Tourism research presented during the Virtual Conference of the American Association of Geographers (AAG)

HALBAN Until the current pandemic, cruise tourism has been on the rise worldwide. Dr. Manuela Gutberlet, who is a tourism researcher from the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech), has recently presented some research results on mega-cruise tourism and overtourism in Souq Muttrah to international researchers during the virtual conference of the American Association of Geographers (AAG). The AAG conference is one of the leading geography conferences worldwide. The virtual conference offered 180 sessions and panels on topics such as climate change, political, human and social geographies, the role of geographers as actors in public policy and advocacy, trends in geoethics, race and ethnocentrism’s impacts worldwide.

Overtourism is associated with unsustainable growth of tourism and concepts like ‘visitor pressure’ and the social and physical ‘carrying capacity’ of a destination. “Until the current corona pandemic, large-scale cruise tourism has been one of the emerging sectors worldwide, especially in the Middle East and in Asia. Compared to 17.8 million cruise passengers in 2009, a total of 30 million passengers were traveling worldwide in 2019,” said Dr. Manuela Gutberlet, who is currently writing on a book on ‘Cruise tourism and overtourism on the Arabian Peninsula’. Her virtual presentation explored the impacts of mega-cruise tourism in Souq Muttrah, a popular tourist destination in Oman. “In my research I have been analyzing the urban physical space, local community perceptions and behaviors of shopkeepers, business owners and tour guides with respect to overtourism and changing authenticities in an emerging cruise destination on the Arabian Peninsula. I have conducted intensive qualitative and quantitative research in Souq Muttrah,” said Dr. Manuela Gutberlet. Detailed studies on mega-cruise tourism and the social and cultural impacts on local communities are little worldwide and non-existent in the Arab world. “My results suggest that the culture in Souq Muttrah is transformed into new configurations of diversity, where the concept of a ‘homogenous Omani culture’ is redefined. The future of sustainable tourism development in Souq Muttrah lies in an active participation and in the power of locals but as well of cruise liners,” said Dr. Manuela.

Currently, international tourism has stopped since last month. “Cruise tourism will continue worldwide, however on a different scale. To relaunch tourism, further social research should be done on the impacts of the current pandemic on different tourist destinations.”

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