Sustainable Tourism

Sustainable tourism is about seeking the appropriate balance between the economic benefits of tourism and the needs of residents. Many tourist destinations in the United States and elsewhere in the world feel that this balance has been exceeded by more tourists than can be accommodated within the community. Overtourism describes the situation where locals and tourists feel that there are too many visitors and that the quality of life in the area, or the quality of the tourist experience, has deteriorated to an unacceptable level.  Signs of overtourism include pressures placed on local resources and facilities due to growth in numbers of visitors, changes in culture and loss of authenticity, deterioration of quality of life for the host community, and feelings of irritation and annoyance due to the presence of too many visitors.

Small tourist destination communities are likely to experience the effects of overtourism more quickly than larger cities due to the constraints of parking, street capacity, restaurants, and recreational resources. 

Anyone who has observed the impact of tourism in Chelan, Manson, or Leavenworth during peak periods will understand that the level of tourism in these areas has overwhelmed the available infrastructure, e.g., roads, parking in the downtown area, and parking at access points to popular recreational sites. The Leavenworth area now has 3 million visitors a year.

Access to popular hiking destinations and beaches at both rivers and lakes in Chelan County is becoming increasingly constrained.  Some destinations are showing environmental damage from overuse such as the Enchantments area near Leavenworth. There are many reported problems of illegal parking, damage to trails and vegetation and garbage.  Due to overuse, the Enchantment Wilderness Area now holds a lottery for overnight permits. In 2019, there were 18,835 applications for overnight trips to the Enchantments and only 364 permits awarded. 

While tourism has increased due to the expansion in accommodations available, the infrastructure (e.g., roads, parking) and amenities (e.g., restaurant capacity, parking at popular trailheads and beaches) are not significantly changed.  The result is decreased quality of experience for tourists and decreased quality of life for residents due to overcrowding, traffic congestion, and inability to access recreational resources.