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The saturation of the tourist destinations. Barcelona exports its model to the south

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Enrique Navarro Jurado. Member of the Department of Geography and Associate Dean for Research and Students of the School of Tourism at the University of Málaga

Any or all of: "is dying of its own success", the "syndrome of Venice in Spanish destinations", the "moratorium on tourist arrivals", "capacity limits for tourists", "load capacity of a destination", the "challenge of mass tourism", "tourist gentrification"... These are some of the headlines in daily newspapers and magazines in the summer of 2015 exposing the problems of congestion in some Spanish destinations.

These days the success of a destination depends on different factors and the key is in the variety of combinations: unique attractions, accessibility, brand image, differential and segmented marketing, investments in technology, innovative management, even being in fashion... Success is not only produced by having an affordable product and / or a cheaper price. This facet has been an undeniable factor in many destinations around the world (London, Venice, Florida...), and especially in Spain, with the "sun and beach" tourism in the Mediterranean or urban tourism in Barcelona and Bilbao.

Nevertheless, we need to know how to manage success. The uncontrolled arrival of tourists can cause overcrowding and subsequent saturation of the destination. From over thirty years ago, we have been stating, and not based on theoretical models ?rather based on practical experience- of how destinations age (Butler's product model lifecycle in 1980) or the various motivations / types of tourists in a destination (Plog's model in 1974). Again, they are not theoretical models but the systematization of a reality that has been studied and disseminated for more than 30 years in the corporate world and government.

Today, we know perfectly well how to diagnose the saturation of a target, which indicators can serve as a warning, what management tools can be used...; for example, the following indicators are becoming popular: tourist load capacity, the preferences of different types of tourists, load capacity of residents, tourists, urban environment, the environment, infrastructure, beaches, monuments... The use of load capacity cannot be seen as a "magic number" that solves my problems; it not a magic wand, rather it is only knowledge that is put on the table to help decision making.

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