The Ques­tion

Are cities re­ceiv­ing too many tourists?

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - NEWS | REVIEW - Kevin Court­ney

Think­ing of tak­ing a city break in 2019? Don’t. Many ma­jor cities are be­set by ur­ban prob­lems – poverty, crime, home­less­ness etc – but sev­eral cap­i­tals are suf­fer­ing from a new malaise – too many bloody tourists. New York, LA, Paris, Rome, Venice, Barcelona and Am­s­ter­dam and other cities are buck­ling un­der the sheer num­bers of tourists vis­it­ing.

They’re throng­ing Times Square, swarm­ing the Span­ish Steps and choking up the Champs Élysées, and may­ors ev­ery­where are dread­ing the ar­rival of even more tourists to their towns next sum­mer.

So, how bad is it? Let’s take a quick tour around the world’s ur­ban hot-spots and see the full hor­ror for our­selves. In Paris, you could write the en­tire works of Dan Brown in the time it would take to queue up for the Lou­vre. In Rome, fist­fights are breaking out at the Trevi Foun­tain, as tourists jos­tle for selfie space. In New York, Times Square was so crowded for the New Year’s Eve cel­e­bra­tions that they had to close the Brook­lyn Bridge.

As cheap flights make trav­el­ling a dod­dle, more peo­ple are pack­ing their week­end bags and head­ing off for a city break. But it’s not so easy when they ar­rive at their cho­sen city – be­cause of over-tourism, they can face trans­port de­lays, long queues at mu­se­ums, dif­fi­culty book­ing restau­rants. And, un­less they’ve gone the Airbnb route, ho­tel rates can be astro­nom­i­cal. And try get­ting a bi­cy­cle in Am­s­ter­dam at peak time, or a gon­dola in Venice; you might as well walk – or swim.

City burghers are push­ing back at the tsunami of tourism. A spokesper­son for New York’s tourism mar­ket­ing com­pany has urged peo­ple to con­sider vis­it­ing the Big Ap­ple dur­ing the off-sea­son, when ev­ery­thing is cheaper and more ac­ces­si­ble. In Barcelona, they’re con­sid­er­ing a tax on tourism, and re­strict­ing the num­ber of beds avail­able to vis­i­tors. In Venice, vig­i­lantes have tried to block cruise ships car­ry­ing daytrip­pers to the city, and in Palma, Ma­jorca, “tourists go home” slo­gans have ap­peared.

What can be done to re­duce the num­ber of tourists in cities? Should tourism chiefs high­light all the bad things about their city, just to dis­cour­age peo­ple from vis­it­ing? Or should peo­ple con­sider less ob­vi­ous des­ti­na­tions such as Bucharest, Sofia or Ho Chi Minh City?

I’m sure Mullingar or Athlone would warmly wel­come more week­end vis­i­tors.

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