I like the “human safari” metaphor. Here in Ljubljana the center has become so overrun that it’s growing evermore difficult to simply ride my bike through some of the streets. Not so much for the crowds themselves –although they’re oftentimes large– but for the fact that too many that make up those crowds aren’t paying attention to where they’re walking. They’re gawking and snapping photos and swinging selfie sticks in the Disneyland-lite that the center’s become, but few seem to actually be engaging in an really meaningful way.
Too many tourists? As part of a summer focus on tourism, urbanist Thierry Paquot considers the industry’s limits. Paquot observes that the Exposition universelle in Paris in 1900 already attracted 60 million visitors – compared to a national population of 40 million. Today, he counts 26 tourists for every Venetian, 16 per Parisian, 15 per Amsterdammer… Many locals end up feeling as though they are party to a kind of “human safari”.
The resulting discontent among natives is well summed up in Eduardo Chibás’s 2014 documentary film Bye Bye Barcelona; the year after it was released, the city received 29 million visitors. In the interim, new hotel projects have been prohibited in the town centre and stricter Airbnb regulations introduced. Meanwhile Berlin banned holiday lets of whole apartments from May to counteract rent increases, and Amsterdam has reduced its number of festivals to 300. Back in Paris though, Paquot finds it hard to reconcile mayor Anne Hidalgo’s vision of a city that is “green, sustainable, intelligent” with the reality of a high-density and “tourist-friendly” environment. The art of travel, he suggests, urgently needs rediscovering.
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Photo: Venice, 06 October 2014