Professor of New Urban Tourism Ko Koens on the contribution of applied research to finding sustainable solutions for overtourism.
In the fourth edition of the magazine PIT by RegieORGA SIA with the theme Energy Transition and Sustainability, Ko Koens talks about his research into how the problems caused by overtourism can be tackled: ‘Ironically enough, by looking for each other!’ Over the last twenty years, problems of overtourism, amplified by the rise of cheap flights, new business models such as Airbnb, have become increasingly urgent. Social media is also becoming more and more influential. Koens emphasizes that nuisance is not only caused by the stereotypical noisy tourist, but also by the culturally aware traveler who wants to explore new areas and increasingly shares public space and services with the local population. ‘Our research in six European cities showed that stakeholders in the tourist flow do not easily seek each other out,’ says Koens. “Not even within the community. Let alone that parties from the tourism industry, transport companies, environmental clubs or citizens were jointly involved in the discussion about overtourism.” It also turned out that if municipalities want to combat overtourism, they have to come up with policy much more quickly. And that becomes a lot easier if other parties in the city help identify problems and help think about solutions. To ensure that all these parties continue to meet to work on sustainable tourism, a toolkit was developed in the European follow-up study SmartCulTour, in which Inholland’s Urban Leisure & Tourism Lab Rotterdam was also involved. The next steps in the research of the New Urban Tourism lectorate are aimed at facilitating the co-creation of new policy between all those involved in urban tourism. The recently launched Expertise Network and Lecturers’ Platform for Sustainable Urban Tourism (ENSUT) will help enormously in this respect. Within the network, lectorates from all over the country share their knowledge and generate new knowledge with companies and tourist destinations with the aim of working together towards a sustainable future for urban tourism. Ko Koens is full of confidence: ‘We have now proven that with practice-oriented research we make a strong contribution to finding answers about how tourism can give back to the destination,’ says Koens.