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The War on Tourism begins in Southern Europe

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George W. Bush once declared the War on Terrorism. Now some southern European cities are declaring War on Tourists.

The only thing worse than being blown up on a plane is having to share one with a load of people childishly excited about visiting somewhere you think of as ordinary, and few who get accosted by tourists, with their broken cameras and their maps upside down, ever reflect on the great economic benefits visitors bring.

In Spain and Italy, the resentment is turning belligerent, with many communities organising protests and revolts against the tidal wave of visitors to their respective countries’ many beautiful spots.

Everyone recognises something contemptible about tourism – we enjoy moaning about the clusters of Japanese visitors in London, flashing their Nikons and flaunting their kimonos around the great sites, trying out some ‘traditional foods’ but not really learning anything about the city or the culture.

Most people find out about the world through movies and television shows, which often depict other cultures in a stereotypical way. It’s only logical that when people travel around they look for an equally superficial experience. Even though we complain about tourists in our own country, we often act the same way when we visit another, making the War on Tourism one many people can get behind.

Although for Spain and Italy it is not so much the culture of tourism that bothers them, but the material consequences of taking in so many visitors. In Barcelona, the youth wing of an extremist political party has taken to vandalising tourist bikes and buses, complaining that aggressive waves of tourism put pressure on services and makes people feel uncomfortable in their own neighbourhood, just as some of our politicians talk about immigration.

Across in the legendarily beautiful Italian city of Venice, over a thousand locals recently marched to express their anger at rising rent costs, and the impact of the regular arrival of huge cruise ships. Venice is home to just 55,000 people but is one of these places, along with Las Vegas and Amsterdam, that relies almost entirely on tourism to survive, often seeing over 20 million visitors a year.

The rise of Airbnb rentals seems to have exacerbated the problem, breaking the monopoly of hotel chains and allowing cities to take in even larger numbers of visitors. Barcelona has since begun cracking down on unlicensed Airbnb rentals, while in Venice the mayor’s office has announced a ban on tourist accommodation in the city centre, installing ‘people counters’ to control the flow of fat Americans in the Piazza San Marco.

There is also the problem of visitors who bring violence as well as money, prompting Roman authorities to ban people from drinking around its most famous spots. In the Croatian capital of Dubrovnik, where large cruise ships swamp the place with thousands of visitors at once, authorities have been handing out large fines to drunk and disorderly visitors, many of whom for some reason happen to be Brits.

The World Tourism Organisation (known by their horrible acronym, UNTWO), has commented on the ‘very serious situation,’ uninspiringly adding that it requires a ‘very serious solution.’ The trick, as is always in life, is of maintaining a balance – let the inevitable tourists get their snaps next to the fountains and the statues and the ruins, but make sure the locals don’t start arming themselves to expel the foreign occupants.




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