Project description

The episode of the systemic crisis that began with the burst of the real estate bubble is currently being followed by yet another bubble, now blown by a tourism industry that favours Spain within a possibly temporary context in which its Mediterranean competitor destinations have weakened. New channels of commercialisation, often wrongly tagged as “sharing economy”, have helped to increase the profitability of tourist and real estate investment, resulting in a further expansion of the tourist commodification frontier. Overtourism is about the undesired side-effects of this assumed economic prosperity, such as environmental deterioration, inflation and the erosion of social welfare, specially in the main urban areas of coastal tourist destinations. This is the case of multifunctional cities such as Malaga, Valencia, Alicante, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Barcelona or Palma.

Within this context, this project aims to contribute to the study of overtourism and to define tourist management strategies from a multdisciplinary tradition of critique shared by Geography, Political Ecology, Political Economy and Social Antropology.

The specific targets of the overall project are:

  1. Explore overtourism from a theoretical and comparative analysis
  2. Evaluate the social reactions to overtourism via qualitative means of observation and discourse analysis.
  3. Establish key variables and early-warning indicators as means of diagnosis and planning, through quantifying the impact of overtourism on socio-environmental variables such as beach saturation, urban water supply, and access to housing.
  4. Test the overtourism diagnosis of each of the three topics by the other two teams, thereby promoting interaction and developing the maximum coordination and collaboration possible among the three sub-projects.
  5. Assess the efficacy of territorial and tourist planning policies and innovative toolkits for developing strategies of growth contention and degrowth.
  6. Diffusion and transference of the results.

The coordination of the three sub-projects allows us to, firstly, individually lead a specific topic (social, environmental and economic), and develop it according to their own geographical case studies (Costa del Sol, Valencian Community, Barcelona and the Balearic and Canarian archipelagos); secondly, the overall coordination involves transversal tests across the three sub-projects, thus encouraging collaboration among partners and within all the coastal tourist destinations that are being analysed.

Hypothesis and project targets

This project is based on the following starting hypothesis:

  1. Social tensions, increasing pressure on natural resources and decreasing quality of the destination's tourist offer can be the result of overtourism in coastal destinations in Spain.
  2. The existing tourism indicator systems do not respond to the overtourism diagnostic needs, but it is possible to adapt and define environmental, economic and social indicators and variables, that consequently, can guide strategies for the sustainable planning and management of the destinations.
  3. Tourism containment and degrowth strategies in coastal destinations can guide the definition of urban and touristplanning and management parameters for tourist destinations.

From these assumptions, the research project will as General Target: Design a multidisciplinary methodological proposals aimed at diagnosis, planning and management of overtourism, and spatial planning strategies, helping to define tools and instruments of growth containment degrowth and conflict prevention, to promote greater environmental sustainability, social and economic and the quality of destinations.

This target arises by studying some of the main coastal mass tourism destinations of Spain. For these six specific targets have been set:

  • ET1. Establish the conceptual bases of economic, social and environmental tourism growth.
  • ET2. Characterise and diagnose situations of citizen social tension.
  • ET3. Define indicators of saturation territorial, environmental and economic.
  • ET4. Test, compare and redefine methodologies of analysis and results to the entire geographical area of study.
  • ET5. Propose strategies and useful parameters for managing tourism saturation.
  • ET6. Develop scientific dissemination tasks and knowledge transfer of the results.