1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

European cities complain of tourist influx

Hubert Kahl, Annette Reuther/sc (dpa)July 2, 2015

Drunken tourists staggering on the beach of Barcelona, loud louts shouting down the alleys of Lisbon. Tourism in many popular European cities is attracting criticism and some towns are concerned about their image.

Bildergalerie beliebte Reiseziele Spanien Barcelona Strand
It's a love-hate relationship: crowds of tourists on a beach in BarcelonaImage: Getty Images


For years many of the residents in the Catalonian city have had the impression that the crush of tourists in the old town center and other neighborhoods is overpowering. Last summer, they vented their frustration over the growing number of visitors at several gatherings in the former workers and fishing quarter of Barceloneta. Locals protested against the excesses of the drunken tourists and against the illegal renting out of holiday accommodation. Tourism accounts for 12 percent of the local economy, but a recent survey found that a majority of residents regard the influx of visitors as one of Barcelona's biggest problems.

Ada Colau, the city's new mayor, now wants to restrict tourism. She temporarily suspended licenses for new hotels, hostels and private tourist apartments, a moratorium that will affect about 30 current applications. "It was necessary to put things in order," independent politician told. Colau concluded, "We need tourism regulation that takes into account the needs of the people who actually live here."


Portugal's capital has become a favorite destination for city breaks. It has won several international travel awards and its success is marked by the highest increase in tourist numbers within Europe. Hostels are popping up all over the city and the number of holiday apartments in the old town center has surged rapidly.

The maze of narrow streets in old Lisbon is overrun by touristsImage: picture alliance/KEYSTONE

"Lisbon is fashionable at the moment, but for the people who actually live here, it is a negative trend," said Luís Paisana, president of a residents' association in the old town district of Bairro Alto. "The historic center is too small to accommodate the mass of visitors."

However, the director of the tourist association, João Cotrim de Figueiredo, said the complaints are exaggerated. "I don't believe that we have too many visitors," he said, adding that "there is even a margin to increase the numbers."


Resistance to the influx of tourists has a long tradition in Venice. It's not surprising as, rather than being a vibrant city, it seems to be developing more and more into a kind of Italian Disneyland - a city that many residents are leaving.

Touristen in Venedig
Venetians take tourism in stride - they've been dealing with them for centuriesImage: Getty Images

Claims that the city wanted to ban loud wheelie-cases, also known as trolley bags, caused an uproar. While that turned out to be nothing more than a rumor, there are other very concrete initiatives to try to stem the inflow of visitors and promote the concept of responsible tourism.

For the past few years one particular bone of contention has been the ongoing discussion on whether - and how far - huge cruise ships should be allowed to enter into the lagoon. These are the challenges which the new, recently elected mayor of Venice will have to deal with.


Many Romans live from tourism but many also complain bitterly about the hoards of people congregating between the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and the Vatican. In some areas in the center of the city there are many restaurants that offer tourists bad food at extortionate prices. An association to protect cultural heritage has compiled a list of demands to try and curb the worst excesses of tourism. The list includes the demand that tourist buses park outside the historic town center and that tourist accommodation is more closely controlled and regulated.

Bildergalerie beliebte Reiseziele Italien Rom Trevi Brunnen
When in Rome, do as the Romans do - except in summer since they leave townImage: Getty Images

On the other hand some residents worry about the impression their city leaves on tourists. Especially in the summer months, when many Romans have left the sweltering city, over-heated visitors can be seen wandering the streets looking for open shops. Among many tourists, the Italian capital has earned itself a reputation for being over-priced and suffering from congested streets covered in litter.