Topical Spotlights

The Economic Causes, Urban Effects and Management Challenges of Extreme Tourism

As tourism levels continue to accelerate internationally, growing attention becomes paid to its negative implications for the environment, urban affordability and resource scarcity.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.

As Andrzej Stasiak (2013: 59) notes in his article on “New Spaces and Forms of Tourism in Experience Economy,” in recent decades tourism increasingly acquires extreme forms in an apparent response to an ever-widening range of experience-oriented travel possibilities.1 As local economies seek to capitalize on event, sports, heritage or culinary tourism flows, a success of these initiatives has also apparently contributed to exceptional proportions of contemporary tourism (Stasiak, 2013: 65). While mass tourism is likely to be motivated by cultural globalization and social media, Ovidiu Aniculăese (2014: 30-31), in his paper on “Leisure Traveling for 21st Century Americans: Mass Tourism as a Cultural Trap,” associates extreme tourism with a superficial search for exotic, but standardized experiences in faraway locations.2

Even previously less popular experiences and destinations, such as caves in Slovenia, have increasingly become hotspots for unprecedented levels of tourist attention and activities that local authorities struggle to manage and protect, as J. Tičar et al. (2018: 344, 346) have indicated in their article on “Speleotourism in Slovenia: Balancing Between Mass Tourism and Geoheritage Protection.”3 This is also the topic that Rachel Dodds and Richard Butler (2019: 1-13), as editors of the collection of contributions about Overtourism: Issues, Realities and Solutions¸ deal with, as they explore the multiple causes of extreme tourism, e.g., low-cost travel options around the world,  and the resistance of local communities to its negative effects, such as rising competition for urban amenities access.4 This dynamic is further augmented by the global reach of social media, digitized services and economic models that have effected a change in consumer behavior toward a strong experience-driven tourism orientation (Dodds & Butler, 2019: 14-16).

Moreover, as Nicolas Berthet (2012: 99) adds in his article on “Sustainable Tourism: An Issue of Territorial Rebalancing in the French Département,” for many localities, such as Pyrénées-Orientales in French Catalonia, progressive deindustrialization and economic decline leave few options other than tourism for revenue generation.5 This also drives search for sustainable tourism forms, as efforts are made to balance mass tourism exigencies, such as place-based marketing with ecosystem and authenticity preservation (Berthet, 2012: 102). However, both scholarly and lay conceptions of mass tourism remain largely stereotypical, e.g., packaged tours, as Vilhelmiina Vainikka (2015) demonstrates in her paper on “Stereotypes and Professional Reflections on Mass Tourism: Focusing on Tour Operators, Mass Tourism Destinations and Mass Tourists,” according to which both positive and negative perceptions of mass-market tourism continue to exist side by side.6

Yet Patrice Ballester (2018) in her research article on Barcelona in the context of mass tourism draws attention to the strain that extreme tourism imposes on urban infrastructures, housing availability, and public spaces, such as in the form of congestion. 7 Thus, as overtourism crystallizes as a distinct phenomenon (Dodds & Butler, 2019), its theoretical investigations increasingly become complemented by case studies into the role of government and policy-making in its propagation, city-level and rural-region strategies for coping with its effects and the challenges it poses for different stakeholders.

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: Extreme Environments: Runners departing through Chamonix for the start of the 2012 North Face Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, Rhône-Alpes, France, August 31, 2012 | © Courtesy of Richard Allaway/Flickr.

Cite this article as: Pablo Markin, "The Economic Causes, Urban Effects and Management Challenges of Extreme Tourism," in Discussions Générales Open, 02/09/2019,


  1. Stasiak, A. (2013). New spaces and forms of tourism in experience economy. Turyzm, 23(2), 59-67. []
  2. Aniculăese, O. (2014). Leisure Traveling for 21st Century Americans: Mass Tourism as a Cultural Trap. American, British and Canadian Studies Journal, 21(1), 30-39. []
  3. Tičar, J., Tomić, N., Valjavec, M. B., Zorn, M., Marković, S. B., & Gavrilov, M. B. (2018). Speleotourism in Slovenia: balancing between mass tourism and geoheritage protection. Open Geosciences, 10(1), 344-357. []
  4. Butler, R., & Dodds, R. (Eds.). (2019). Overtourism: Issues, realities and solutions. München and Wien: De Gruyter Oldenbourg. []
  5. Berthet, N. (2012). Sustainable tourism: An issue of territorial rebalancing in the French département of Pyrénées-Orientales. Téoros: Revue de recherche en tourisme, 31(3),  99-103. []
  6. Vainikka, V. (2015). Stereotypes and professional reflections on mass tourism: Focusing on tour operators, mass tourism destinations and mass tourists. Études caribéennes, 31-32. []
  7. Ballester, P. (2018). Barcelone face au tourisme de masse: «tourismophobie» et vivre ensemble. Téoros. Revue de recherche en tourisme, 37(2), []

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