MADRID – With travel restrictions lifted due to the pandemic, Spain’s most popular destinations are being overrun with tourists. It is almost like before! While this is beneficial for the local economies, residents mainly experience nuisance. Therefore they want to put an end to the unacceptable drunken behaviour of some tourists.
This often concerns noise nuisance in entertainment areas of popular seaside resorts such as Magaluf, Arenal, Lloret, Salou, and Benidorm. Or also in city centres of frequently visited places such as Barcelona, Palma, Madrid, and Málaga. Residents complain. After two years of relative peace, they have to get used to sleepless nights due to noise pollution. Also, often difficulty getting to their homes. Or catering entrepreneurs who watch with sadness how drunk tourists at bachelor parties take over their business. Consequently, various municipalities are taking measures.
Mallorca has long been a popular destination for high school graduates wanting to celebrate the end of the academic year. From June onwards, they flood the seaside resorts in the southwest of the island such as El Arenal or Magaluf. Residents also experience nuisance in the centre of Palma. Holidaymakers can find cheap all-inclusive hotels here and the nightlife is just around the corner. It is dominated by bars with ‘happy hours’, and souvenir shops. Therefore, much of the trade is aimed at this target group.
Eleven restaurants in Palma Beach are now taking measures. They place a QR code at the entrance of their business that contains the dress code. Tourists are not allowed to enter without a t-shirt or flip-flops. A sleeveless shirt or football strips are also not allowed and swimwear is completely out of the question. Luminous caps, gold necklaces, or other items for sale from the street vendors are also a no-go.
Plan to combat drunken tourists
The government of the Balearic Islands also has a plan to combat drunken tourists. A decree of law must put an end to drunken tourism that produces life-threatening phenomena such as ‘balconing’. Or situations that lead to violent fights in the street. Who does not remember the tragic fate of the Dutch tourist Carlo Heuvelman who died last July as a result of a fight in which he was kicked in the head?
The sale of cheap drinks during happy hours will be banned. And, furthermore, all-inclusive hotels should limit the number of alcoholic drinks during meals. More officers are patrolling the streets and there are higher fines for offenders.
The southern Spanish city of Málaga is attracting more and more visitors. It is now also a popular destination for people who want to hold a bachelor party. The relatively compact historic centre is already dotted with terraces and restaurants, so the nuisance for residents is gradually increasing.
Two years ago, Málaga decided to put a stop to this by not granting new permits for five years for catering establishments. This was in the so-called ‘acoustically saturated areas’ that together comprise 103 streets in the centre.
The municipality has now announced that it will triple the number of police officers on the streets in the centre and the Teatinos and Huelin districts. This is to prevent public intoxication and excessive noise from drunken tourists. They also check whether catering establishments are illegally expanding their terraces and closing them on time. There are cameras in the centre for monitoring purposes and after a noise complaint has been reported, fines of up to €600 can follow for minor offenses and up to €300,000 for serious violations.
In recent weeks, the police have already handed out 111 fines for noise on the street, including making music without a license, and 66 for urinating in public.
In Barcelona last week, around 200 residents of the centre demonstrated against the constant noise pollution they have to endure. Moreover, this noise has led to sleepless nights and health complaints due to drunken tourists. The city is so popular that almost all neighbourhoods in and around the centre have to do with it.
The ‘turismo borrachero’ (drunk tourist) also plays an important role here. Groups of tourists wander aimlessly and noisily in the street when the catering industry closes and continue the “party” under the windows of residents, who are open because of the heat.
A lot of nuisance is also caused by the apartments that are already rented out via Airbnb platforms. Residents want the municipality to limit these and issue fewer catering and terrace permits.
This week, Mayor Ada Colau spoke with her Amsterdam colleague Femke Halsema about the similar problems that arise in both cities due to the massive rental of tourist apartments. They want the European Parliament to come up with a common regulation against online rental platforms.
Meanwhile, the municipality of Barcelona has hired 70 people to look for illegal tourist apartments. They patrol the streets and scan websites like Airbnb, Expedia, or HomeAway to track them down.
Furthermore, Barcelona has limited tourist tours to a maximum of 30 people and 15 in the city centre. Guides are requested to stop using megaphones to reduce noise pollution for residents. Stationary groups are also allowed to occupy a maximum of 50% of a sidewalk or street. The municipality is also thinking about alternative routes and one-way traffic for groups with a guide.
