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A number of the world’s cities are witnessing a backlash against tourism

International tourism rose from fewer than 300 million trips in 1980 to some 500 million in 1995, before exploding to 1.3 billion trips in 2017—a number that’s expected to rise to 1.8 billion in 2030.A number of the world’s cities are witnessing a backlash against tourism. Venice, Barcelona, San Sebastián  and the island of Mallorca have seen anti-tourism protests aimed at visitors and cruise ships, along with graffiti slogans like “Tourists go home” and “Tourists are terrorists.”

The past decade  has seen a surge in tourism, driven by a rising middle class across the world, especially in large emerging economies like China. Tourism has also become more affordable and accessible.

Much of this growth has been driven by China. In 2017, Chinese tourists made about 130 million trips abroad.

Tourism is highly concentrated in a handful of destination cities around the world. Today, roughly half of all global tourism is concentrated in the top 100 cities, where tourism grew almost 25 percent faster than the worldwide rate. The world’s leading hotspots include Hong Kong, Bangkok, London, Singapore, Paris, Dubai, Istanbul, and New York.

City governments in some of these hotspots are trying to cope with so-called over-tourism. Venice and Dubrovnik have sought to restrict cruise ships. Amsterdam has tried to curtail tourist shops selling over-priced souvenirs and waffles. Reykjavik is reigning in the indecent behavior of tourists who pour in on cheap flights. Milan has temporarily banned food trucks and selfie sticks in one of its most-frequented neighborhoods. And Rome has prohibited people from eating or cavorting in public fountains, restricted drinking on the streets at night, and sought to limit tourists’ access to popular sites like the Trevi Fountain.

An estimated 22 countries have imposed some form of tourism tax. Historic Alexandria, Virginia, has raised local taxes on restaurant meals by 1 percent and is using the additional revenue for affordable housing. But there are ways to contend with over-tourism that avoid taxation: These include boosting public-private partnerships, improving mobility through new technology, and encouraging tourism operators to pay their workers higher wages.

Scapegoating tourism deflects attention away from the realities of the new urban crisis. Restricting the number of tourists or tourism-related activities will do little to solve the root problem of inequality. And on the most basic level, tourism and hospitality are a huge source of low-skill, port-of-entry jobs. Tourism accounts for roughly 10 percent of the world’s economic output.
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