Mass Tourism and the Home-Based Travel Agent

mass tourism cruise ship

Mass tourism is booming across the globe and a lot of people are unhappy about it.

Reactions to mass tourism can be found in many places around the globe. Here are just a few:

There have been protests in Venice.

Barcelona is up in arms.

Other parts of Spain have declared a “war on tourists.”

Some Greek islands are threatening to limit the number of people who can visit each day.

The integrity of Machu Picchu is threatened.

Dubrovnik is considering limiting the number of visitors.

And the protests are spreading.

Mass tourism defined

So just what is “mass tourism”? The Travel Industry Dictionary defines mass tourism as “A phenomenon that occurs when thousands or tens of thousands of visitors descend on a destination at the same time.”

The smaller the destination the fewer visitors needed to trigger a mass tourism event. Some destinations experience mass tourism on specific dates or times of year; other destinations experience the phenomenon pretty much year round.

If mass tourism is noticeable today, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet as the old saying goes.

According to China Travel News [ ], 200 million Chinese citizens will travel internationally in 2020.

200 million!

That’s just 7 million less than the entire population of Brazil. It’s more than the total population of Pakistan or Nigeria or Bangladesh, and far more than the entire population of Russia. (Source: United Nations)

Add to this the outflow of tourists from the United States (51 million), Canada (31 million), Germany (90 million), and . . . well you get the picture. Even tiny Hong Kong sees nearly 92 million of its citizens traveling abroad. (Source: World Bank)

Any way you look at it, this is a lot of people. Now obviously not all of these folks are going to show up for dinner at your favorite Paris bistro at the same time. But still . . .

Mass tourism and you

First of all, let’s admit that mass tourism is not, in and of itself, a bad thing.

For those of us who believe in all the manifold benefits of travel it is heartening to see that more and more people now have the opportunity to visit Venice or Machu Picchu or Xian.

For travel agents, the growth of mass tourism tells us that our target audience just keeps on growing.

You should be able to keep building your business year to year, going from success to success – that is if you are following the strategies and tactics taught in the Home-Based Travel Agent Success Course! (End of shameless plug.)

But there is an undeniable downside to mass tourism that affects your clients directly and you indirectly.

Mass tourism and your clients

Imagine this scenario: You book a retired couple for their dream vacation to Venice. You are excited. They are ecstatic.

Then they return and give you a piece of their mind.

“We had a miserable time. The streets were so crowded we could hardly move. Everywhere we went there were mobs, literally mobs of Chinese tourists with their selfie sticks poking out in all directions. The waits at the Doge’s Palace were interminable. And forget going up in the Campanile! The vaporettos were all jam-packed; we never got a seat. We hated it!”

Sound far-fetched? Trust me, it’s not.

Mass tourism and its discontents are a fact of life today. And every indication is that, barring some cataclysm nobody wishes, it will be an issue for years to come.

So what do you owe to your clients? Simply ignoring the mass tourism issue is not an option.

Here are some suggestions:

First, educate yourself. If you specialize in a destination you may already have first-hand experience. If not, ask around. Use the search engines. Network with fellow agents (see Module 4, Chapter 2). Where is the problem most acute? Where are your clients most likely to experience upset locals?

Get to know your clients. (Module 3, Chapter 4) What are their likes and dislikes? Some people simply won’t care that Venice is wall-to-wall tourists in the summer. Others may want to shift their trip to the colder months.

Talk to your clients. Make sure they know that the mega ship carrying them to small Caribbean islands will be joined in port by several other mega ships disgorging thousands of tourists. But wherever they are going, be honest about what you know. Be ready to discuss things and deal with any questions or apprehensions.

Provide them with as many tips as possible. It may take time to build up a comprehensive list for any given destination, but it is time well spent. As a small example, if you stop by the Doge’s Palace in Venice just before closing time, you will be able to buy tickets with little or no wait. Then show up the next morning at opening and breeze right in.

Be prepared to provide alternatives. For example (one of my favorites), you may be able to convince a couple who swear they hate escorted tours to take one to Paris by pointing out that, with a tour, they will have a guaranteed appointment to enter the Eiffel Tower. The alternative could be a three-hour wait in line. (The same applies to the Doge’s Palace, by the way.)

Be prepared to offer an out-of-the-box suggestion. Suppose a client is ready for their annual two-week vacation but tells you they are tired of being overwhelmed by crowds in Europe. Solution: An all-inclusive resort.

Learn about off-the-beaten path destinations and “undiscovered gems.” Of course, there’s really no such thing as an undiscovered tourist destination these days, but not every corner of the world is equally affected by mass tourism and its problems. This could be a good way of differentiating yourself from other travel agents who keep pushing the “usual (overcrowded) suspects.”

Coping with mass tourism can be a challenge. But challenges like this are what make the travel business so exciting and so much fun.

Put on your thinking cap and you may come up with a real winner.

Hmmm. If 200 million people will be leaving China in 2020, maybe that’s the place to send your clients.

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Mass Tourism and the Home-Based Travel Agent was last modified: June 13th, 2018 by Kelly Monaghan