Enough is enough… ‘Foreign tourists go home!’
Point of view
"They want to turn us into a theme park"
So say some exasperated residents in Palma, Majorca, who have resorted to graffiti in a backlash against a booming tourist trade.
On the walls of the grand old houses of the Balearic port which attracts millions of foreigners every year,
scrawled messages of this kind have flourished.
One urges tourists to leave but says: “Refugees welcome”.
While still a minority protest, tensions are real in Majorca and elsewhere in Spain over a surge in visitors which is certainly boosting the economy but also, critics say, disrupting the lives of residents and straining local services.
A popular holiday venue for decades, Spain is drawing record numbers of visitors this year as tourists shun other destinations where security is a concern, such as Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia.
Spain and Portugal holidays in demand as UK tourists avoid Egypt and Tunisia over terror fears https://t.co/rJyrVpltLL— The Independent (@Independent) 29 mai 2016
The surge has helped the country recover from recession and alleviate a jobs crisis. But, for many Spaniards, the jump in tourism has a downside.
“They want to turn us into a theme park, a place you close the doors on at night because no-one lives there,” said Luis Clar, who heads an association in the La Seu neighborhood of Palma, home to its main monuments.
In the Balearic Islands off Spain’s eastern Mediterranean coast, nearly a third of employment depends on the sector. It accounts for nearly half the economic output, more than in any other region. The local economy has just recovered to its pre-crisis level after a five-year downturn.
Yet unease over the boom is spreading among the population.
In the drought-prone island of Ibiza water reserves are getting tight and in rural Menorca fears are mounting that natural beauty-spots risk being spoiled.
In spots like Magaluf on Majorca, binge drinking and boisterous behaviour have long been a problem.
On one day last August, the population across the Balearics nearly doubled, reaching a record 2 million.
The latest data from March shows visitors to the archipelago were up nearly 50 percent from 2015 in that month alone, swelled by arrivals from Britain in particular. All-inclusive holidays for the peak summer months are selling out.
In Palma, residents know that there are days to avoid the city centre, especially when cruise ships carrying thousands of passengers mass in the harbour, and some worry that entire neighbourhoods will turn into holiday lets.
Similar concerns led to angry protests in Barcelona two years ago, where residents in beachfront areas rallied against the rise in drunk and disorderly holidaymakers that coincided with a blossoming trade in tourist apartments.