Overtourism. The word itself sounds unpleasant. That's why Dave Lorenz, Vice President of Travel Michigan, and others are working to change the tone, the traffic and the terminology behind the concept.
"We're encouraging people to not use the term overtourism, as it could be misunderstood or misused by people not in the travel and tourism industry," Lorenz said, adding that the negative phrasing could have a negative financial effect. While tourism may help areas build their job base, it's important to know where to visit and when. If overabundant tourism strikes a location, policymakers could strike back with budget decreases and other monetary responses.
Lorenz prefers the term yield management, something he, the Travel Michigan team and others across the country are working to encourage—as a phrase and an action.
A booming economy often leads to a pent-up demand for travel, with certain locations and destinations bearing the brunt of the visitors. "Some communities are a bit overwhelmed, at certain times," Lorenz notes. The share economy—think Airbnb and Uber—contributes to the chaos when overriding previously inherent limits, such as no hotel vacancies or available car rentals. Today, communities are easily oversaturated by tourism: No hotel room doesn't mean nowhere to stay; thus, no reason to stay away.
Then there's the matter of balance: When traffic becomes busier than usual or expected, locations often lack enough workers to manage the load. Finding different—perhaps even better—times to visit helps a community preserve its lifestyle, which in turn helps visitors experience what the tourism industry promotes. For Lorenz and his team, this means "the Pure Michigan promise is kept."
Travel Michigan strives to positively work with these situations by promoting lesser-known locations or providing the incentive for groups to visit certain areas during certain times, to turn down the tourism volume. "We want to equalize travel volume across the state."
National and state parks and tourism attractions worldwide are considering similar approaches, as well as implementing reservation systems and limiting the number of visitors to a park at particular times, or having people pay a premium to visit during premium times—and lowering prices to encourage visits at lower-volume times. "People would get what they want, at a different price at different times."
The old adage "visit in the off-season" could help eliminate system stresses, save money and retain a community's local flavor. The goal is to ensure resources are affordable while delivering a great experience for those traveling to the area. "I believe we get can get it done!"
Bringing others into the conversation helps in creating programs that offer travel incentives. Lorenz mentions that talk about yield management and incentives has become a communal discussion among industry members, who hope to find solutions that please both sides of the tourism coin.
"It's amazing what you can figure out when you collaborate!"
Written by Amy L Charles, Editorial Director for Groups Today.
This article originally appeared in Groups Today.