Gavin Tollman

Trafalgar’s CEO, Gavin Tollman, is calling for locals to stop protesting ‘over tourism’ & leaders to stop closing off crowded islands & search for more sustainable solutions to dealing with crowds of tourists.

I was deeply disappointed when President Rodrigo Duterte, the Head of State of the Philippines, recently made good on his threat of closing the Island of Boracay to tourists for six months. In the President’s own words, this dream destination has turned into a ‘cesspool’. What a stark warning to us all. This official ban on tourism results in an official shutdown of employment for thousands of residents.

This is not new news. In 2017, we saw numerous scathing articles around the ‘over tourism’ debate and the outcry from concerned officials in destinations such as Dubrovnik, Barcelona and Venice. The rumblings are no longer an early warning sign. They are a painful reality.

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For those of us in the travel industry, we need to recognise that as the Northern Hemisphere summer rapidly approaches, we have a direct responsibility. Tourism growth is not the enemy, nor growing visitor numbers. Tourism can and should be a force for good, creating jobs and long-term sustainable economic growth.

Frustrated at seeing the severity of the situation, I have established a three-step solution which I believe will aid long-term tourism management.


Step 1: Dissemination


Adopting a ‘365’ approach to tourism, working to ensure year-round tourism. Sustaining a business for longevity means driving tourism activity beyond the peak season. Seasonal tourism management alleviates such pressures – it allows us to be enablers not eliminators. We must break the bottleneck approach by staggering travellers across the seasons.


Step 2: Dispersal

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Encouraging discovery beyond the usual tourism centres, widening the guest’s travel path to discover other areas within the destination. At Trafalgar we take pride in encouraging our guests to discover the iconic as well as going beyond the expected and connecting with communities. Travel is about forging new paths, the adventure of delving deeper into destinations.


Step 3: Direct Action

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We should recognise that at times we need to support, other times we need to approach what we are doing in a different way. A great example of this being the UNESCO listed Giants Causeway, which pre 2012 was struggling to cope with the influx of fleeting visits. The National Trust wisely realised that by providing education and interpretation of the area, they could embrace the opportunity to welcome more visitors without impacting the environment. A new sustainable visitor centre was created to help manage people flow, designed with a roof seeded from local grasses to blend into the surrounding environs in a place of natural beauty. In 2017, Giants Causeway welcomed 1 million visitors, a record for any Northern Ireland attraction. The new facility demonstrated the importance of preserving as opposed to eliminating, with people roaming without regard for what they are seeing. Trafalgar is proud to have been involved with such a commendable initiative.


It is imperative that any action taken must be in genuine partnership with locals. In doing so we ensure a focus on safeguarding the natural beauty, cultures and traditions of the people and places we visit, to instill the power of travel to truly change lives.

Travel is one of life’s great gifts but it comes with responsibility. We cannot let places be loved to the point of extinction. The future of our industry is now moving beyond exploration – let us ensure that becomes a firm step towards preservation, not elimination.

We must take action, now, or face the fact that the damage occurring may be irreversible. As little we are in this world, we can make a big difference by each of us changing our behaviours to help preserve. This is our new travel destiny. Welcome to the new reality.


READ: Saving the earth one drop at a time

READ: A salute to the women in the travel industry

How do you think leaders should handle over tourism?