Gabriel Wheatcroft

Profesor de inglés


Are there too many tourists in Spain?

I’ve recently been reading a book called Voices of the Old Sea by Norman Lewis, a lovely account of an Englishman’s time in Farol, a Catalonian fishing village, in the late 1940s. Lewis depicts the daily routines and the endearing eccentricities of the villagers – the villagers don’t use money, they recite poems in the local bar, and they live surrounded by wild cats. They are desperately poor, and suffer more ever year as their catches dwindle, but they are saved by the construction of a hotel on the beach, designed to cater to rich tourists. The hotel provides employment, but the tourists are loud and brash, and as more of the villagers are forced to work at the hotel, their way of life is permanently destroyed.

This got me thinking about the effects of mass tourism, which is an industry that Spanish people feel deeply ambivalent about. Of course it’s true that tourism is an essential source of money: it accounts for 11% of the country’s economy, and it was an important factor in ‘The Spanish Miracle’, the economic boom of the 1960s that saw living standards rise dramatically. But is this a case of having too much of a good thing?

In the last year alone, the average price of rent in Madrid has risen by 4%, and a lot of people are blaming this on the growth of AirBnB. According to a New Yorker article, there are some neighbourhoods in Barcelona where the number of local residents has declined by 45% in the last 12 years. Precious housing stock is disappearing, as more and more apartments are being converted into temporary living spaces to give tourists a home while they’re passing through a city. And it’s not just about money: two weeks ago, 80,000 football fans descended on Madrid, more than the number of Britons who landed in Normandy on D-Day, and indeed lots of Madrileños treated their arrival as an invasion. Tourists bring money to a city, but is it worth it they get drunk, leave litter, and assault the locals? If you travelled back in time to 1950 and showed the residents of Magaluf what their town would look like today, would they be happy?

Is tourism good for Spain?

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