The European Tour Operators Association is trying to calm
concerns that tourists are unwelcome in Spain following a spate of anti-tourism
protests across the Mediterranean country.
In recent weeks, anti-tourism activists have targeted
tourists and tourism establishments in Barcelona, Majorca, Valencia and San
"The violent actions of a minority are not
representative and should not prevent normal life continuing for residents and
visitors, and those that provide services to them," said Tim Fairhurst, the
ETOA's head of strategy and policy.
The Independent reported
that a sightseeing bus in Barcelona was attacked at the end of July by masked
assailants who slashed its tires and sprayed the message "tourism kills
neighborhoods" on the windshield.
The Barcelona incident came just days after a group of about
20 anti-tourism activists burst into a restaurant in Majorca and showered
foreign customers with confetti. The activists later posted a video on social
media declaring that tourism is "destroying Majorca and condemns the
working classes to a life of misery," the Independent reported.
In San Sebastian, "tourists go home" slogans have
cropped up on the city's walls.
Fairhurst acknowledged the challenges that Spain faces as a
booming tourism destination. He noted that ever since the 1992 Summer Olympics
in Barcelona, the city's desirability as a destination has grown.
Since then, the Spanish government has invested heavily in
tourism infrastructure, low-cost flight options have proliferated, and cruise
ship terminals have expanded. "It is no surprise that the visitors came,"
The number of visitors to Spain last year exceeded 30
The challenge Spain faces in balancing the benefits of the
visitor economy with increasing animosity toward visitors will not be an easy
one to tackle, said Fairhurst.
"This is not a challenge that will be solved with easy
sound bites and short-term fixes. It will require long-term strategic thinking,"
he said. "Too much demand is a good problem to have. Its solution will
require imagination and determination on the part of the community, policymakers