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Mass Tourism

– Spain – 


3. February 2014

Mass tourism to the Spanish costa’s has long been present. Millions of tourists have been coming here every year since the 1960s. To meet the ever-growing demand, large-scale apartment complexes and hotels along the coast were resurrected. And the construction of new resorts continues unabated. As a result, many of these beach destinations along the Spanish coast suffer from horizon pollution. This means that there are rows of hotels and apartment complexes packed on the coast. Only the front accommodations have sea views. This shows that the construction policy is focused on rapid growth and not on sustainability. A large number of accommodations still dates back to the early days. They are now falling into disrepair in large numbers. These outdated accommodations mainly attract young holidaymakers who want to go to Salou or Lloret de Mar for a cheap price. These cheap trips hardly benefit the local economy. Not to mention the negative environmental impacts of these large tourist flows. For example, in Mallorca, more water is extracted from the underground water supply for tourism than is added by rainfall. Due to the proximity of the sea, more and more salt water penetrates the soil, which ends up in the groundwater in this way. As drinking water, more and more mineral water is supplied in plastic bottles, which are an environmental problem in itself. The drying and salinisation of the soil is the blow to agriculture and horticulture on site. Moreover, almost all (disposable) products have to be imported, which in itself is environmentally damaging. All disposable items also create a huge pile of waste. A tourist produces 50% more waste than a local resident. In addition, a Spaniard uses about 250 litres of water per day, while a tourist uses an average of 900 litres of water, including use of swimming pools and golf courses. In Spain, the large use of water by tourists is a major problem, as coastal areas are already suffering from water scarcity. The waste water from hotels and other tourist facilities is also not handled well: this is dumped into the sea a few kilometres from the coast.

If you add up the above effects, you might think that mass tourism to beach locations is a disastrous thing. But in fact, this is only disastrous if tourist facilities are built indiscriminately, without any control and without regard for nature and the environment. In other words, if accommodations are built along clear environmental lines and if there is waste water purification, good waste disposal, good public transport and the like, then mass tourism need not be a bad thing. Better is a compact city like Benidorm, with good amenities and eco-labels, than fragmented and uncontrolled sprawl. Sustainable tourism development should not start on a remote island in the South Pacific, but on Mallorca, where many millions of tourists come every year.

Calviá, a coastal town on Mallorca with 60,000 beds and more than 11 million overnight stays per year, can rightly be called a mass tourism destination. In order to ensure that this destination remains attractive in the future, governments and businesses in Calviá have taken all kinds of measures together under the banner of the Local Agenda 21 (LA21). This destination previously focused only on the high season, which made the pressure on natural resources too high. Employment was also limited to the tourist season. With the LA21 management tool measures were taken to attract tourists in the off-season. Now Calviá can count on 15% more tourists in the winter season. There are five water treatment plants, so the seawater stays clean. Beach and sea of course have a blue flag, which stands for clean and environmentally friendly beaches and marinas. Old impoverished hotels that are no longer in demand are being demolished and replaced for more luxurious ones, to attract the quality tourist. Nature is being restored and the municipality is trying to reach a construction stop in consultation with local municipalities and the other islands of the Balearic Islands.

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