Tourism needn’t catch us unawares
At the moment, tourism policy is focused mainly on increasing revenue. But tourism is not only an economic activity; it also impacts accessibility and the use of public space, real estate, nature and the environment. It is only when an increase in tourism harms the living environment or inconveniences residents that the authorities consider how to counteract its impact. Tourism growth has made it urgent to change this policy perspective. This means that government, acting in cooperation with the sector and local communities, must anticipate future trends and developments, a necessary step if we are to strike the right balance between the economic benefits of tourism on the one hand and the carrying capacity of the living environment and local residents on the other. The Rli advisory report Desirable Tourism: Capitalising on Opportunities in the Living Environment offers a framework for analysis in this regard. National government must coordinate to ensure that the proposed policy changes are implemented.
Government must be forward-looking
The Council recommends drawing up a tourism strategy for all regions in the Netherlands within two years. Such a strategy would specify where and when to pursue tourism growth and what amenities should be provided. It would also, however, identify those places where a projected increase in tourism is undesirable and what measures can be implemented to influence the number of tourists, how they can be dispersed more effectively, or how inconvenience can be prevented.
It will not be necessary to develop new policy measures to manage tourism. In its advisory report, the Council presents a menu of management options consisting of existing measures from which policymakers can choose to limit adverse impacts and capitalise on new opportunities. Making effective use of these measures, accumulating the necessary knowledge and gaining experience in using them will require extra policymaking capacity and a willingness to invest. In addition, more research must be carried out under the auspices of the national government into the effectiveness of various policy interventions, for example in experimental settings. This approach will safeguard the Netherlands from being ‘caught unawares’ and harmed by tourism growth and ensure that tourism contributes to the quality of the living environment for residents, visitors and businesses.
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