June 2019, saw the Mayor of belgium city, Bruges, Dirk de fauw, announce new stricter regulations to help curb the unsustainable impacts of growing numbers of short-term tourists to the city; as reported in local newspaper article, Het Nieuwsblad.
The measures include:
- A cap for cruise ships docked in the city’s port, reducing the number of cruise ships, from 5 to 2, at any one time;
- Cruise ships will be asked to dock on weekdays, instead of weekends, to help spread the crowds out among more days; and
- The tourism board will end advertising campaigns for Bruges in other nearby cities, such as Brussels and Paris, to limit the number of day-trippers.
2018 saw a record 8.3 million tourists visit Bruges, which has been made famous by the 2008 film, In Bruges, and who have been attracted to its gabled streets, meandering canals, and gothic architecture. The city centre was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2000. Day trippers cause cities to lose revenue, typically earned through hotel stays. Of the 8.3 million tourists, 6 million arrived in cruise ships, and spent an average of only 3 hours’ in the city. This prompted concerns from the Mayor of Bruges, Dirk de fauw, that the city was becoming a medieval theme park:
“We have to, control the influx more, if we don’t want it, to become a complete Disneyland here” said Mayor Dirk De fauw. “We have to aim for quality tourism, people who stay here for a few days, eat well, (and) visit museums.”Mayor of Bruges, Dirk De fauw.
Visitors to Bruges have outnumbered residents in the city centre by about 3 to 1. An Skift research report, in 2017, highlighted that whilst the residents of Bruges support tourism in their city, nearly 50% of residents from both the city centre and outer areas, felt more tourists in Bruges will lead to friction between residents and tourists. Nearly 50% of both groups also felt tourism causes Bruges to be overcrowded.
Bruges’ recent decisions echo measures made in other EU cities, such as Amsterdam and Venice, that are employing rules to ensure that popular tourism destinations grow sustainably, without the negative environmental, social and economic impacts that overtourism causes.