By: Mary Lu Laffey
“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
This line, made famous by the late, great New York Yankees baseball player, manager, and MLB Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, hits rather close to home—especially when the topic is overtourism.
Today, as overcrowding rears a disruptive head, the idea of a destination or attraction being too crowded for visitors and the locals that live there is not a laughing matter. When popularity turns a crowd into a crush, there’s harm to the location, its reputation, the lives of locals, and the very reasons guests want to visit.
What’s a tour or coach operator to do? Clients want to see famous places, check off their bucket lists, and post selfies at a spot they have only dreamed of visiting.
Jennifer Ollinger, manager of international and domestic tourism for Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, an ABA member, said the key to keeping those dreams alive is to work with the destination. “It is important for tour operators and coach operators to work with destinations because they have knowledgeable staff that can provide the most up-to-date information about the city,” she said. “Destinations serve as a resource for operators that can connect them to hotels, attractions, and restaurants in the area that are suitable for group travel.
“CVB staff can also help coach operators plan out the best routes so they avoid construction and road closures, making their drive as smooth as possible,” Ollinger added. “Due to the increased interest in Detroit, the Detroit Metro CVB recently added a tourism specialist position dedicated to helping tour operators and coach operators plan their visit to metro Detroit.”
Meaningful destination management helps to control crowding issues. Front-burner ideas include regional dispersal, which keeps tourism choke points from tightening. In addition, tour operators can often arrange for earlier admission or special hours for a group to avoid overcrowding.
With more people traveling—credit affordability, online visibility, and specialized tours—the crowding issue may never disappear. Yet its impact can be lessened on the destination and on the visitors who want to experience all it has to offer. Off-season travel is a proven and timeless option. When destinations and operators promote group travel in the shoulder season, clients will beat the heat, beat the price, and beat the crowds.
Mary Lu Laffey is a freelance travel journalist who specializes in group and tour travel.