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'Overtourism' could create consequences for Calistoga

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Tourism declined in 2020.  Now, when tourist destinations are rebuilding their market, it’s not too soon to anticipate: Could the tourist resurgence become a deluge? 

I googled “overtourism” to learn more. Overtourism is an excess of tourists. It is a malady to which “world-class” destinations are particularly susceptible. The risk is that they will adversely affect the quality of local life—or of their own experience—and that Calistoga will lose its original intrinsic appeal and exist mainly to attract tourists. 

Cornell University issued a sobering report, “Destinations at Risk: The Invisible Burden of Tourism” (2019). It described tourism’s hidden costs (the “invisible burden”), warning that failing to protect and manage destinations “puts ecosystems, cultural wonders, and community life at increasing risk, and places the tourism industry on a weak foundation that could crack under its own weight.” The report cites possible costs such as infrastructure upgrades for water and sewer services; environmental degradation from traffic; higher costs of living; displacement of services for locals; and undermined community values. 

Without attention to overtourism, we in Napa County could join company with the mayor in Paris who expressed “deep qualms about having so many visitors directly in their midst. . . Mass tourism is driving away locals with higher prices, higher rents and sheer inconvenience.” 

Still, dazzled by the revenue, our local governments approve permits for more visitors and events at rural wineries, and spend still more money to encourage people to come. Perhaps it doesn’t matter—until the winery on your lane wants to triple its visitors, or you’re navigating tiresome traffic in “rural” Napa.

During the pandemic, a becalmed Calistoga reminded some residents of their quieter community of years past.  For mature communities, too wise to sacrifice quality by endlessly chasing dollars, inviting ruin by overtourism would be hard to understand.

Don Williams,

Calistoga City Councilmember

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