It has been widely reported in the media this week that there have been a number of isolated protests by a self-stated ‘anti-capitalism’ group against mass tourism in some parts of Spain. The protesters appeared to be demonstrating against increased overcrowding in some popular tourist resorts and cities, which they argue has resulted in rents for local residents being driven up and accommodation options for locals being restricted. ABTA has conducted a number of national media interviews on the issue – including on Radio 4’s Today programme (listen from 1:50:18) and on BBC Breakfast below. ABTA has stressed that whilst these protests are isolated and any intimidatory tactics should be condemned, they do highlight the need for local governments to take the threat of overcrowding seriously in certain resorts and destinations, and have mechanisms in place to understand and manage visitor numbers for the benefit of tourists, local residents and the travel industry.
Tourism is of immense economic benefit to European destinations and has become even more important in recent years. Most people appreciate these benefits and accept that at certain times of year they will have to share their cities with significant numbers of tourists from around the world. Historically, hotels and other accommodation providers were licensed and regulated, which helped local authorities to understand the volume and nature of visitors coming into their cities. The rapid growth of the peer to peer economy in recent years has led to significant increases in visitors to some cities, but due to the lack of licensing and regulation in this sector, it is impossible to fully understand tourism numbers. We need mechanisms in place to manage numbers in crowded destinations, for the benefit of holidaymakers, destination residents and the travel industry. Logically, these measures would need to take account of both hotel visitors, and peer to peer accommodation users.