The Phenomenon of Mass Tourism
From the moment you step off the bustling train, bodies touch, forced to be compressed together. People begin to push, to shove. Everyone’s heading in the same direction. The once lush, green grass is destroyed by the soles of the shoes. Cameras point in all directions whilst local residents take cover from the never-ending flashes. You have spent your hard-earned wages to visit a beautiful tourist destination. But you are far from impressed, and neither are those residing there permanently. This is mass tourism, a phenomenon befalling many tourist sites worldwide, with enormous strains being put upon the environment and local society. With those realisations in mind, there are now many efforts to reduce this and many picturesque places in the world where you can escape mass tourism. Introducing: Sustainable Tourism.
Sustainable Tourism in Practise: Middelfart
Thankfully, many tourist places are now beginning to carve out a new reputation. In doing so, they often look at successful examples of tourism management elsewhere for inspiration. The town of Middelfart in Denmark, home to 16,000 people, certainly fits this bill. Middelfart was awarded the EDEN (European Destination of Excellence) award in 2022 for its outstanding commitment to sustainable tourism. The prestigious prize promotes sustainable tourism development models across the EU. According to the European Commission, it aims to enhance the visibility of emerging European destinations, create a platform for sharing good practices across Europe and promote networking between awarded destinations. Since 2007, one destination has been chosen annually to receive the prize, beating out many more shortlisted places. So, why was a small Danish town victorious in a continental political bloc counting 27 countries and encompassing a population of 450 million people?
Why The EDEN Award Was Received
Middelfart is pioneering sustainability preserving and bringing to life age-old Danish cultural history. The destination, on the Danish island of Funen, prioritises climate protection, water quality, and sustainable urban development through a unique combination of research and local collaboration. All stakeholders, from businesses, civil society, to local residents, are invited to undergo this sustainable transformation together. Notable projects include measuring flora and fauna in the area’s wildlife environments to create a unique and secure experience for visitors whilst safeguarding the wildlife attraction. They also offer a vast range of climate-related education resources to their visitors, as well as varied eco-touristic offerings and activities, such as whale watching in Denmark’s largest nature part, Lillebelt. The combination of these efforts and the collaborative nature they reflect allowed Middelfart to make a name for itself as a green destination.
A Further Example in the Nordic Region: An Archipelago in Sweden
Another enviable destination offering sustainable tourism that many other places could learn from is the Swedish county of Blekinge and its archipelago. Human activity and nature conservation are being harmonised through UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserves project, which aims to promote solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use for human activity. In collaboration with local businesses, sustainability has been placed at the forefront of Blekinge’s tourism approach, One of the projects is ARK56, a sustainable tourist circuit that can be completed by boat, in a kayak, or on foot. Located, along the region’s stunning coast, it enables visitors to both discover and protect the surrounding nature. The circuit is a comprehensive network of trails, explicitly designated by UNESCO for its unique natural and cultural value. It allows visitors to meet at 16 hubs where they can easily swap modes of travel. It is a truly unique experience to explore and discover the region’s rich cultural heritage and natural assets, where land meets sea, using the most eco-friendly transport modes with zero emissions.
Tourism is Beneficial… If Managed Correctly
With two fascinating Nordic examples in mind, let us look at the bigger picture: Organisations such as UNESCO work worldwide to facilitate and manage the development of sustainable tourism. But why? When travelling to new (or old) destinations, one may feel the urge to explore, seek adventure, or perhaps relax and unwind. Either way, any touristic activity impacts the local economy, society, and environment. Tourism is worth over $1 trillion globally and employs approximately 289 million people. Even though these benefits may make the industry seem an ideal economic growth model from the outside, the beauty of the destinations we cherish will not last forever unless tourism practices adapt accordingly. The tourism industry must be managed sustainably to use its advantages and minimise its disadvantages. The World Tourism Organisation defines sustainable tourism as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities”. Initiatives such as the EDEN Award are wonderful examples of promoting this concept and offer authentic, local experiences. Likewise, the ARK56 circuit in Blekinge practices all of the above elements, ensuring that visitors can travel around the archipelago without emitting toxicities into the air, so that our children and grandchildren can still have the same experiences as us.
Learning from Each Other
Practising sustainable tourism seems an excellent solution for society, economies, and the environment to reap the benefits of tourism, both in current times and in the future. Sharing knowledge, cooperating between stakeholders, and considering the harmonisation between humans and nature are certainly steps in the right direction for changing the industry for the better. The hustle and bustle of mass tourism, and its negative consequences, are gradually being addressed.