Vigo in the northwestern Spanish region of Galicia is tackling public urination. Anyone who pees on the street, on the beach, or in the sea can be fined €750. The same regulation also considers sanctions for practices such as using soap in the water on the beach or at beach showers, throwing waste of any kind on the sand, or using barbecues or gas cylinders in the area because of a fire hazard.
Residents of Seville are also saddened by how their beautiful centre is being taken over by tourists. The large increase in tourist apartments in residential areas and foreigners who come to celebrate their bachelor parties lead to nuisance. For example, according to residents of the Triana district, life is becoming increasingly difficult with prices skyrocketing, constant noise, and increasingly congested mobility due to groups of tourists on bicycles or scooters, stationary visitors taking photos, and increased traffic. On the other hand, catering companies and other businesses that focus on tourists are particularly pleased with the growing influx of visitors.
The big problem here too is that leases are not renewed to transform apartments into tourist residences or rents are increased to such an extent that ordinary residents of Seville can no longer afford them and have to look elsewhere. Residents see the shops and bars of old disappearing and businesses taking their place with products that are of no use to them or that are much more expensive.
The city now has 2,500 tourist apartments more than before the pandemic. Recently, a regulation came into effect that sets the same requirements for these tourist accommodations as for hotels, hostels, and regular tourist accommodations. In this way, the municipality wants to prevent unfair competition and the proliferation of this type of accommodation. The municipality has also taken measures to reduce the pressure on the most visited monuments.
Up to 44% of Madrid’s residents are exposed to loud noises daily, mainly from traffic, work, catering, and tourism. Madrid is also referred to as the ‘city that never sleeps’. The neighborhood association SOS Malasaña already speaks of tourism and the associated business model ‘killing the center’.
One of the main complaints of the downtown neighborhood is the non-compliance with the regulations by the entertainment venues. They usually serve directly on the street. There are then improvised terraces.” Another thorn in their side is the “uncontrolled” increase in hotels, hostels, and rental apartments, resulting in “excessive overcrowding”. “The centre is oversaturated. There is no physical space.”
All this brings with it other related problems such as dirt, odour nuisance, and a feeling of insecurity among ordinary citizens due to drunken groups or fights in the evening and at night. The municipality is accused of looking the other way, while the solution, according to the neighbourhood association, is very simple: “people and entrepreneurs only have to adhere to the applicable rules.”
Camino de Santiago
In the north of Spain, the Guardia Civil fears an even more massive influx of pilgrims who want to walk the Camino de Santiago unprepared. Drunk excesses are not so much the problem here as people who have no idea what they are getting into and how hard walking the route can be.
This year, officers had to rescue several hikers, including one who was walking in flip-flops through a still snowy area, another who had become completely disoriented, and several too scantily clad, hypothermic pilgrims. Also, the Guardia Civil, or agents of the local police regularly take pilgrims off paths that are forbidden or who no longer have a clue where they are. With the revival of tourism this year, the multiplication of these types of incidents is expected.
A spokesperson told Hosteltur.es: “The influx this year will be huge” and he regrets that many young or middle-aged people “see the Camino as a kind of beach promenade, without realising that it is a very difficult experience that takes a lot of preparation.” He, therefore, calls for better information.
Pilgrims must be able to identify themselves, study the weather forecast for each day, and know the profile of the stages. It is useful to bring a first aid kit and to ensure that the backpack is not too heavy. The regional police also advise pilgrims to wear conspicuous and reflective clothing, not carry too much cash, respect road markings, and signs and always walk on the side of the road and the left.
Headlines in the United Kingdom
The approach of various Spanish municipalities to misbehaving, drunken tourists has not gone unnoticed in the largest tourist supply market. UK media headlines such as Wales Online, TravelMole, or the Express reflect the new municipal regulations of some Spanish municipalities. These are aimed at civilians in general, but will also affect the British.
Headlines like “Breaks to Britons peeing on Spanish beaches” or “Spain takes action against misbehaving Britons” are some of the headlines in some local British newspapers and even specialist tourism media.
The regulation against urinating on the beach of Vigo (Pontevedra) made the most headlines. The newspapers also did not miss the dress code in restaurants in Playa de Palma (Mallorca).