Does Europe not want tourists anymore?

Published 18.08.2017 22:21
Updated 19.08.2017 11:45

The joke is this: North Korea President Kim Jong Un is making a statement to the whole world, "We're going to land astronauts on the sun." The media asks: "The sun is too hot. How are you planning on doing that?" Kim answers: "We will land them at night when it is much cooler." Trump instantly responds on Twitter, "You idiots, there is no sun at night."

While this joke summarizes the situation between the U.S. and North Korea, which actually stems from China-centered missile tension, it is heartbreaking to hear about an attack in Barcelona, one of the most popular tourism destinations of the world.

Thinking about the 13 innocent lives lost, it is a very distressing thought that such an attack can happen at any second anywhere in the world. This is why, in the midst of these terrorist attacks, I wanted to continue last week's subject on where tourism is heading in Europe.

Barcelona, where the attack happened, and Venice are increasingly mentioned with anti-tourism protests that recently started and have been gradually increasing as the cities that attract the most tourists in Europe. The anti-tourism protests by locals to get attention to the business, material damage, and increasing rents continue to spread to popular tourist destinations such as Dubrovnik and Rome.

According to the latest statistics of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the number of tourists coming to European cities rose 6 percent from January to April, and it does not seem that it will slow down in the next months. In 2016, the total number of global foreigner tourists reached 1.23 billion and European cities got 50 percent of this, around 615 million.

The reason for the protests is not complicated. Venice whose local population is 55 thousand hosts 20 million tourists a year. Spanish cities receive close to 75.6 million tourists in total. When compared, the total number of foreigner tourists that came to Turkey from 2014 to 2016 is just over 30 million, 12 million in the first six months of 2017, and 35 percent of them, close to 4.5 million, come to Istanbul.

Locals alienated because of tourists

The increasing business is putting a strain on the local people in popular European cities. Especially with applications such as Airbnb that became popular in recent years, rent in the cities has been on the rise because homeowners prefer to rent their houses to tourists, expunging locals from their houses.

Additionally, the fact that historical sites cannot handle the burgeoning tourist numbers harms both the spirits of the city and its standards of living. The latest agenda of the Italian government who has introduced food and alcohol bans in outdoor venues in previous months is to limit the number of tourists in Venice. If they find a solution, the number of daily visitors will be closely monitored and the entry of tourists will be delayed or blocked when capacity is exceeded.

In Croatia's most popular city, Dubrovnik, local authorities have started to impose tough monetary penalties with new regulations to fight the deranging tourists. The financial profit brought by tourism next to the distress it causes is at a size that cannot be overlooked.

According to 2016 statistics, the tourism income of Spain was $60 billion. However, Catalans were the force behind the protests that became violent in Barcelona where the most eventful incidents took place. Even though the protests did not directly influence political decisions, they catalyzed a social setting where being a "foreigner" is getting more difficult. While the banners used in Barcelona mostly included violence and hatred against tourists, the tone of the protest in Venice where 2000 people marched was calmer. The focus in the Venice protest where the word "foreigner" was not used was on the pollution and rising rent in the city. The United Nationals World Tourism Organization and similar institutions invite Europe to peace.

Saudi Arabia in attack mode

While Europe is discontent with excessive tourists, Saudi Arabia has announced that it will lift its ban on bikinis in the new tourism region around the Red Sea. According to the news on Gulf Insider, the Saudi administration will allow women to wear bikinis in the tourism region of 50 islands that will be finished by 2022 according to plans. This new touristic area will be governed with "laws similar to international standards" following the decision of the new prince.

Moving forward, Turkey ranks third in the environment award in blue flagged beaches category where the coasts of 49 countries compete, from the Bahamas to Spain and Mexico to New Zealand. Turkey is also seventh in the race for the title of cleanest marinas in the world. We must continue highlighting Turkey as one of the most beautiful and cleanest destinations in the world.

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