From Scotland to Ibiza, critics of mass tourism are growing their ranks. EURACTIV partner Ouest-France reports.
As the tourism sector increases its contribution to member state GDP, it also becomes a source of grievance for local populations. Some cities are starting to consider taking drastic measures to cut numbers.
“Tourismophobia” is spreading across Europe. In popular destinations, tourists are increasingly faced with belligerent locals, hell-bent on re-appropriating their cities.
From Venice’s canals to Dubrovnik’s ramparts, from the Scottish Isle of Skye to the party-island of Ibiza, tourists have become a nightmare for some locals, despite the economic windfall they bring.
Victims of mass tourism, locals of Ibiza have a hard time finding accommodation: millions of visitors attracted by the world-renowned nightclubs and their turquoise beaches mean that house prices have skyrocketed.
Since separatig from his partner last year, Gabriel Alberto Andrade lives in a blue van, fitted with a bed, a TV and a small gas kitchenette. On the roof, solar panels provide him with electricity.
“It’s not easy to leave in a van, but rents have become insane. It’s impossible to pay them,” lamented the 47-year-old Argentinian who has lived on the Balearic island since 2000.
Nine years ago, when his children were born, €400 per month could rent a whole house. Today, for that price, it is hard to find a room.
The situation heats up in the high season, when the island’s population triples and prices shoot up, as does the need for labour.
But for seasonal workers, often poorly paid, the price of accommodation becomes prohibitive. Joan Riera, owner of the Can Alfredo restaurant in the island’s capital, used to “receive ten to 12 CVs per day to come and work during the summer. Today, it’s one or two.”
“Never again a summer like this one”
In the seaside area of Barceloneta, local inhabitants have been protesting for a year against tourist nuisances: drunkenness; sexual intercourse in the streets. And the rise in rents has forced some to leave.
“Never again a summer like this one;” “No tourists in our buildings;” “You’re not welcome,” are some of the banners that citizens paraded during a protest on Saturday (12 August) on a beach always crowded with tourists.
Such actions, described by the Spanish press as “tourismophobia”, are multiplying across Spain – the third-highest ranked country in terms of volume of tourism globally.
Spain has enjoyed increasing popularity since holidaymakers have chosen to avoid countries they consider unsafe, such as Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey.
Extreme-left organisations stopped a tourist bus in Barcelona to spray its windshield with paint. In Palma de Majorca, a major city in the Balearic islands, youths and environmental activists used smoke grenades to protest against tourism in the city’s harbour, holding banners reading “Tourism kills Majorca.”
The Balearic archipelago, a highly popular destination, has just reduced the number of tourist beds available to 623,000 and wants to reduce them to 500,000 in the coming years.
“The bedrock of our economy, and of work, is tourism,” recognised Arturo Monferrer, a 67-year-old citizen of Palma. “But it must be orderly.”
Control the tourist flux
From 1995 to 2016, the number of international travellers has gone from 525 million to more than 1.2 billion thanks to low-cost airlines and the growing middle classes of emerging markets like China, India and the Gulf states.
In some destinations, the line of tolerance has been crossed, such as the case of Dubrovnik. “Sometimes, to enter the historical centre, you must queue for one hour under the scorching sun,” lamented Ana Belosevic, who works in hospitality.
The municipal government of Dubrovnik, known as the “pearl of the Adriatic Sea”, has installed CCTV cameras to control the influx of tourists and wants to limit the number of stopovers by cruise ships.
On the other side of the Adriatic, Venice, with its 265,000 inhabitants and 24 million visitors per year, wants to create a booking system to access St Marks square at peak times.
Fines of up to €500 have been established for people eating on the pavement or plunging into the canals.
In Florence, the authorities spray water on the parvis of Santa Croce Basilica to prevent tourists from camping out there.
In Ibiza, the Balearic regional parliament’s decision to cut the amount of accommodation available has been received positively.
“If we continue to grow like this, there will come a point where we will no longer be competitive. And Ibiza will no longer be a pleasant place to live in. This is why we should size it down,” said Vicent Torres, director of tourism for the local government.
The goal is to avoid making tourism, vital for the island’s economy, a reason for grievance. Before becoming a tourist hotspot in the 1960s, the island survived on fishing and agriculture.
“We perverted the system”
“I would never have thought I would have to defend the Spanish tourism sector,” an activity that generates 11% of the country’s GDP, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy recently commented.
“Tourism is not the enemy,” commented Taleb Rifai – president of the Global Tourism Organisation (GTO), based in Madrid.
“We have perverted the system,” offered Lucas Prats, president of an association for tourism promotion. “Before, in Ibiza, there were touristy areas and tourist accommodation. Now, everything is for tourists.”
On the Scottish island of Skye, renowned for its wilderness, authorities worry that the growth in tourism risks endangering the local ecosystem.
“The easy way out, it’s to say: no more tourists,” said Taleb Rifai. “But those who say ‘we don’t want any more tourists’ will be the firsts to cry when they have gone.”
In a 2015 resolution, the European Parliament declared that “European tourism must make a transition from a model of quantitative growth to a qualitative model leading to steady and sustainable development,” with a focus on qualified jobs, diversification of tourism in rural and coastal areas, and sustainable employment.