Spanish tourism at risk due to political and social chaos

 Saturday, November 11, 2017 


Spanish tourismSpain is popular globally for its picturesque beaches, world-class food and wine and vivacious culture. Millions of tourists visit Spain each year for getting a slice of good life. In 2016, some 75.3 million people visited the European country.

Tourist numbers in Spain reached record levels each year for the past four years and it currently holds the title of the world’s third most popular tourist destination, according to the UNWTO.

But now the country is on the brink of losing its place on the podium. Amid political turmoil, terrorism fears and violent protests, Spain’s reputation is at risk.

Barcelona is Spain’s biggest tourist drawcard and is at the heart of the problems now facing the industry. It’s ranked in MasterCard’s top 20 global destination cities index in 2016 — the only Spanish city to make it to the list. The Catalonia region, where the hugely popular city is located, is facing a 10-12 per cent fall in tourist numbers during the fourth quarter of this year.

In August, Barcelona and a nearby town was the target for a horrific terror attack, in which 16 died when a van was driven down a popular tourist strip. Spaniards are growing frustrated by swarm of tourists taking over town centres, disrupting the lives of locals and putting a strain on resources.

The new mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, is an outspoken critic of tourists. She introduced tourist caps, including on the city’s famous La Boqueria markets, and put a one-year moratorium on new licences for hotel and tourist apartments in the city. In July, there was an assault on an open-top tourist bus in Barcelona as it pulled up outside the Camp Nou stadium of the city’s iconic football team FC Barcelona. The tyres of rental bicycles for tourists were also slashed.

Such situations are now Spaniards’ second largest concern after the country’s rampant unemployment, according to a recent poll.

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