Many European cities suffer from pressures of mass tourism

Published on : Sunday, August 13, 2017

Many European citiesAnger over mass tourism has reached a boiling point this summer. From the crowded stalls of Barcelona’s famous food market La Boqueria to the cruise ships that bring thousands of passengers daily on St. Mark’s Square in Venice, large-scale tourism is attracting a lot of public opposition, protests and even riots. Many European cities are reeling under pressures of mass tourism and overcrowding and this is attracting protests from locals.

Spain, in particular, has become a hotbed of anti-tourism sentiment. In Barcelona, tensions have been rising for years over the unrestricted surge in visitors and the impact of so-called “disruptors” such as Airbnb on the local housing market. This summer it took a nasty turn when Arran, the youth wing of the radical CUP party, were filmed slashing the tyres of rental bicycles and a tour bus.

There have also been protests in San Sebastian where an anti-tourism march on 17 August will coincide with Semana Grande, a festival of Basque culture.

In Venice last month, residents organized a protest through the main tourist areas behind a banner that read “My future is Venice.” The city’s population has fallen from about 175,000 in the years after World War II to 55,000 today.

Even the UK is not immune to such protests. Residents on Scotland’s Isle of Skye complain that local infrastructure cannot cope with the number of summer visitors.

However, as “tourism-phobia” becomes more of a feature, the UNWTO has defended the sector, calling on local authorities to do more to manage growth in a sustainable manner. Its Secretary General Dr. Taleb Rifai said the rise in anti-tourist sentiment is “a very serious situation that needs to be addressed in a serious way.” He added that if managed properly, tourism can be the “best ally” for conservation, preservation and the community.

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