PROTESTS in some popular, overcrowded European tourist destinations against anti-social behaviour by large groups of foreigners have sparked debate about perceived negative effects of mass tourism, reinforcing the need for sensitivity towards local residents.
Many of the offending groups are British bachelor and hen parties on budget packages, often short-stay visitors, who indulge in binge drinking resulting in vandalism and offensive drunkenness. But the sheer numbers of visitors in peak periods, putting a strain on local infrastructure and resources, is causing a backlash from inconvenienced residents in some of the most congested cities and resorts.
Operators in South Africa insist visitor safety is not a concern but are advising clients to be considerate of local concerns. Austria Connection founder and Director Inge Dobihal said, to her knowledge, anti-tourism protests were not affecting Croatia but described conditions in Dubrovnik as “problematic”. Ms. Dobihal said many people were disgruntled, mostly about massive influxes of cruise passengers.
“Anti-tourist feelings are directed primarily against the big cruise liners spilling thousands of passengers for a few hours into the small fortified town of Dubrovnik, to the detriment of proper visitors and local population,” Ms. Dobihal explained. “there is absolutely no concern whatsoever about safety for visitors…” She said the Croatian government was thinking about measures to address the issue but nothing had been discussed in detail and whatever solutions were proposed would probably not be implemented before next year.
Atout France Regional Director Hélène Bezuidenhoudt commented: “… The French government as well as all the regions and cities have put everything in place to make the tourists feel welcome in France but are also attentive to ensure a sustainable tourism that is positive for French citizens.”
Reports of anti-tourism and over-tourism protests have mostly been concentrated in Spain and Venice.
Thompsons Holidays spokesperson John Ridler said: “It has been common knowledge that Venice residents feel that the city is overcrowded and are particularly against large ships entering their space with the ensuing rush of tourists.”
He said Thompsons had not received any complaints but: “I am sure the municipalities of Venice collect a wad of cash for every large ship that docks in their city. This then spills over into hotels – many are notoriously expensive – restaurants, curio shops, water taxis and the equally expensive gondoliers. They might not be so happy if there are negative vibes directed at tourists.
“Many tourist sites become victims of their own success and it is up to them to manage their assets.”
Amsterdam is a case in point, said Mr. Ridler. “They had hoards of English bachelor party groups descending on the city for weekends. [But] All parties are happy and the tourists – and their cash – keep rolling in.
“Only the most foolhardy residents in Venice will make tourists feel unwelcome, as they could squeeze the very lifeblood out of their city… South Africa would be thrilled to be inundated with tourists, as it is claimed that one full-time job is created for every six tourist arrivals,” said Mr. Ridler.
United Europe General Manager Jacqui Carr said the company would continue to monitor the situation but maintained it was business as usual in most of the region. “We are in our busy European travel season and none of our passengers have been adversely affected or reported back on being in the midst of any protests… Should they encounter any protest activity during their travels, our advice to our passengers would be to stay away from any large gatherings of campaigners,” she said.
The Association of Southern African Travel Agents told its members: “Although the FCO (UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office) has not published travel advice yet, the general advice... is to use your common sense. Be vigilant and don’t go where there might be a risk.”
Ms. Bezuidenhoudt concluded: “Many tourists who come to France tend to prefer to share and partake in the French way of life, not as an outsider but as a French person would, and it is about striking a balance to ensure that the experience is a good and happy one for all concerned.”