Bedlam in Barcelona – BALKAN NEWS MAGAZINE

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Imagine the scene; the local inhabitants of Bourgas and Varna parading in the streets, smashing hotel windows and daubing graffiti on restaurants filled with throngs of tourists from across the globe, their message – go home tourists we don’t want you! Such a scenario is about as likely as Martians landing in Kaspichan and ordering a bottle of Rakia, yet believe it or not, in Venice and in parts of Spain this is starting to be a regular occurrence.

Starting with Venice, a city with 391 bridges and that had a post war population of around 175,000 inhabitants, but which finds that number now shrunk to just 55,000 locals, its gripe is that the city is totally over ran with tourists making it impossible for any sort of permanent life to exist there.

Venice will often welcome 4 and even 5 cruise ships per day, each of which steams into harbour in the morning and steams out at night. Then, depending on who you believe, the cruise goers either don’t spend anything in monetary terms, but do leave lots of litter and pollution behind, or on the other side of the argument is the claim from the cruise lines that cruise goers spend around 150 USD per head in the city. Added to this are the stacks of entrepreneur driven B&B accommodations now joined by Airbnb properties, which play happy host to thousands of people arriving by Low Cost airlines.

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This has resulted in a reduction in possible places to live for normal people, which then means the simple solution is to up sticks and move somewhere else that’s affordable to live. A short term boom and a long term blip. The bottom line is that Venetians can’t live with tourism yet they can’t live  -now – without it. 22.000 people leave the city every year to live elsewhere, a fact that should send warning signals to any city, region or country that becomes overly dependent on tourism.

Then we have Spain: that haven for party lovers and beach goers alike. A country that has both directly and indirectly benefited massively thanks to its climate and relatively low costs. Except, that is that as in any country there will always be a few ‘nutters.’ These are the 5 or 10% of people who could have everything in life, but they will still complain, demonstrate and create mayhem. The word extremists are more usually associated with a beard wearing religious fanatic, but a Spanish Group called Arran Paisos Catalans, which as the name suggests, is based around the Catalonia region near Barcelona, and has recently been kicked off in Barcelona, Valencia and the Balearic Island.

Their gripe is that tourism hotspots are becoming overcrowded and forcing locals out of their habitat. Tourist buses in Barcelona have been targeted along with slashed tyres on touring bikes and hotel windows smashed. Restaurants have also been daubed with paint and flare guns fired.

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In Barcelona, the “nutters” might want to think about what and how their city has prospered thanks to tourism and without it, the city would be an irrelevance in Spain. Tourism does bring prosperity and yes, it needs to be managed. There is also the point, that no matter what great things any city does, it’s never going to please all of the people all of the time; people are however free to move elsewhere to other cities where like-minded people exist; if in fact they do.

Sadly, the events of the past week in Barcelona might even give this group the result they have been striving for: will Arran Paisos Catalans treat this as a blessing, or will they realize suddenly, how they and the region need tourism to carry on their everyday lives. Barcelona needs tourists and tourists need Barcelona; neither need this extremist group of idiots.

Mark Thomas, CEO Hogg Robinson Jamadvice, Sofia Bulgaria