Rising concerns worldwide about what an increase in tourism is doing to historic cities, cultural sites and the environment loomed over the start Thursday of a two-day gathering in Kyoto on tourism and culture organized by the United Nations World Tourism Organization and UNESCO.

Kyoto is a prime example of a city struggling to deal with large numbers of tourists, especially those from abroad, where local residents complain of chronic traffic jams, busy streets and the bad manners of some foreign tourists. Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa faces re-election in February, and how to manage the flood of foreign tourists is weighing heavily on voters' minds.

"Over the past two decades, we've seen an increase of tourists in Kyoto to over 50 million annually," the mayor said. Yet, he added, the same period has seen reductions in the amount of waste and the number of cars on the road due to municipal policies.