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Overtourism, tourism supply and demand - Lake Como

Two specific themes were the protagonists of my May days.

On the one hand, there is the ever-widening gap between tourism demand and supply, and on the other, there is the increasingly fundamental role of sustainability in an area.

Particularly in tourism, tourists appreciate operators and destinations that use this approach as a basis, strive to become greener (in energy saving and pollution reduction), make themselves more accessible, and reinvest their profits in social issues. 

They believe, rightly, in my opinion, that the sustainable approach should be the basis of the industry, not a feature to be sought after or an add-on to be demanded. 

(indicated by the latest analysis shared by Samuel Piana in his podcast).

The problem that arises from this result is a lower motivation for operators and destinations to do better and more. We do not seek solutions if we do not feel the problem or pain. 

Instead, tourists demand specific products and features for the area they want to discover (excursions by various means, guided tours, tours to be done accompanied or independently, cooking classes and tastings). 

The second argument begins at this point: the gap between supply and demand.

This gap has room for expansion and growth, especially in unmanaged destinations. Regarding this, I want to present the case study of Lake Como, and in particular, Como and Brunate (a municipality of 1500 inhabitants), connected by the famous funicular railway. 

Como and its entire lake (Lecco and Como branch) have seen increased tourism in the last 10 years, partly desired and planned, partly exploded and quite out of control.

On the one hand, organised tourism, which consists of meetings between incoming and outgoing operators, events, and weddings in municipal villas (particularly in Como), is undoubtedly attractive. 

The unmanaged side is that of individual arrivals. 

People who see the publicity and social sharing from celebrities and ‘influencers’ and want to see the same places and do their nice public sharing, too, without knowing where they are going. 

These people are helping to generate the phenomenon of overtourism in Como and on the lake.

Overtourism in Lake Como area

On 21 May, I attended an interesting conference on tourism and overtourism in Brunate (a municipality near Como, connected by the famous funicular). 

The speech that most impressed me was the presentation of the research developed by the municipality of Brunate, the initial phase of an exciting path to improve tourism in the municipality. Tourism that only apparently comes to Brunate, but in reality, brings nothing to the activities there and the residents.

The 2023 data of Brunate

  • 1600 inhabitants (approximately) decreasing
  • 460 beds
  • 1 million 430 000 passages (10 hours at full load), mainly from July to September. 

However, the result for the residents is a feeling of a country taken by storm. 

As often happens in cases of beginning overtourism, the perceived problem is that of day trippers, people who visit the place in the day or morning, or even, as happens in Brunate, the time of a funicular ride. 

If we add to this those who visit the place by private car, we also have traffic to deal with. 

The research carried out in the field, with 37 semi-structured interviews with administrators, entrepreneurs, and active residents, revealed the desire to show one’s identity to tourists, the need to be known, and the desire to have tourism spent in the area. 

The research indicates that Brunate should become increasingly attractive to young couples and should be a place for cultural visits. 

The goal is to create different itineraries according to tourists’ interests in landscape, Art Nouveau, Volta, and museums to generate jobs and diversify the tourist offer. 

It is an offer aimed at the territory that presents itself and wants to make itself known. 

The analysis carried out by Michele Bianchi with the municipality of Brunate is fascinating. It notes the similar needs among the various categories of people. During the interviews, the interviewees expressed different feelings, from fear to enthusiasm and a desire to do something. 

Active residents

Hit-and-run tourism, Siege, Tourists wandering around, Fear for Milan hotel


Hit and run without economic impact, Lack of vision, Influence of Como on Brunate (lack of the city of Toys), Quality tourism (less but with a desire to discover the area), Opportunities for seasonal adjustment 

Social sector 

Too many adverse effects, Lack of limitation of houses/apartments as BB (No facilities for frail persons and no space for young people) 


Neighbourhood of Como, Transport difficulties, Community needs, Good economic well-being, Care services, Aggregative cultural vitality, Reduction of traffic, Survival of businesses, Young people, Future proposals, Place surrounded by nature, Attracting people interested in nature aspects. 

The path is in its infancy, but there are good possibilities for improvement and change, mainly if local public and private entities cooperate.

Sara – tourism sector consultant

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