+ A

Tourism-phobia

Aug 14,2017
“Welcome. You are driving local residents away. Enjoy your visit,” reads a sign posted in a residential neighborhood in Barcelona, Spain. Other signs say, “We have a right to sleep.” In San Sebastian, home of the Basque cultural festival, an anti-tourism rally is scheduled on August 17. Tourism-phobia is spreading in Spain, visited by 75.6 million tourists annually, and other European tourist destinations this summer. Last month, 2,000 local residents of Venice, Italy marched in protest of an influx of tourists.

The moves to reject tourists and visitors are intensifying. “Tourists should die” was found scribbled on the window of a city tour bus in Barcelona. A youth group of a far-left political party in Spain shared videos of the members slashing the tires of tour buses and rental bikes. Not only tourists, but foreign residents are feeling threatened.

Once praised as a means of supporting the local economy, tourism has become a target of rejection as locals suffer damages and inconveniences. The population of Venice is 55,000, but the city is visited by 20 million tourists annually.

A Korean living in Barcelona says, “It is common to see drunk tourists roaming around the streets and urinating on doors, screaming on subways and fighting with pedestrians.” More and more, homes are offered to tourists as short-term rentals through home sharing services, causing real estate prices to skyrocket. Locals complain that tourism is killing the city, and they are being dominated.

Municipal authorities are seeking solutions. Dubrovnik, Croatia is restricting the number of cruise ship tourists that can come into the town, which is a registered Unesco Cultural Heritage site. Barcelona is cracking down on unlicensed short-term rentals. Rome is considering a plan to ban food consumption around fountains in the city center. The UN World Tourism Organization advises countries to encourage tourists to experience not just the city centers, but other regions as well.

Korea is worried about the sharp decrease in Chinese tourists after the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) missile shield. But there had already been complaints about the overflow of Chinese tourists on Jeju Island, which saw rapidly rising real estate prices, and calls for solutions.

Tourism was once praised as the “goose laying golden eggs” but it has been criticized for not improving the quality of life for local, working-class people. The unemployment rate remains high in Europe, and as long as European politics fail to improve the lives of ordinary citizens, this quickly-spreading case of tourism-phobia is not likely to go away anytime soon.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 12, Page 26

*The author is the London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

KIM SUNG-TAK