Overtourism has been a key issue for cities for many years. However, a change in traveller demands during the pandemic means that mass tourism is set to have a greater impact on rural hotspots across the globe.
A range of different factors have combined during the pandemic to rapidly increase the popularity of trips to rural destinations, with these factors likely to remain beyond the short-term. According to GlobalData*, 74% of global respondents stated that they are either still ‘quite’ or ‘extremely’ concerned regarding the pandemic. Rural destinations are situated away from densely populated areas, which reduces the chance of virus transmission. These domestic locations can also be reached by car, negating the need for public transport, where the risk of contracting Covid-19 increases.
Many factors contribute to the emerging threat of rural overtourism
According to GlobalData**, 64% of global respondents were either ‘quite’ or ‘extremely’ concerned about their personal financial situation, and 59% echoed this same sentiment about their physical health. Domestic rural trips often translate to lower transportation and accommodation costs, in comparison to international trips, meaning more travellers can undertake this type of trip. Additionally, rural trips are often centred around physical activity, which helps travellers to maintain their physical health.
47% of respondents stated that reducing their environmental footprint is more important than before, and 54% echoed this same sentiment for supporting local businesses. Undertaking rural trips will make many travellers feel like they are acting responsibly, in both environmental and social ways. Domestic trips negate the need for air travel, which is known to increase travellers’ carbon footprints, while rural areas tend to have a higher contingency of local and independent business, meaning that travellers are injecting money into local economies.
Finally, 39% of respondents stated that they will start (or continue) to reduce their frequency of international travel in the ‘new normal’. This reduction in international travel will lead to more domestic trips taken, which in turn increases demand for rural vacations.
Case Study: Snowdonia, Wales
In August 2021, it was reported that approximately 700,000 people walked up Mount Snowdon in the last year, which was a 40% increase in the number of walkers from 2018. This increase has been created by the pandemic, with many of these visitors swapping a European holiday for a domestic trip in the UK.
This example of overtourism led to increased littering, footpath erosion, and traffic congestion. With many travellers now realising the benefits of domestic rural trips, such as lower costs, a more Covid-safe experience, improved personal health, and a perceived contribution to sustainability, demand for domestic rural trips may not subside even as international travel re-opens.
*GlobalData’s Q3 2021 Consumer Survey
**GlobalData’s Week 11 COVID-19 Recovery Survey