By Sam Edwards, Isla Binnie and Maja Zuvela
BARCELONA/ROME/SARAJEVO (Reuters) – Chronic overcrowding in some of Europe’s beloved tourism hotspots is fuelling an angry backlash, from polite protest to “Go Home” graffiti and even physical intimidation.
Across southern Europe, from the choked boulevards of Gaudi’s Barcelona to the swarms of cruise liners disgorging passengers into Croatia’s mediaeval Dubrovnik, residents are complaining that a sharp rise in tourism is making life intolerable.
The backlash has sparked concerns for one of the region’s biggest economic drivers and prompted authorities to act.
Rome is considering limiting visitor numbers to parts of the eternal city, such as the Trevi fountain. Dubrovnik plans to limit cruise ships. Barcelona is planning a new tourism tax.
In Venice last month, residents marched through a throng of visitor to protest against uncontrolled tourism. They did so behind a banner: “My future is Venice”.
Youth activists plan a similar protest in San Sebastián, northern Spain, later this month.
In Barcelona, where anger has been brewing for some time, some graffiti has turned menacing. One slogan, featuring a black silhouette with a red target on its head, reads: “Why call it tourist season if we can’t shoot them?”
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy intervened this week after some anti-tourist anger turned physical. A video emerged of masked activists setting off flares outside a restaurant full of tourists on the island of Palma de Majorca. They then entered the restaurant and threw confetti at frightened diners.
Rajoy described the activists as “extremists going against common sense”. Tourism makes up 12 percent of Spain’s economy.
Similar videos were released this week under the slogan “tourism kills neighbourhoods”. In one, several hooded individuals stop a tourist bus in Barcelona, slashing the tyres and spray-painting the windscreen.
“We haven’t seen any of that yet but we heard that the locals are not that fond of tourists,” said 20-year-old Dutch tourist Roel Theuniszen as he took a break from cycling on a rental bike outside Barcelona’s popular Ciutdella Park.
“It’s important to try not to stand out as a tourist in a city like Barcelona to have a good experience … Also, it’s important to be more considerate (as a tourist).”
Tourism to southern Europe has surged over the past two years, partly because visitors are choosing the region over other Mediterranean destinations where security fears are a…