Spain, where the UNWTO conference will hold

Releases Report On Impact Management
Innovation, traveller demand for diverse and authentic experiences in cities, and urban tourism governance models will be the central themes of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) conference on City Breaks: Creating Innovative Experiences.

Billed for October 15, in Valladolid, Spain, the two-day conference will address the future of urban tourism, with special emphasis on current challenges, technology, governance and public-private partnership models, as well as generating opportunities along the entire tourism value chain of the city and integrating gastronomy and wine tourism in urban experiences.

City tourism is one of the fastest-growing segments in the world. It attracts both business and leisure travellers, generating income that supports socioeconomic and cultural development. In recent years, the growing popularity of city breaks has opened many urban destinations to new markets and segments, increasing the number of visitors, mainly in Europe. With the growing demand for urban tourism, it becomes crucial to guarantee the quality of tourists’ experiences, while at the same time reflecting on key issues such as sustainability, accessibility, connectivity, and infrastructure, as well as dispersing tourism.

The conference will be attended by representatives from cities such as Graz (Austria), Lisbon (Portugal), Turin (Italy) and Seville (Spain), and will serve as a platform for exchanging experiences and perspectives on the positioning of urban destinations, as well as learning how to manage emerging challenges.

Valladolid is a well-known urban destination in Spain that is firmly committed to a tourism strategy that prominently features adventure, wine and cultural tourism, among other segments.

Meanwhile, UNWTO has launched a new report that aims to help manage growing urban tourism flows and their impact on cities and residents. The report titled, Overtourism’? Understanding and managing urban tourism growth beyond perceptions was launched during the recently held 7th UNWTO Global Summit on Urban Tourism, in Seoul, Republic of Korea.

The report examines how to manage tourism in urban destinations to the benefit of visitors and residents alike. It proposes 11 strategies and 68 measures to help understand and manage visitor growth. The report is the result of collaboration between UNWTO, the Centre of Expertise Leisure, Tourism & Hospitality (CELTH), Breda University of Applied Sciencesm and the European Tourism Futures Institute (ETFI) of NHL Stenden University of Applied sciences.

The recent growth of urban tourism requires the sector to ensure sustainable policies and practices that minimize adverse effects of tourism on the use of natural resources, infrastructure, mobility and congestion, as well as its socio-cultural impact. Increased reports of negative attitudes among local populations towards visitors, due to perceived overcrowding, noise and other issues, have led to the spread of terms such as ‘overtourism’ and ‘tourismphobia’ in the media.

“Governance is key. Addressing the challenges facing urban tourism today is a much more complex issue than is commonly recognized. We need to set a sustainable roadmap for urban tourism and place tourism in the wider urban agenda,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. “We must also ensure local communities see and benefit from the positive aspects of tourism,” he added.

To better understand visitor management challenges in urban contexts, particularly the relationship between residents and visitors, the report includes an analysis of residents’ perceptions towards tourism in eight European cities – Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Munich, Salzburg and Tallinn.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution to deal with overtourism. Instead tourism needs to be part of a city-wide strategy for sustainable development”, Dr. Ko Koens of the Centre of Expertise Leisure, Tourism & Hospitality (CELTH) and Breda University of Applied Sciences concludes.

The report, however, recommends a common strategic vision among all stakeholders involved, bringing residents and visitors together and adopting careful planning which respects the limits of capacity and the specificities of each destination.

“The involvement and support of local residents is key in achieving sustainable tourism”, Professor Albert Postma of CELTH and NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences explains.

“Building shared responsibility amongst stakeholders directly or indirectly involved in tourism development is a key for ensuring long-term sustainability”, involved researcher Bernadett Papp concludes.

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