5.1 General Discussion
As the demand for leisure and the plethora of tourist destinations has increased, especially emerging at the domestic level, overtourism has become a global issue. Although literature has highlighted the multifaceted problems resulted from overtourism such as safety and security , poor management strategies , and negative tourist experiences , crowding perception and the concept of overtourism have not been adequately addressed to date [10, 24]. Additionally, a strong focus was put on investigating the perception of residents [4, 44] rather than providing a holistic understanding towards tourist experiences related to overtourism. Since overcrowdedness occurs in site-specific terms , this study is a much more detailed one as it scrutinizes the most popular attractions perceived as overcrowded.
First, the lowest sentiment score of safety issue might imply tourist’ uncertainty and anxiety  owing to the high number of tourists. This result can be explained via several negative words (e.g. “dangerous”, “scared”, and “nervous”) when tourists described their experiences at the sites. Indeed, it is unsurprising that tourists are concerned about their safety when traveling. This point has also been brought up in recent literature . Buhalis  suggests that visitor safety should be included in the comprehensive strategies developed by the DMOs to have a prosperous and sustainable destination. Other salient issues resulting from overtourism include the poor performance of service, staff, and insufficient facilities. Consistent with earlier studies investigating the effect of crowdedness on service performance and consumer perceptions , this research discovered that visitors potentially perceived service quality as compromised due to the presence of crowds, leading to an unsatisfactory outcome. Moreover, this study highlights the excessive waiting time at the attractions that can cause negative tourist experiences. Apart from implementing possible solutions to reduce the perceived waiting time such as embedding gamifying and technological elements to entertain visitors , based on the keywords derived from this study, it appears that tourist experiences can be improved by informing one in advance of a rough waiting time or providing sufficient seating capacity. Notably, it is interesting to see that a high level of perceived crowdedness is not always negative . Specifically, a feeling of co-presence with other tourists  fosters the chances of interacting with one another during the trip. This is conveyed by the higher sentiment score of “social interaction” and “overall atmosphere”. Suggested by Neuts and Nijkamp , the perceived crowding level is related to the interactions with other tourists, which subsequently influence tourists’ feelings . While it appears that tourists’ feelings are generally positive when visiting the overcrowding attractions, the high sentiment scores were mainly contributed by topics that may not have a direct relationship with the crowds (e.g. “artwork impression”, “culture and history”). This assumption is especially obvious at the Arc de Triomphe where visitors were most positive towards the architecture while being negative towards the service and staff. Similarly, queuing received the lowest sentiment score whereas the reputation and the history of the attraction received the highest sentiment score at Notre-Dame de Paris. Echoing the study of Capocchi et al. , although the dimensions related to overtourism are interrelated and overlapping, it is evident that overtourism is a problem that must be addressed to improve the quality of tourist experiences and to ensure the sustainability of attraction development. Despite that the number of international tourists in popular attractions declined during the global crisis, domestic tourism is booming . Indeed, while it might take years until the tourism industry recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, people are still traveling in the meantime yet in different forms (e.g. road trips, short-distance travel). Well-known destinations might be less attracted to tourists, but the phenomenon of overtourism is likely to occur in other spots that were less promoted and unpopular previously.
5.2 Theoretical Contributions and Practical Implications
Given that a high number of visitor arrivals appears to be profitable, tourist experiences end up being compromised and negative feelings at specific attractions emerge concurrently. This research provides a threefold contribution to theory, methodology, and practice. First, this study is novel in that it links the emerging fields of overtourism and social media  into tourist experiences. Unlike earlier research built upon existing measurements/figures [4, 44], this study takes one step further by exploratorily discovering the critical dimensions in managing tourist experiences at overcrowded attractions. Seeing that earlier literature often examined perceptions of crowding based on tourists’ demography (e.g. age and gender) , this study sheds light on the potential directions for future research to test the identified topics based on visitors’ socio-demographic backgrounds. Additionally, this study also contributes from a methodological angle by incorporating topic modelling technique and sentiment analysis to reveal tourists’ subjective perceptions. Practically, the findings provide insights to attraction management, DMOs, governments, and relevant stakeholders to strategically plan and enhance both the tourist experiences and socio-ecosystem. Because of the international travel restrictions, overtourism might not be highly relevant in the post-COVID-19. However, it is critical to be aware of the localized overcrowding as a new occurrence in the tourism industry. This study speaks to the thriving global tourism industry in that it offers a detailed account regarding tourist experiences and their feelings when traveling to overcrowded attractions.
5.3 Limitations and Recommendations for Future Research
As with any research, this study is not without limitations. First, this research only investigates visitors’ experiences in the top attractions in Paris, leading to a high degree of uncertainty in the generalization of results. Future studies should be done that examine other crowded attractions. Meanwhile, comparing the results with locations that are less crowded could further reveal more insights. Moreover, the findings in this research are based on online reviews from TripAdvisor. Future studies should consider other platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Additionally, this research did not consider reviews posted by non-English speakers, while they could be emerging markets (e.g. Chinese) for the tourism industry. Methodologically, some attractions may have numerically fewer or more topics rather than ten. It therefore leads to an unequal distribution regarding the number of posts in each identified topic. Finally, researchers are suggested to employ various topic modeling techniques (e.g. correlation explanation and k-means) to find the optimized results. Apart from understanding the valence of online reviews, future studies can also incorporate emotional analysis to better quantify tourists’ emotional engagement in the context of overtourism.