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food / travel

Help, The Tourists Are Coming!

Noisy tourists who come by the bus-full, drunk Brits: many people living in European cities are fed up with the hordes of tourists that are threatening their quality of life.

Europeans have no love for tourists (Pim Geerts)
Europeans have no love for tourists (Pim Geerts)

BERLIN - Alone or in groups, there are more and more tourists – to the extent that some cities are swamped, and residents are protesting. Berlin is a case in point. Two years ago, nine million tourists visited the German capital. In 2011, that number jumped to 10 million. In terms of popular European city destinations, Berlin now stands right behind London and Paris, and on a par with Rome. There are three tourists for every Berliner.

An online-travel portal reported that 75 out of 80 German cities reported more tourists than the previous year. While the season for city tourism used to be May through September, it's now year round. And not just in Germany – tourism in Stockholm has gone up 8% January through March.

No city in the world beats New York in terms of tourism: 50.5 million a year, more than the entire population of Spain and six times that of Austria. But if New Yorkers are laid back about the phenomenon, it is not the case with the other over-run world metropolises. Take Barcelona, whose citizens are concerned for the quality of life in the old town Rivera and Gótico neighborhoods, where tourist buses clog the streets, noise at night prevents people from sleeping, and entrances to buildings are awash in litter and drunk Brits. In 2010, some irate citizens of the Catalan capital painted white lines on promenade sidewalks: one side for city residents, the other side for tourists.

In Berlin, one neighborhood info-meeting, called under the banner "Help, The Tourists Are Coming," had residents chanting "We are not a zoo!" Berliners can also buy T-shirts that proclaim in large letters: "I AM NOT A TOURIST."

Are cities prepared for the onslaught? A study published last November by the German consulting firm Roland Berger concluded that most European capitals don't have a clear tourism strategy. The firm says that other cities are likely to see the sorts of reactions observed in Berlin and Barcelona and warns: "When residents don't feel positive about visitors then long-term the best advertising in the world is worth nothing."

Hamburg has long been considered the poster child of German city tourism. For ten years, it has broken record after record, and the number of hotel beds has grown by 70%. To try and get a finger on the pulse of just how their residents feel about tourism, Hamburg Tourism launched an "Acceptance Study" in early 2012. Results were heartening: 96% didn't feel personally affected by the number of tourists, 75% reported "positive encounters," and 73% were pro-tourist because they meant income.

Tourism puts 7.4 billion euros into Hamburg's economy. The figures for Berlin and London are nine and 15 billion respectively.

*This is a digest item, not a direct translation

Read the full article in German by Frank Rumpf.

Photo - Pim Geerts

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