Ever visited somewhere and left feeling a little underwhelmed due to the sheer number of tourists? Well, you’re not the only one.

Mass tourism has become a major problem in cities around the world and, despite being part of a business that makes money off the back of people travelling, Booking.com’s chairwoman Gillian Tans thinks that it’s time for governments to start introducing tourist quotas in places like Venice.

Asked if some cities should introduce tourist caps, Tans said: “I wouldn’t think that that’s a bad thing. In the end, if it gets too crowded it’s also not nice for the people that are there. Cities can think about how many tourists they think is acceptable and set these standards.”

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You see mass tourism everywhere. You see it in India if you visit the Taj Mahal. You see it in Venice. You see it in Barcelona. Mass tourism doesn’t always have a good impact. There are many positive parts of tourism but we do need to pay attention so that places are still interesting to visit for generations to come.”

Tans, who stepped down as Booking.com’s chief executive in June, claims that companies like Booking.com shouldn’t be blamed for mass tourism. “We don’t create [the problem], we only facilitate what is there,” she said.  

However, she admits that Booking.com can play a role in alleviating pressure on cities with too many tourists.

Technology can help address over-tourism,” she explained, adding that Booking.com can recommend less popular but equally interesting places to visit with its artificial intelligence software. 

Founded in 1996, the Amsterdam-headquartered company also invests in startups that are promoting sustainable travel and have a positive impact. “We can make that impact bigger and we help them with knowledge and with funding,” said Tans. 

Each year through the Booking Booster Accelerator Program Booking.com invites 10 startups to pitch for grants of up to €500,000.

One startup that’s been through the program is Global Himalayan Expedition, which takes travellers on tours of Himalayan villages that don’t have electricity and gets them set up with solar energy. The idea is that the people that live in these villages go on to create farm stays that can be booked through Booking.com.

This year Okra Solar from Australia and Impulse Travel from Colombia were awarded the highest grants, taking home €400,000 each.

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