Alternative Tourism Strategies to Enhance Local Sustainable Tourism Development: The ALTER-ECO Project in Gandia (Spain)

Alternative Tourism Strategies to Enhance Local Sustainable Tourism Development: The ALTER-ECO Project in Gandia (Spain)

Rafael Temes-Cordovez (Polythecnic University of Valencia, Spain), Begoña Serrano-Lanzarote (Polythecnic University of Valencia, Spain), Juan José Tuset Davó (Polythecnic University of Valencia, Spain) and Ruth De León-Rodríguez (European University of Valencia, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2224-0.ch014


This chapter establishes the relationship between the ALTER-ECO project and the problem of overtourism. Background reviews the phenomenon of excess tourists based on recent research. The measures implemented in Gandia (Spain) as part of the ALTER-ECO project are described. Monitoring influx of tourists, installing Free Wi-Fi at Gandia Beach, and creating a mobile app are three measures that have contributed to easing the effects of overtourism. The debate proposes monitoring, public Wi-Fi, and gamification as three strategies for dispersing tourist load. Conclusions include measures and strategies that coincide with UNWTO 2018 recommendations.
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In the last two decades Europe has undergone an intense urban planning process, especially intense in the Mediterranean regions and the Spanish coasts. The typical Mediterranean city known for its compactness, density and continuity shows a clear deconfiguration which is especially intense in coastal areas. Nowadays, these compact city centres are accompanied by large, dispersed and low-density peri-urban areas, causing a “dissolution” (Colaninno & Roca, 2012) of the city which has become a recurring theme in urban planning analyses and reflections that seek to quantify today’s development phenomena (Gaja, 2012). The Comunitat Valenciana (Region of Valencia) can be used as a paradigm for this change in urban form process boosted by economic development based on clearly unsustainable construction. Documents such as the European Parliament “Auken Report, Recommendation 2002/413/EC on Integrated Coastal Zone Management in Europe or “A toda costa” (2018) by Greenpeace, coincide in showing their concern for the impact of extensive urban development in Spain, with special emphasis on the situation in the Comunitat Valenciana. This over-exploitation and over-occupancy did not come out of nowhere, but was the result of three expansive economic cycles associated with three property bubbles (Miralles, 2014): the first cycle from 1959 to 1972 created the first tourist developments on the coast; the second from 1985 to 1990 generated significant urban development on the Mediterranean coast; and the third from 1997 to 2006 caused a new avalanche of investments in the property construction sector. Unlimited growth in the shape of a “virtuous” speculative property cycle came to an abrupt halt in 2007 when the real estate bubble burst. Simultaneous to this rapid urban development, growth in tourism encouraged by lower transport costs, easier travel and a growing middle class in advanced and emerging economies, have made cities increasingly more popular destinations for business and leisure tourism. City centres have become especially attractive and scenic (Milano, 2019). In this sense, the so-called urbanisation of tourism (Mullins, 1991) is described as the moment cities are built around the offering and consumption of a wide variety of goods and services for fun, pleasure, relaxation and recreation and not exclusively around basic needs such as housing, healthcare and education. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, city tourism represents 45% of global international tourism. Furthermore, 54% of the world’s population lives in urban centres and cities; this number is expected to rise to 68% in 2050. Therefore, observing the effects tourism may have for urban life is extremely important (WTTC, 2018). Not in vain, almost 50 years ago city planner Peter Hall said, regarding the growing importance of tourism for economies and urban planning in European cities, that “the era of mass tourism is the most important factor in the last 30 years of this century for change in major cities in Europe and also many smaller, historical cities” (Hall, 1970). This increase in city tourist attractions, which in the case of Spain has been especially relevant in cities such as Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia (Urbantur, 2016), has been accompanied by an increased perception of the negative external factors of tourism which translate into a feeling of overcrowding, noise and annoyance with protests in some cities and terms such as overtourism and tourismphobia becoming widespread as synonymous with mass growth, saturation and tourist pressure (UNWTO, 2018, 2019).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Internet of Things (IoT): Refers to a digital interconnection of daily objects with the Internet.

m-tourism: The use of mobile applications for tourism.

Carrying Capacity: The maximum number of people that can visit a tourist destination at the same time without causing destruction of the physical, economic, socio-cultural environment and an unacceptable decrease in the quality of visitors' satisfaction.

Overtourism: The impact of tourism on a destination, or parts thereof, that excessively influences perceived quality of life of citizens and/or quality of visitors experiences in a negative way.

Dataset: A collection of data. A group of related sets of information that is composed of separate elements but can be manipulated as a unit by a computer. When this collection is extremely large is called big data.

Gamification: Understood as the use of games in non-leisure environments and settings in order to motivate, and encourage effort, loyalty and other positive values. Using technology increases possibilities and participants. Applied to tourism, it can promote tourism marketing and change player-tourist behaviour.

Monitoring: Using devices to count the quantity or volume of visitors to a specific area.

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