WHEN France’s tourism minister Olivia Gregoire earlier this week bemoaned overtourism in her country and set out steps to tackle the issue it chimed with similar problems on the other side of the Auld Alliance.

As we veer towards the summer holidays overtourism in Scotland rears its congested head again, kicking off debate about what we can do to make tourism work both for visitors and local communities.

As a freelance travel writer who has spent the last two decades working my way around the globe, I see overtourism all over, from the sweaty streets of a Venetian summer, through to the Croatian hotspot of Dubrovnik, where I avoid going into the old town between late morning and early evening when the cruise ship passengers and Games of Thrones devotees descend. And then there is clogged Barcelona, a city break star groaning under the weight of overtourism.

We have our own pressure points in Scotland. Skye – one of Europe’s most beguiling islands – often becomes the lightning rod for frustration. If you want to hurl headlong into the overtourism debate just mention the Fairy Pools to a resident.

But overtourism is not just limited to the largest island in the Inner Hebrides. Edinburgh’s Old Town can be hellish in August; Luss, too, on sunny summer days. Even the Northern Isles are not spared – try to experience Skara Brae and the Ring of Brodgar when cruise ships, motorhomes and day trippers create an unholy trinity. And we’ve not even touched on the North Coast 500 and issues surrounding motorhomes.

I’m part of the problem. A lot of the media understandably want to cover the places people go most often, so I’m regularly commissioned by London-based editors to write about them.

People go and the media responds to demand. And round we go again. Popular culture is a factor, too, with Outlander fuelling the Skye surge. Historically there was a Braveheart bounce and Local Hero still draws people to Pennan and the Sands of Morar.

COVID has also had a role. When we were freed from lockdown, but couldn’t go abroad many Scots chose to explore their own land, as did visitors from the rest of the UK.

The dreaded staycation put more pressure on popular points and created new areas of stress, generating media stories of poor tourist behaviour. As we eke beyond Covid, staycations seem here to stay as the rest of the UK realised what Scotland offers.

Tourism can be a force for good in many ways, least not financially for our country, but how do we manage tourism, and specifically overtourism? We could slap on a negative headline grabbing tourist tax, take drastic measures like Venice with one-way walkways, or copy France with advance booking to visit the Calanques. But are there less-blunt-force ways to tackle overtourism?

READ MORE: Stephen Kerr to run in next Westminster election despite being an MSP

I have talked a lot to VisitScotland and they are keen to stress dispersal: encouraging visitors to go to less obvious places.

So if you’ve already been to Skye how about slipping just south to the Small Isles? Fancy a medieval old town? Well, swap the Royal Mile for Dunfermline, our newest city.

In tandem with dispersal, there has been talk about education and awareness. This is about remembering we might think places are remote or romantic but real people live real lives there.

So respect becomes key. I often describe it as imagining a tourist came into your local pub, shop or parked in your street. How would you want them to behave?

There is much talk about overtourism, but often it ends there as just talk. Community tourism network SCOTO is taking things a step further encouraging us all to be “temporary locals”. We show respect and put money directly into local communities; in return we savour richer, more engaged experiences.

SCOTO launched a new website this month (www.Belocal.scot), which flags up the work of these community groups across Scotland. There is everything from a Roman museum in Melrose, through to a hostel in Callander where your cash is used to help struggling younger people.

One of the most impressive SCOTO groups is a model for how tourism issues can be tackled in a positive way. The Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust joins the dots on its community-owned island. Yes there can be a lot of tourists in summer, but they benefit Eigg.

Last year we stayed in a camping pod knowing our cash went into the community. The same goes at the shops and cafe in the An Laimhrig centre. Even the £2 I paid contactless for a shower in the 100% green electricity toilet block benefits Eigg.

Eigg Adventures are on hand too with a fleet of green Eigg energy powered e-bikes to disperse tourists around their glorious island. Eigg is a microcosm that could be worked into strategies in other tourist spots across Scotland.