Paradise Lost

How Tourists Are Destroying the Places They Love

Travel is no longer a luxury good. Airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet have contributed to a form of mass tourism that has made local residents feel like foreigners in cities like Barcelona and Rome. The infrastructure is buckling under the pressure. By DER SPIEGEL Staff

Photo Gallery: Is Tourism Ruining Europe's Cities?

It doesn't take long before the woman at the hotel reception pulls out a city map of Porto. Look, she says, there's the Old Town and the Douro, there's the harbor and here, by the way, the pride evident in her voice, is the world's most beautiful bookshop: Livraria Lello.

It sounds fantastic and the place looks even more amazing in the photos. It's located in a two-story, neo-Gothic building with lots of dark wood, an abundance of old books, ornamentation and stained glass, and a curved staircase right in the middle. It was opened in 1906, a cathedral of books, a dream for voracious bookworms from all over the world. When traveling, we often look more for the beauty of the past than that of the present. We may even buy a book for vacation reading, to while away evenings on the Atlantic coast. It has been said that J.K. Rowling often visited the Livraria when she lived in Porto at the beginning of the 1990s, a time when she taught English and began dreaming up the Harry Potter series.

Porto is not a big city -- with just over 200,000 inhabitants, the Old Town is easily manageable. The first thing you notice when approaching the Livraria Lello is the long line in front of it. Young Japanese travelers, Scandinavian backpackers, families from France, couples from China, Americans and Germans.

An imposing bouncer stands at the door of the bookshop. To get in, you must first purchase a five-euro ticket bearing the visage of Fernando Pessoa, Portugal's most famous poet, in the shop next door. There, too, visitors must wait in line, with crowd-control barriers set up just like at the airport check-in desk. Those waiting in line are guided past shelves full of souvenirs, postcards and keychains. The standard tourist bric-à-brac.

The bookstore is every bit is as beautiful as the one in the photos, even if it's not much of a bookstore these days. No one browses through the merchandise here. They all seem to be taking pictures with their smartphones -- photos that look exactly like the more than 7,000 images already posted on TripAdvisor, the world's largest travel website, where Livraria is listed as one of the city's top sightseeing attractions.

Just like the rest of the country, Livraria Lello stood on the verge of bankruptcy four years ago as a result of the financial crisis. But even then, the bookshop had no lack of visitors. The problem was that people were buying fewer and fewer books. Someone suggested the store ought to start charging an admission fee of five euros. It may have sounded crazy at the time, but 4,000 people now visit Livraria each day while during the summer, the number of daily visitors swells to 5,000. The store had 1.2 million visitors in 2017 and revenues of over 7 million euros.

If the thought of buying a book does cross a visitor's mind, and there are many tomes to be found here -- from translations of classics of Portuguese literature to, of course, the Harry Potter series -- the ticket serves as a credit toward that purchase. It is rumoured that Livraria Lello served as the inspiration for Flourish & Blotts, the bookstore where Harry Potter buys his magic books. But Livraria ultimately feels more like a museum or a theater backdrop than a real place.

Predatory Modern Tourism

More than anything, in fact, it has become a symbol for the predatory nature of modern-day tourism -- a style of travel that is devouring all the beautiful places which drives it.

For residents of Porto, however, the bookstore has a different story to tell. It is one of economic upswing in a country that was in the throes of crisis not all that long ago. Indeed, Portugal owes its recovery in part to double-digit growth in tourism, including in the areas in the once impoverished north around Porto. Ryanair and EasyJet have been flying to the city for years, and it has long been regarded as the new in-spot for city-escape tourism. Last year, around 2.5 million foreign tourists visited the region, and half of them visited Livraria Lello. Porto still hasn't become as overrun as places like Barcelona or Amsterdam, cities where locals have begun defending themselves against the hordes of tourists who seem to be taking over. But a divide has developed in Porto -- between the tourist city and the city for locals. One can't help but wonder when a local last visited Livraria Lello. Do Porto residents also have to stand in line and pay five euros?

There were times when the hotels lining the beaches in Benidorm, in Arenal on Mallorca and along the Adriatic Sea in Italy, were symbols of the ugliness of modern mass tourism. In retrospect, though, that era seems almost quiet. Benidorm and Arenal are cities that were created so that Europeans would have a place lie on the beach in summer. They are artificial resorts and not very nice, but they do serve a purpose: as factories for mass tourism that could just as easily be removed should the need arise.

Today, these tourist reserves no longer fill the demand. The crowds of sun-seekers have grown so large on the beaches of Southern Europe, that some small bays on Mallorca should actually be closed due to overcrowding. Even along the North and Baltic seas in Germany, hotels and pensions are fully booked out in places like Sylt and Rügen.

