It finally happened!

You might remember that we have written quite a few times about the crowds. Finally it has happened. Barcelona has moved to restrict tourism numbers as the strain on the city finally comes to a breaking point. Though we fail to see how the proposed ban on building new hotels would help. And we doubt that they can effectively check and police the AirBnB rental market with 110 inspectors. And it seems if this article is true, more cities are finally jumping in.

One thing’s for sure, if you want to be one of the 32 million visitors to the city of 1.6 million, you will have to pay a higher surcharge if you only do a day trip. How they levy that we don’t know (someone tell us?) especially if you come on your own. Do they ask you as you get off the train, bus or ship? Ok off the cruise ship for sure.

The most interesting thing though is the tax rate on vacation property. Many years back when we live in Holland, we had quite some Dutch friends who bought apartments in Spain for vacation use or as a second home. How will they be affected? Oh dear. This is the pitfall of investing in real estate in a jurisdiction outside your own country. Never know when the laws change… and btw the barbers realtors will never tell you it’s ever a bad time to speculate invest.

When your city gets visited by the equivalent of 20x the local population, infrastructure will surely begin to creak and moan as we mentioned here. Can you as a local imagine having to crowd with the tourists on the trains, shops etc. It is a fantastic compliment to have many folks from around the world clamour to visit your home city. But it is a whole different proposition to have them clog up your streets! Locals in the city support this move. Businesses object (of course?).

How soon before a BTA (Barcelona travel approval)  or TVA (Trevi visit approval) is required?

How crowded is it really?

Recently, there had been a number of articles reflecting on tourist numbers and how impactful this has on the sites that receive hordes of travelers. From analytical posts here  to news that authorities have closed an island to access, we are witnessing a sort of push back due to overwhelming numbers of people criss crossing the globe.

Some destinations have implemented what would seem to be ‘draconian’ measures. For example Barcelona has been rolling out a series of bans, from restricting large tour groups’ access to traditional markets, to not allowing tourists to drive in certain parts of the city. The rationale being that the large number of tourists is disrupting lives of ordinary people. Others have retreated from this extreme, such as Venice’s backtrack on the ban of large cruise ships sailing past via St Mark’s basin.

To us this is a harbinger of potential future conflict, when local life becomes interrupted to the point of unbearable by the ‘intrusion’ of non locals.

Tourist arrival Stats
Lifted from Statistica. See how the tourist numbers continue to climb? No recession here!

How much is enough? Just to give some food for thought, it is estimated that in 2014 just over 1.1 billion people made international travel as you can observe in the graph above. Yes, that’s a digit representing a billion. That means around the world everyday >3 million people are on their way somewhere on a plane, boat, train or road – crossing a border. Of course it is actually worse since it is not evenly spread, with holiday time of various countries, cultures and religions being the main contributors to concentrated movement of people.

Busy Hermitage
Groups of 30 were herded along

There was talk some years ago I heard that Venice is no longer inhabited by Venetians but by foreigners and workers who leave the lagoon city in the evening for the suburbs on the mainland. If that were really true, it would be a real loss.

Imagine the lost character of a city without its real inhabitants. Well, perhaps real is not an appropriate word. Indigenous perhaps? This gets really complicated!

Even when we were in Russia recently it was a surprise to find that there can be ‘hordes’ of tourists at every attraction. The Hermitage was so crowded that each group were issued headphones to tune in to your own guide. Too many guide speaking at one time and in different languages too. The cacophony would be overwhelming!

Here’s an interesting thought : should physical travel become a chore with the crowd, would you prefer the comfort of VR travel or taking travel to the next level to avoid the crowds?