Visitor numbers in the Pyrenees have been on the rise, leading to concerns about over-tourism in the region.
The village of Gavarnie in France made headlines this summer when it decided to ban non-resident cars from entering the town centre during the day in an effort to keep the area pedestrianised and avoid overcrowding.
Jean Pinard, Director of the Occitanie Regional Tourism and Leisure Committee (CRTL), commented on the increase in visitor numbers in the Pyrenees, stating: “Unlike the Mediterranean coast, the Pyrenees have seen an increase in visitor numbers this summer.”
He also mentioned that the development of tourism and the preservation of nature need to be balanced.
Pinard further discussed the summer season in Occitanie, stating that overall, it has been positive with visitor numbers up by 13 per cent compared to last year. While the coast experienced a slight decrease in visitor numbers, the Massif Central and the Pyrenees saw an increase. Pinard stressed that the Pyrenees have been gaining popularity as a favourite destination for outdoor activities, such as hiking.
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Regarding the ban on non-resident cars in Gavarnie, Pinard acknowledged the need for regulating tourist activity in areas with high visitor numbers. He stated: “There’s a concentration of tourist sites around Gavarnie and the Pic du Midi, and access to them needs to be managed to ensure the sustainability of the area and the satisfaction of visitors.”
The issue of over-tourism is not unique to Gavarnie. Many popular tourist destinations around the world are facing similar challenges. The increasing ease of travel and the desire for unique experiences have resulted in a surge of visitors to previously untouched areas.
While tourism can bring economic benefits to local communities, it can also put a strain on infrastructure, natural resources, and the daily lives of residents.
In response to the concerns raised by locals about the ban on non-resident cars, Pinard highlighted the importance of finding a balance between the needs of tourists and the preservation of the environment and local communities.
He suggested that alternative transportation options, such as shuttle buses or designated parking areas outside the town centre, could be explored to accommodate visitors while minimising the impact on the village.
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Pinard also stressed the need for sustainable tourism practices and responsible behaviour from both tourists and the tourism industry. He mentioned that education and awareness campaigns could help visitors understand the importance of respecting the local environment and culture.
As for the future, Pinard believes that over-tourism is a challenge that needs to be addressed collectively by all stakeholders involved, including local authorities, tourism organisations, and visitors themselves.
He said: “We need to find solutions together to ensure that tourism in the Pyrenees remains sustainable and benefits both the local communities and the visitors.”
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