‘Tourists go home’: Spain visitor surge sparks backlash

On the walls of the grand old houses of this Balearic port which attracts millions of foreigners every year, a new kind of graffiti has flourished: “Tourists go home.” Although still a minority protest, it points to tensions in Palma de Mallorca and elsewhere in Spain over rising numbers of visitors who are propelling the economy but also disrupting the lives of locals and straining services from transport to water. With tourism accounting for 12 per cent of economic output and 16 per cent of jobs, Spain can ill afford a backlash. Spain is drawing record numbers of visitors who are shunning destinations where security is a concern, notably Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey.

They want to turn us into a theme park, a place you close the doors on at night because no-one lives there.

Luis Clar, of Palma de Mallorca

In the Balearics off Spain’s eastern Mediterranean coast, nearly a third of employment depends on the sector. It accounts for nearly half the economic output, more than in any other region. The local economy has just recovered to its pre-crisis level after a five-year downturn. In drought-prone island Ibiza water reserves are getting tight and in rural Menorca fears are mounting that natural beauty-spots risk being spoiled. Next year, the smallest of the Balearics’ four main islands, Formentera, could introduce taxes on cars entering the area, and the region is looking into capping accommodation for tourists, said Biel Barcelo, the local tourism minister.

If we build our whole economy around tourism we’ll have nothing to hold on to if trends change, in the long run it’s not sustainable.

Gaspar Alomar, a temporary worker in a bookshop in one of Palma’s medieval quarters