• Dr. Engelbert Ruoss

Over/Under Tourism

Too much or too little? Recognise trends!

Strategic Key Factors in Visitor Management

In the past years over and under tourism caused dramatic impacts on natural and cultural heritage. The main impacts are:

  • Tourism destinations are overrun by visitors and suffer from reduced life quality and visitor experience and increased environmental burden social conflicts, especially due to inadequate behavior of tourists.

  • Unknown destinations with little tourism infrastructure and services get trendy due their presence in media and social media platforms and get overrun in short time by hit and run tourism. This results usually in devastating consequences for culture, environment, local economy and people.

  • Attractive, but remote and badly accessible areas with little infrastructure experience the emigration of young and well educated people and over ageing. Architectural and cultural heritage deteriorate, the landscape run wild and the economic prosperity diminishes and consequently the risk for hazards and costs for maintenance increase.


Figure: Presence of the geographical areas around the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch World Heritage site (SAJA) on social media, (analyzed April 2019).







Key Factors of Sustainable Tourism Strategies

It is important to foresee long term developments and short term trends and take adequate measures to avoid negative impacts and blowing up costs. Social media offer ideal instruments to develop, limit or foster tourism and so a well-balanced tourism,

The following key success factors are fundamental for tourism strategies:

  1. Qualitative and quantitative objectives: How many visitors can be accepted by Cultural and natural heritage and population without damaging their values (Carrying Capacity)? How many visitors are needed to uphold basic tourism infrastructures and services, and to maintain the cultural landscape and biodiversity?

  2. Consider natural, local resources sustaining a smooth development (culture, nature, infrastructure and services available, society landscape)

  3. Risk factors: potential trends, structural problems, limited local resources, climate risk, water scarcity, hazards, high presence in media

  4. Plan, observe and assess developments through the implementation of visitor management strategies


Methods und Implementation

Under the umbrella of the UNESCO Chair in „ICT to Develop and Promote Sustainable Tourism in World Heritage Sites“ of the Università della Svizzera Italiana USI a methodology has been established and applied to analyze the presence of the tourism destinations and products in the social media. The results are the basis for the elaboration of Social Media strategies and 5W Action Plans. The investigations focus on creating Win-Win-Win situation, creating opportunities for locals and guests and to conserve natural and cultural heritage.

ICT applications and social media are cost and time efficient tools to plan, develop, promote and assess visitor flows in heritage sites. They help to recognize new trends and developments and to take measures to promote or limit tourism in vulnerable places.

Dr. Engelbert Ruoss, Andela Sormaz

UNESCO Chair in ICT to develop and promote sustainable tourism in World Heritage sites, USI Lugano

4 August 2020

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