'Tourists go home': Spain tourism surge brings backlash

Mon May 30, 2016 2:33am EDT
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By Sarah White

PALMA DE MALLORCA, Spain (Reuters) - On the walls of the grand old houses of this Balearic port which attracts millions of foreigners every year, a new kind of graffiti has flourished: "Tourists go home".

Although still a minority protest, it points to tensions in Palma de Mallorca and elsewhere in Spain over rising numbers of visitors who are propelling the economy but also disrupting the lives of locals and straining services from transport to water.

With tourism accounting for 12 percent of economic output and 16 percent of jobs, Spain can ill afford a backlash.

Long a popular beach destination, this year Spain is drawing record numbers of visitors who are shunning destinations where security is a concern, notably Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey.

The surge has helped the country recover from recession and alleviate a jobs crisis. But, for many Spaniards, the jump in tourism has a downside.

"They want to turn us into a theme park, a place you close the doors on at night because no-one lives there," said Luis Clar, who heads an association in the La Seu neighborhood of Palma de Mallorca, home to its main monuments.

Here the city council has recently banned parking near the sandstone cathedral, where vehicles on its sea-facing esplanade were deemed an eyesore.

But losing that parking space has forced many families living in the area's narrow alleys to park much further afield or spend hours circling, Clar said. Most streets are narrow and often filled with sightseers. One couple had recently left the area as a result, Clar said.   Continued...

People walk past a graffiti in Palma de Mallorca, in the Spanish island of Mallorca, May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Enrique Calvo