Commentary: The over-tourism protests in Spain and what they mean for the travel and hospitality industries

28 May 2024

“Tourism is a double-edged sword. Sustainable tourism can fundamentally be a good thing in the way that it encourages growth, drives infrastructure development, and creates jobs. The fact that the tourism industry contributed to 12.8% of Spain’s GDP in 2023 and currently contributes to around 35% of GDP for the Canary Islands underscores this. Over-tourism, however, strains local resources like housing and water, while creating a negative customer experience. Neither the local community nor the tourists benefit.

“There needs to be involvement from all stakeholders if we are to ensure that tourism works for everyone – from tourists and businesses to government and local residents. Tourism taxes need to be better invested into local communities and infrastructure, with greater transparency around where the money is going. It’s been good to see that some travel operators are already making investments into local communities but there is a further role for them to play in encouraging customers to explore lesser-known destinations to reduce pressure on popular sites, and in utilising AI and technology to predict and manage tourist flows. It will also be interesting to see whether costs from emerging regulations for privately rented homes start to result in rate parity with hotels, tempering demand from tourists for private accommodation and demand from private investors for the purchasing of local housing. Lastly, there is also the question of tourists educating themselves on respectful and sustainable travel practices."

“The popularity of tourism is not set to go anywhere, with travel set to reach pre-pandemic levels this year. Without the proper level of engagement and forward planning, the visitor experience will almost certainly suffer, as will the quality of life for local residents.”

For further information please contact our European Travel & Tourism experts, Beatrix Morath and Steve Braude