Tourism as a social problem

Unofficial translation of an op-ed article by Julio Llamazares, published in El País:

I come back from Lisbon, exhausted from fighting with the thousands of tourists that by day and night fill the streets of the white city, apparently recently en vogue such as other cities of the center and the south of Europe. It had been some time since I last visited the place, and besides the views, the historic monuments and the streets with its characteristic trams, a lot of them already used by tourists only, it took an effort to recognize it, such has been the change during recent years. The famous gentrification, the economic and aesthetic epidemic that consumerism imposes wherever mass-tourism gets to, has converted Lisbon into a new Barcelona in the same manner that Barcelona is a reflection of Rome or Prague. With the exception of the monuments, the modern neighborhoods and a few corners, everything has been homologated in these cities; the traditional trade and commerce has disappeared, substituted by franchises and by fashion stores; and the local populations are devoted to the unscrupulous fleecing of the tourists, who, rather than travellers, have been turned into victims of a new and legal banditry, accepted by all or nearly all. “Don Dinero” (“Sir Money”) is too powerful to take into account ethical considerations.

But the problem of gentrification and the excess of tourists begins to affect also these populations that observe how their cities become more expensive all the time and practically impossible to live in, which pushes them to the suburbs or into madness, such are the noise and agglomeration of people. While I was in Lisbon I read in this newspaper that for the native population of Barcelona tourism already constitutes the major problem in their daily life, above unemployment and the crisis that topped the list before. I.e. that which was seen as an economic solution begins to be seen as a problem by many, including by a lot of those who live off it. Even though tourism creates jobs, the precariousness of these and the increase in the cost of living brought about by tourism have negative effects on them. And the same happens with the environment, that is meant to be restored with new taxes on the tourists, which ultimately are nothing else but a new form of fleecing.

One of the big changes of the last decades of the 20th century and the first ones of the 21st is the massification of travel, until then a privilege of the upper classes or of romantic wanderers who tried to find themselves in the landscapes of other places in the world. I don’t think that anybody is against the democratization of travel, as nobody can be against the democratization of knowledge, but if it is not regulated in some way, tourism is going to be (already being it in a lot of places) the last plague of humanity.

SOURCE: Julio Llamazares, El País, July 1, 2017, p. 2

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One thought on “Tourism as a social problem

  1. Pingback: Snippet: Not literary, but Lisbon (link) | literary rambles

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