Is mass tourism per se bad?

Masses of tourists flood Europe's best-loved holiday destinations every summer, prompting growing protest. Cities like Barcelona, Dubrovnik and Venice have introduced various strategies to defend themselves from the throngs. Commentators debate whether mass tourism has a positive or negative overall impact on Europe's cities.

Open/close all quotes
Athens Voice (GR) /

Tourists are good for the economy

The Greek government wants to limit Airbnb rentals on the grounds that they are driving up rents. It's barking up the wrong tree, Athens Voice argues:

“Often it's day-workers who rent out their houses to boost their income. ... What's more, it's absurd to draw a correlation between Airbnb rentals and the decline of a given neighbourhood. In fact the exact opposite is the case, for example in the Koukaki district. It was in decline for years. Stores closed, streets emptied, businesses moved out, residents looked for jobs in vain. ... Airbnb-related part-time jobs have a direct financial impact: thousands are now employed in small businesses.”

Ria Novosti (RU) /

Make holidays surperfluous

Many residents of popular destinations like Lake Baikal are complaining about the hordes of Chinese tourists. In Ria Novosti journalist Dmitri Kosyrev suggest looking at the issue from a different perspective:

“The problem of 'overtourism' is a human problem. ... The fact is that what's existed in Western society for a long time now, namely stress and the desire to escape it, is starting to take hold in China. ... Some say there are simply too many people on the planet. But there's also another answer: perhaps it's time we learned to make people's lives more bearable in the places they live in all year long.”

Aktuálně.cz (CZ) /

Prague's residents overwhelmed

In a yearly survey comparing the best places to live in the Czech Republic, the nation's capital Prague has once again taken second place. Aktuálně.cz is incensed:

“'I'm afraid that more and more tourists will come, the tempo is crazy,' says Prague's mayor. But the ranking doesn't waste a word on tourism or on its negative impact on the quality of life in the capital. More than eight million foreigners visited Prague in 2018. And the numbers are rising. Prague is the fourth most visited city in Europe. It is full to bursting point, overcrowded. The downtown area is struggling to cope with the overwhelming number of tourists. Tourism drives up prices and makes life hard for the locals. They are a suffering, oppressed element in their own city. And there's no way of stemming the flow. Is this quality of life really among the best in the Czech Republic?”

Politiken (DK) /

Penalise cruise ships

Clearly today's mass tourism is not sustainable, Politiken writes, and looks for viable solutions:

“One thing that's certain is that a climate tax must be imposed on the CO2 emissions of aircraft. ... But another thing that must be done is to limit the number of cruise ships that enter Copenhagen Harbour. The cost of docking must go up, and the incredibly dirty engines must be turned off while the ships are idle. None of this will end the negative impact of mass tourism, but it would be a start.”

Sol (PT) /

Tourism can also be enriching

Instead of criticising mass tourism we should welcome its advantages, Jornal Sol urges:

“The debate about the advantages and disadvantages of tourism isn't over by a long shot. Tourism is unavoidable, and so the best thing would be to mitigate its negative effects and make the best of its advantages instead of clinging to cut and dry ideas for or against it. ... Lisbon is chaotic, but it has a large and incredibly diverse range of attractions that are a real boon for the city. Thanks to tourism a good part of the urban renewal projects, recreational areas, restaurants, bars, leisure activities and cultural institutions are a sustainable reality.”

Dinheiro Vivo (PT) /

A stranger at home

Lisbon is being decked out for visitors but its residents don't stand to benefit, complains journalist Ana Rita Guerra in Dinheiro Vivo:

“Unlike the feeling I had two years ago when one could already hear complaints about the growing tourism, this time it's undeniable that Lisbon has been gripped by a tourist boom that is defacing the city. As with all cities that turn into travel agencies, the infrastructure has changed to accommodate foreigners rather than the local inhabitants. The coziness of life in Lisbon has been replaced by a caricature for tourists, and I have finally realised what it's like to feel out of place in a city that used to be my own.”

Le Quotidien (LU) /

Holidays in the countryside at your own risk

New strategies for diffusing tensions between city-dwelling tourists who spend their holidays in rural areas and rural communities are seeing the light in France, Le Quotidien comments, citing the example of the mayor of Saint-André-de-Valborgne, in France's Cévennes region:

“He's had a sign put up at the entrance to his town warning tourists who want to spend their holidays there that roosters crow in the morning, church bells ring at regular intervals, and cows in the fields create quite a din. 'Enter at your own risk', the sign reads. ... This type of signs could spring up at the entrance to many small villages that have had enough of the angry outbursts of certain tourists used to the noise and the chaos of the city but who have zero tolerance for the distant braying of a donkey.”