Support for tourism in Zeeland is under pressure

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VLISSINGEN – The majority of residents in eight Zeeland municipalities support tourism, but this support is not particularly large, according to new research on coastal tourism by the HZ knowledge center. At the coast, residents experience more negative than positive effects of tourism. More than half of the residents of the four participating coastal municipalities fear tourism will make it increasingly crowded and cause friction. More than 5,500 people participated in this study.

In 2019, research was conducted for the first time on support for tourism among residents. Commissioned by the province of Zeeland and in collaboration with eight Zeeland municipalities, the HZ Knowledge Center for Coastal Tourism conducted a new study at the end of 2022. The Knowledge Center presented the first results during a Knowledge Update live event on February 16. The full report was released this week. It includes results from four coastal municipalities (Noord-Beveland, Schouwen-Duiveland, Sluis, Veere) and four inland municipalities (Borsele, Kapelle, Reimerswaal, Tholen). As only eight municipalities participated, the provincial drawing was not possible.

To what extent do residents support tourism?
Support for tourism is 3.3 on the coast and 3.5 on a scale of 1 to 5 inland. So there is support in both areas, but it’s usually not overwhelming. In addition, support for inland tourism is slightly higher than for coastal tourism. Both on the coast and inland, two-thirds of people believe their municipality should be a tourist destination. Locally, a similar group agrees with the statement ‘I support tourism and I want it to be important in my municipality’. At the beach, more than half of the population shares this opinion. In the interior, a small majority believes that tourism should be actively promoted. On the coast it is only one-third.

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What effects do tourists experience?
A positive outcome is that four out of five coastal residents have more shops and restaurants due to tourism. Indoors, more than half of the population experiences it. Also, both on the coast and inland, two-thirds believe tourism strengthens the local economy. This makes strengthening the domestic economy one of the most experienced positive impacts of tourism. The most frequently mentioned negative effects in coastal municipalities are traffic problems. Four-fifths of beach dwellers feel tourism contributes to this, followed by an increase in litter. Inside, the trash is on top. More than two-fifths of residents think tourism has exacerbated this.

How has the growth been since 2019?
In the municipalities of Tolan, Virrey and Sluis where Knowledge Center conducted surveys in 2019, support and positive impact of tourism decreased, while perceived negative impact actually increased. An increase in tourism played a role, the study said.

How can support for tourism be increased?
Many governments are already working hard to reduce the negative effects of tourism. This research confirms that it contributes to promoting support. Research also shows that very few people know what municipalities are doing about tourism and what the positive effects of tourism are. Creating awareness of the positive effects and efforts to increase them will encourage support for tourism. The full report can be downloaded Website of Knowledge Center for Coastal Tourism.

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