There was much media to-do about Sevilla being named European Capital of Smart Tourism 2023. Whatever that means. It’s right up there with Sustainable Tourism and Intelligent Tourism… nice sounding catch phrases to make the public feel like something is being done about the blight of global mass tourism. I wasn’t able to attend today’s big media campaign presentation (Morcilla needed me) but my friend and intrepid journalist Fiona Flores Watson was there to see what sort of plans were afoot to actually address the very real problem of tourism over saturation in the city. Turns out… nothing. Instead there was a lot of talk about the “data/tech will solve everything” nonsense they’ve been wasting time and money on. Here’s an article about one such plan, that isn’t actually a plan, and will never be implemented in any practical or meaningful way..
Right off the bat the headline is misleading. No rationing has been introduced, nothing is being limited, no meaningful action is being taken. It’s still a total free for all here with Sevilla still for sale to the highest bidder. As usual Biz & Govt want to have their cake and eat it while offering us bread and circuses. Because what this city really needs, frankly what the world needs, is for people to stop being so selfish, short sighted and greedy, and we’ve already seen how well that’s been going with things like world hunger, the pandemic (still not over!), climate change, housing, equality, etc etc etc.
The Sevilla tourism overload problem is not insurmountable, but it would require that (gasp!) the people in charge who are whoring our beautiful city to rest of the globe for easy profit would, well, have to stop doing that. Here are a couple of ideas that would actually make a difference…
Limit the number of tour groups allowed into the city centre, also group sizes. Say, no more than ten people per group, and guides would have to book their times in advance to avoid peak hour congestion. They are already doing this with traffic, why not with people?
ALL tourist apartments would have to reapply for their permits based on much stricter codes and with a much smaller number allowed per street.
Limiting the number of retail shops that are purely tourist focused. I mean, how many flamenco aprons does anyone actually need? We want our corner stores back, our independent neighbourhood shops that got forced out by ruthless landlords. You know, the ones that actually made Sevilla… Sevilla.
These are just some ideas off the top of my head. I’m quite sure that experienced people working in the sector could come up with many many more and much better ones. But they won’t. Because even my suggestions would require them to make less easy money. Instead they say they are doing blah blah and hey look Sevilla is now the Capital of Smart Tourism! It’s so fucking insulting.
I’ve lived here now for almost 30 years. Sevilla is my home. I love it with all my heart. And I am truly heartbroken to see what is being done to beautiful Sevilla. People coming here now are seeing a much less charming version of the Sevilla I first got to know in 1993 – and even then friends were saying to me that Santa Cruz had become so touristy, that I was living in Guirilandia. Well now it’s totally Disneylandia. Barrio Santa Cruz is (very sadly) now a theme park for tourists. I was forced out after 18 years because my landlord wanted to take advantage of the situation, told me they needed my apartment for his family (lies, lies) and I was gone. Actually much happier now, but even in my barrio the insidious creeping of uncontrolled tourism is changing my street.
I do realise there are no easy solutions. But that’s kind of my point. They aren’t easy and why should they be? After letting mass tourism run rampant for the past twenty years or more there needs to be a reckoning. And some people will need to take a loss at some point (which of course will never happen) in order to get out of this mess, or at least to move forward a bit. The people who will end up taking a loss? You and me. I mean, I really hope I’m proved wrong about this. Time will tell.