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Anti-tourism backlash sweeps Europe

August 9, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Tourism in Europe is succeeding so overwhelmingly that some locals are up in arms, saying tourist hordes and Airbnb-style letting are combining to push up rental prices, swamp neighbourhoods with visitors and change the character of localities.

The BBC and news outlets in Europe have published reports of an angry backlash in favourite tourist spots like Barcelona, Dubrovnik, Rome, Mallorca and Venice.

The situation has apparently gone beyond cases of tourists occasionally outnumbering locals. Small Mediterranean ports are hard hit, with ocean cruise ships disgorging thousands of passengers and swamping little localities, yet not necessarily producing any significant boost to local economies.

“Go Home” graffiti and banners, destruction of tourist bicycles and even physical confrontations have been reported.

Spot the local (if any) at Rome’s Trevi fountain

The backlash is ironic, given that tourism is very important for countries such as Spain, where it makes up 12% of national earnings. For that reason, not many local papers want to report on it. Terrorism-linked strife and threats in regions of the Middle East and North Africa popular with tourists have persuaded many tourists to switch to Spain instead.

Tourist numbers are climbing, and not just in Spain.

A report in the Huffington Post said Rome is considering limiting visitor numbers to the Trevi fountain and to other tourist hotspots, while Barcelona is planning a new tourism tax and Dubrovnik plans to limit cruise ships.

Tourists throng San Marco in Venice

Residents of Venice staged a recent protest march against uncontrolled tourism. Activists in San Sebastian, northern Spain, plan something similar later this month.

Barcelona – one of the biggest tourist magnets in Europe – has seen a banner unfurled featuring a black silhouette with a red target and the slogan: “Why call it tourist season if we can’t shoot them?”

Some of the protests are organised by anarchist or leftist groups.

News outlets speak of a video showing hooded people stopping a tourist bus in Barcelona, slashing the tyres and spraying the windscreen with slogans. Something similar is shown in the video above.

An editor of the English-language edition of Spanish newspaper El Pais, speaking to the BBC, said Airbnb-type letting has also come under fire, with locals saying it removes accommodation from the inventory that would otherwise be available locally and forces up rents.

Written by Peter Needham

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