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Bruges Is the Latest European City to Crack Down on Overtourism

By Sarah Buder

Jun 18, 2019

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In 2018, a record 8.3 million tourists visited the medieval city of Bruges, Belgium.

Photo by AdrianoK/Shutterstock

In 2018, a record 8.3 million tourists visited the medieval city of Bruges, Belgium.

The Belgian destination will impose new regulations to control the influx of day visitors and cruise ships.

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This month, the Belgian city of Bruges joined a number of popular European destinations, including Venice and Amsterdam, in implementing new regulations to help curb the impacts of overtourism.

Bruges mayor Dirk De fauw announced in early June that he will back stricter measures designed to control the influx of short-term visitors to Bruges, according to the Flemish newspaper Het Nieuwsblad. De fauw, who was elected in 2018, warned that the popular Flemish destination is at risk of becoming “a complete Disneyland.”

As part of the newly implemented measures, a cap has been introduced for cruise ships docked in the city’s port, reducing the number from five to two at a time. The city will also ask cruise ship companies to dock during weekdays instead of over the weekend to control overcrowding in the picturesque medieval city. Additionally, the tourism board will revoke advertising campaigns for Bruges in nearby destinations such as Brussels and Paris to help decrease the number of day-trippers.

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Last year, a record 8.3 million tourists visited Bruges, according to a report from the Evening Standard. Of those travelers, 6 million arrived from cruise ships and spent an average of three hours total in the city. Day visitors cause cities to lose revenue typically earned through hotel stays, which is an important part of the economy for many popular tourist destinations. 

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The recent move from Bruges officials is an effort to encourage travelers to invest more in the city by staying for longer. It echoes decisions made in an increasing number of European destinations that are grappling with the effects of mass tourism. This year, Venice city officials approved a new tax on day-trippers and Amsterdam banned tours of its red-light district in addition to introducing new levies that affect cruise passengers. Most recently, a crackdown on bad tourist behavior at historic sites around Rome was transformed into permanent law.

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