Overtourism describes a situation in which a tourism destination exceeds its carrying capacity – in physical and/or psychological terms. It results in a deterioration of the tourism experience for either visitors or locals, or both. If allowed to continue unchecked, overtourism can lead to serious consequences for popular destinations.
It was reported in 1997 that in order to draw more visitors, some St. Croix (US Virgin Islands) interests wanted to open a casino, which would change the character of the quiet, bucolic island. In Hawaii, lovely Maui is a very popular vacation destination, but visitors there have to put up with mainland-like traffic jams. In summer, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon can seem as crowded as New York's Fifth Avenue.
Foreign tourism in developing countries is an economic, social and cultural disaster. The construction of tourist facilities, airports, hotels, roads, and recreation sites often dislocates indigenous communities by forcing them to move or cutting them off from traditional sources of income. It degrades the natural environment by polluting air and water and destroying natural habitats, such as nesting areas on the Turkish coast. It destroys ancestral lands and sacred sites. Local culture is commercialized; artefacts are produced for sale, folk dances become theatrical productions modified to meet the desires of foreigners and holy places are reduced from destinations for pilgrims to curiosities. It deprives local people of basic services. It promotes exploitation including prostitution and pederasty. Crime is encouraged; drug use increases. Tourism increases outflow of foreign exchange and hampers economic development. Hotels, travel agencies and car rental agencies are owned by foreign corporations. Food and other consumables, equipment for hotels, vehicles and managers are imported.
Properly managed tourism has proven itself to be a great boon to developing countries. Tourism earned poor countries about $55 billion in 1988, according to UN estimates, making it the second biggest earner of foreign exchange after oil. Spending on international tourism, excluding travel, will grow 4.5 - 5% a year until the year 2000. On study estimates that no more than 40 - 50% of tourist hotels' operating cost are leaked back abroad and the figures are falling as local agriculture, services, manufacturing and management skills improve. Arts and crafts in some places are improving because of the impact of tourism.