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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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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Bibi Blinked: How The Ceasefire Deal Could Flip Israel's Whole Gaza War Logic

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pushed ahead a deal negotiated via Qatar, for a four-day truce and an exchange of 50 hostages for 150 Palestinian prisoners. Though the humanitarian and political pressure was mounting, Israel's all-out assault is suddenly halted, with unforeseen consequences for the future.

photo of someone holding a poster of a hostage

Families of Israeli hostages rally in Jerusalem

Nir Alon/ZUMA
Pierre Haski

Updated Nov. 22, 2023 at 8:55 p.m.


PARIS — It's the first piece of good news in 46 days of war. In the early hours of Wednesday, Israel agreed to a deal that included a four-day ceasefire and the release of some of the hostages held by Hamas — 30 children and 20 women — in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners, again women and children. The real question is what happens next.

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But first, this agreement, negotiated through the intermediary of Qatar, whose role is essential in this phase, must be implemented right away. This is a complex negotiation, because unlike the previous hostage-for-prisoner exchanges, it is taking place in the midst of a major war.

On the Palestinian side, although Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is present in Doha, he does not make the decision alone — he must have the agreement of the leaders of the military wing, who are hiding somewhere in Gaza. It takes 24 hours to send a message back and forth. As you can imagine, it's not as simple as a phone call.

And on the Israeli side, a consensus had to be built around the agreement. Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right allies were opposed to the deal — in line with their eradication logic — even at the cost of Israeli lives. But the opposition of these discredited parties was ignored, and that will leave its mark.

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