Yet beach holidaymakers now comprise just under half of modern tourism in Europe, while the other half are cruise and city-escape travelers. For years, it's been tourists rather than local residents who have been shaping the image of some of Europe's most beautiful and unique cities. They are being transformed into museums and theme parks and are developing special zones for tourists where locals may work, but certainly don't live. Tourists sit in traditional restaurants devoid of locals as they watch other tourists. They are no longer places where people come together, but where divides seem to deepen. At times, it really does feel like a tourist invasion. They come, they stay briefly and then they are gone again, but they act as though they own the cities they visit.

The virtue of hospitality "which one wants to invoke is destroyed by making use of it," German writer Hans Magnus Enzensberger wrote back in 1958 in his widely cited treatise on mass tourism. At the time, mass tourism as we know it today hadn't even been invented yet, and traveling was still the privilege of the well-to-do. At most, those who could afford it would drive their modest VW Beetles from Germany over the Brenner Pass to Italy. For most people, a visit to Venice or Rome was something they could only dream about.

Modern-day tourism has very little in common with that dream. An ever-growing fleet of budget airlines transports millions of people to the world's beaches and sights, long-distance buses offer trips at ridiculously low prices, and cruise ships dump thousands of passengers into the ports, with as many as five vessels a day docking in Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona and Dubrovnik, pumping additional hordes into city centers that are already hopelessly overcrowded. Once there, they eternalize their memories of the sights they see in the form of selfies. After that, it's on to the next hot spot.

Travel has gone from being a luxury product to an everyday good, with the boom in discount travel and the internet opening an increasing number of new markets. If you want to spend a few days in Palma, Barcelona or on the beach, it only takes a few clicks to find the right flight and accommodation. Often at a bargain-basement price.

But the infrastructure is no longer up to the task of handling the onslaught of travelers -- and this is true in Germany as it is elsewhere. During this hot summer, chaos descended on Germany's airports, with crowds of people jostling in front of monitors as flight cancellations rose by 146 percent in the first half of the year and the number of delays by 31 percent. In Munich and Frankfurt, air traffic even collapsed entirely within a few days of each other after passengers walked through security without being properly screened. And the situation at Berlin's airports has become a national embarrassment.

'Tourist Go Home'

With overloaded infrastructure and overcrowded cities and beaches, the travel industry seems to be choking on its own success. An estimated 670 million people traveled in Europe last year and it is likely that this summer alone, the Continent hosted 200 million tourists.

It's not just Europeans exploring each others' countries. The boom is also fueled by people from countries that have benefited handsomely from globalization. Much of the responsibility for the growth in global tourism lies with members of the newly emerging middle classes in Russia and with people from the Far East and Arab countries.

They also bear a significant share of the responsibility for the growing problems. The boom, after all, is also producing losers, and many of them have begun revolting, as recently seen in the pilot strikes at European budget carrier Ryanair, whose poor working conditions and low wages are what make the airline's low-cost strategy possible in the first place.

But residents of the cities and regions affected are perhaps the biggest losers. When, for example, it becomes more lucrative for property owners to rent their apartments out to tourists on a daily or weekly basis than to locals who need an affordable place to live. Or when commuters have to squeeze into overcrowded public transportation because local buses and trains have been filled to capacity by tourists. Or when people no longer feel comfortable in their neighborhood because they have become a minority in the cafés and restaurants they traditionally frequented. That is, assuming they can get in at all or afford the new prices.

The tourism industry suddenly finds itself confronted by a group that it hadn't previously paid much attention to. Having always focused on the guests, it tended to overlook the hosts. "Tourism is a phenomenon that creates many private profits but also many socialized losses," says Christian Laesser, a tourism professor at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland.

Often, the profits benefit very few -- the landlords and hotel owners primarily, but also, to a much lesser extent, the often poorly paid employees working in the travel sector. The rest are stuck with the noise and the mess, the high rents and the feeling of being a stranger in their own country, like being an extra in some Disney World for tourists.

In many places, that feeling has begun manifesting itself in expressions of open hostility. Activists spray paint "tourists go home" on the walls in many places overflowing with tourists, and in Mallorca, they even proclaimed a "summer of action," with protests against travelers at the airport and in hotels. In Palma, activists have thrown horse droppings at tourists. In Barcelona they have pushed people from bicycles and harassed them in cafés. In Venice, self-proclaimed pirates have taken the dramatic step of blocking cruise ships from entering the port.

The notion that tourists are foreign invaders who represent some kind of threat to the local population's cultural identity broadly echoes the way refugees are viewed in large parts of Europe. But whereas hardship has driven the refugees from their homelands, the tourists are seeking to escape the boredom of everyday life.

