Europe News

Anti-visitor sentiment sweeps some of Europe's most popular destinations

Protesters march holding a banner reading 'Your tourism is misery for the young' in San Sebastian, Spain on August 17, 2017.
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August — or rather, Europe's peak summer vacation season — is when many head out of town in search of rest and relaxation. But locals living in tourist hot spots can end up finding the opposite, with throngs of visitors bringing overcrowding and antisocial behavior.

CNBC takes a look at some of the places in Europe where locals think tourists have become a problem.

Protesters with banners against mass tourism on a bridge across Misericordia Canal in Venice, Italy on July 2, 2016.

Venice, Italy

In July roughly 2,000 Venetians protested against tourism ruining their city, the knock-on effects of which include rising rent and pollution from cruise ships. Locals in the iconic waterborne city are leaving at a rate of 1,000 people per year, according to Carlo Beltrame, temporary spokesperson for the Gruppo 25 Aprile, the organisation behind the protest. He deemed the depopulation a "social tragedy," which also risks turning the city into "Disneyland."

Beltrame said that locals are most concerned with property prices and rising rent, while the government was focused on tackling antisocial behavior from tourists. Recent measures put in place to tackle tourist overcrowding include a ban on new tourist accommodation in the city center and people counters at popular sites.

Tourist numbers in Italy as a whole have been steadily rising in recent years according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), up 3.2 percent year on year in 2016 to 52.4 million.

"We wouldn't damage tourism, we would only control it," Beltrame said.

The cruise ship terminal in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
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Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik, on Croatia's Dalmatian Coast, has fallen victim to what Rochelle Turner, research director at World Travel & Tourism Council, deemed "historic heritage cities constrained by the way they were built." The city's role as a filming location for popular series "Game of Thrones" has also highlighted it on the tourist map.

Measures have been taken to combat visitor overcrowding, with cameras installed in January of this year to help limit tourist numbers to 8,000 in the old town, in accordance with UNESCO advice. Ana Rajcevic, a spokesperson for the city, told CNBC that the authorities were "determined not to have more than 4,000 cruise ship guests in the City at the same time."

Tourists at Mealt Falls on the Isle of Skye, Scotland.

Isle of Skye, Scotland

Meanwhile, the economic fallout of Brexit has affected tourist numbers to the U.K. A weaker pound has triggered more inbound travel from international visitors, while domestic tourists are also remaining in the country.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the May to March period in 2017 saw 10 percent more visits to the U.K. in comparison to a year previously, with holiday visits specifically rising by 21 percent.

One region which made headlines this summer due to tourist numbers was the Isle of Skye in Scotland, with newspapers reporting that police had advised visitors against visiting the island unless they had booked a room. Lochaber and Skye Police later sent out a tweet saying that they did not want to turn people away, but instead "just want(ed) people to be prepared."

Protesters hold a banner reading "your tourism, youth misery" during a demonstration in San Sebastian on August 17, 2017.
Ander Gillenea | AFP | Getty Images

San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian, a picturesque tourist destination in northern Spain's Basque Country, has been plagued by anti-tourism protests this summer. Organized by leftist youth group Ernai, one incident saw a tourist train stopped by demonstrators.

Tourism is worth 13 percent to San Sebastian's economy, and the city was deemed 2016's European Capital of Culture.

Eneko Goia, the city's mayor, told CNBC that the protests were "clearly motivated by political reasons," and not representative of the views of most locals. But, tourism in the city is being managed with a firmer hand.

San Sebastian will announce "much more restrictive" rules on tourist apartments in the coming weeks, which are blamed for pushing up rent prices, and have closed almost 100 illegal rentals in the past two years, Goia said.

Tourists queue to visit the cathedral in Palma on the Spanish island of Mallorca on August 12, 2017.

Balearic Islands, Spain

Another region of Spain which has seen pushback against the management of tourism is the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Balearic Vice President and Minister for Tourism Gabriel Barcelo told CNBC via e-mail that a cap on the number of tourist beds on the islands was introduced on August 1 at approximately 623,600. This is figure is set to reduce in coming years.

One of the reasons behind the cap was "the rise of privately owned rentals through platforms such as Airbnb," Barcelo said, "which is making suitably priced accommodation inaccessible to locals and seasonal workers." The Balearic Islands also implemented a new law to prohibit such platforms from renting without a licence on August 1.

According to figures from the UNWTO, visitor numbers are up for Spain by 9.3 percent year on year in the first half of 2017. In 2016, 75.6 million international visitors arrived in the country, in comparison to 52.7 million in 2010.