Every summer, the streets of Old Quebec – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – are packed with tourists, but some locals are up in arms, worried about the city being overrun by out-of-towners.

One of the concerned residents is Francois Marchand, a lawyer and urban planner who works in Old Quebec. He said that he worries that an influx of tourists will cause the neighbourhood to lose its charm and push many locals to move elsewhere.

“The population is diminishing (and) decreasing. We lost 500 people in (the) Vieux Quebec (neighbourhood) in the last 10 years,” he told CTV News Montreal. “That's about 10 per cent of the 5,000 people.”

During recent public consultations about the city’s plans to keep its UNESCO World Heritage Site status, Marchand argued that the streets within the old walls are transforming dramatically.

The problems, he said, are particularly obvious during the summer and lead to “traffic jams, noise and too many people in the same place at the same time.”

Raymond Taillefer, a member of the Old Quebec citizens’ committee, said that the influx of tourists is happening at a time when many local services, including a popular market at the Old Port, are moving to different neighbourhoods.

“What they're doing with this market just behind me is something that we don't accept,” he said, gesturing to the market. “In about two months’ time, this will be demolished.”

Taillefer said that he believes the services are relocating because of the growing number of massive cruise ships that are docking in the city.

The Quebec Port Authority hopes to have 400,000 cruise ship passengers dock in the city by 2025, which is double the city’s current numbers.

Taillefer said he doesn’t think the city can manage the additional heavy load, and is worried about “noise, pollution (and) overcrowding.”

But some city officials disagree and say they’re receiving positive feedback.

“Of course, it depends on who you talk to,” said Marie-Josee Savard, a city councillor. She said shopkeepers in the city’s bustling commercial area, Quartier Petit Champlain, told her they’re “very happy about all the tourists coming.”


A global trend

Quebec City joins a growing number of cities around the world that have recently complained about “overtourism,” or being swamped by tourists.

Some cities, including Madrid, Barcelona and Amsterdam, have drastically curbed or even banned rentals through Airbnb, the accommodation sharing service. Others, such as Venice, have imposed steep entrance fees and caps on the number of tourists entering into the city.

Experts say that social media is playing a huge role in the phenomenon, as tourists hope to snap photos in historic locations and to share them on Instagram and other sites.

Fjadrargljufur, a popular canyon in Iceland, was recently forced to shut down to tourists, after Canadian singer Justin Bieber shot his “I’ll Show You” music video there.


Striking a balance

Quebec Culture Minister Nathalie Roy said the key is to ensuring a balance between catering to tourists and respecting the concerns of locals.

“The main thing to say is that we have to protect Old Quebec,” she said. “It's a wonderful place and we love tourists, but everything has to be done in harmony.”