Tuesday, August 08, 2017

 

How Many Tourists are 'Enough'?



Tourism brings untold wealth and a huge number of jobs to Spain – yet there are now some voices raised against this summer onslaught.

Hotels often use the ‘all-inclusive’ plan, which means that the clients can drink and eat for free – within their hotel. The bar round the corner may not be too pleased, but it won’t be a member of a wealthy gremio: an association, a guild really, of powerful businessmen with ‘friends in high places’. The hotels, whether all-inclusive or not, not only set the standards for tourism (being, as it were, the owners of ‘expert opinion on all matters to do with tourism’), they also frown on anyone who stays in any establishment that isn’t one of their own.

While we wait for a caution for putting up friends in our guest bedroom, we already have fresh, stringent rules in place against short-term rentals. Leading the rentals is the Airbnb company, which puts your apartment or spare room on its books. The level of attack against this service is intense, with daily press stories bemoaning the opening up of guest-rooms to a different kind of visitor, and income to a different kind of small businessperson. In the Balearics, apparently, you can get a 40,000€ fine for renting your place to tourists. Meanwhile, a story this week in El Independiente talks of 50,000 Airbnb offers in Ibiza, 20,500 in Barcelona and over 16,000 in Madrid – money that the hotels simply aren’t getting. Seventy five million tourists visited Spain from abroad last year, and many millions more Spaniards also hit the beaches or the museums or perhaps went off to see their relatives in their pueblo. One way or another (with this heat), a lot of beer was drunk.

In some cases, following the beer and perhaps the consumption of other stimulating products available on the street corner, damage was done to the local infrastructure. Someone being sick in the garden, some kids playing their music loud around the pool, a street light wilfully broken. Ten young people sharing (and destroying) a two-bed apartment... The residents don’t like this behaviour: the trickle-down of tourist money never makes it to them. Only the noise, the queues, the inconvenience and the hassle.

How much money does tourism bring to Spain? 16% of Spain’s GDP apparently comes from the visitors. But not much of that makes it to your particular pocket if you are a waiter. An article in Iniciativa Debate talks of twelve hour shifts, seven days a week work (the owner only declares four) for 700 euros per month. The same source looks at room cleaners who get 1,50€ per room. It talks of summer rent increases from 500 to 900 euros and asks: ‘Do you suffer from turismofobia’?

So, as we see in El Español, we get groups of people, or extreme left wing gangs, or simple graffitists, or perhaps some fed-up burgers, who have had enough. They start complaining about the hoards of visitors and put up posters or graffiti of the ‘tourist go home’ variety as they start to make their presence felt.  The Government has even gone as far as to threaten a harsh reaction to anyone who practices anti-tourist activities.

Some of the tourists aren’t very happy either, with new (rather pointless) procedures at the airports adding long impatient queues for holidaymakers. What is this? Our money not good enough, they ask. The Olive Press talks here of ‘Why you may have to queue for four hours at Spanish airports’ (It’s as bad as getting into Gibraltar!).

Tourism brings jobs and wealth, but it also brings inconvenience, rental hikes, vandalism and – sometimes even airport strikes. Like most things in life – there’s the good and the bad. Our advice: head for the hills!

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