Barcelona has experience with both of these globalization-driven migratory movements, but the protests there have only been directed at the tourists and not refugees. Last year, 150,000 protesters even called on the government to allow more refugees into the country. "Immigration has changed the city, but tourism is destabilizing it," Britain's Guardian newspaper wrote in June, describing the mood in the city.


The travel industry has begun recognizing that its own success is increasingly undermining the foundation of its business model. "Overtourism" is the buzzword currently dominating industry conferences. Discussions are taking place about how tourist flows can be directed such that they will no longer be perceived as a threat.

But is that possible wiht the numbers of tourists continuing to rise? In the emerging countries of Asia, umpteen millions of people are ascending into the new middle class each year, meaning they can suddenly afford to travel to exotic destinations. And they do. According to industry estimates, the number of tourists globally is expected to increase by 500 million by 2030, with the Chinese making up roughly half of that growth. And many of them will want to visit Europe and its sights -- events like the lavender blossom in Provence.

It must have been during the summer of 2008, Jean-Paul Angelvin recalls. That's when a film team from China rang and asked if they could take a few shots in his lavender fields. "They filmed a young couple, and, after a few hours, they were finished. I didn't think much about it at the time," says Angelvin, an elderly gentleman wearing gray shorts and beige compression stockings. Angelvin and his family have been cultivating lavender in Provence for close to 40 years, at an elevation of 580 meters on a plateau in Valensole.

Angelvin has gone through some hard times, like when prices hit rock bottom during the 1990s. But demand picked up again, and during the lavender blossom in June and July, the small boutique the family established also managed to produce a bit of profit.

Then summer 2012 arrived and Angelvin's shop turned into a gold mine. A growing number of tour buses began stopping in front of his boutique -- buses filled with Chinese tourists. They wanted to perform exact recreations of the scenes they knew from the popular (and cheesy) Chinese TV series "Dreams Behind a Crystal Curtain." They were the shots that had been filmed four years earlier in Angelvin's lavender fields. "Never in my life did I think this shoot would have triggered such a wave," the lavender farmer says. Jean-Frédéric Gonthier of the regional tourism association estimates that 3,000 Chinese visitors came the first summer after the start of series production. Today, he estimates, there are around 60,000 Chinese visitors each season.

"To create something out of the boom other than just suffering, we have to understand the Chinese," says Gonthier. To address the need, he trained Chinese-speaking guides and also hired two people to answer questions about the region on the Chinese messaging service WeChat. Gonthier is hoping these efforts can help to change the vacationing patterns of the Chinese and motivate them to stay longer in the region rather than just rushing through.

Lavender farmer Angelvin also grasped what was happening and was quick to react. During the lavender season, he hires temporary Chinese-speaking staff. One kilometer further down the road, Pauline Jaubert expanded her lavender boutique Terraroma for the second time this spring. "We have adapted," says Jaubert, who now offers T-shirts, cookies and aprons in addition to lavender oil and soap. The Jauberts have a small restaurant on the top floor that offers Asian noodle dishes during the high season.

The farmers have become tourism professionals. Revenues at the larger lavender boutiques on the plateau are estimated to be several hundred thousand euros a year. Indeed, Angelvin's shop generates more income in good years than the lavender harvest itself.

Not everyone, though, views the guests from China as a "classic win-win situation," as Gonthier from the tourist office calls it. Jean-Jacques Valone says that a photo in the field does little in terms of cultural exchange. Valone is also a lavender farmer, but he doesn't have a boutique. "They are mostly just a bother to me," he says. "They litter the fields with paper and cut stems of lavender." Besides, the region doesn't really benefit financially when people just rush through and, at most, order a pizza and split it among four people, he says.

As might be expected, Gonthier takes a more positive view. He points out that the Chinese approach to tourism is also changing and that an increasing number of younger travelers from China are avoiding mass tourism and are instead traveling on their own and sometimes even staying overnight. Such travelers, he says, "no longer hunt desperately for a Chinese restaurant. Instead they try Provençal dishes." He sounds a bit like he's just discovered a rich vein of gold he hopes to be able to mine for some time to come. A strategy paper notes that the manner in which the tourists are welcomed and treated is vital and must be done in a "Chinese-friendly" way.  
Travel Has Become Almost a Human Right

There are many reasons a place attracts tourists -- it might be the sun, the beach or the sights. Or perhaps just lavender and a Chinese television series. But why would someone who lives in faraway Riyadh, Abu Dhabi or Doha come to an Austrian village of just 10,000 inhabitants?

In a word: the weather. In summer, the maximum temperatures in Zell am See, a lakeside town in the Alps of western Austria, are usually just over 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit). In Riyadh, temperatures can often be over 40 degrees. Pleasant temperatures, water for swimming and snow in the mountains are all draws for tourists. And who wouldn't prefer to cool off rather than sizzle?

In the city center, some restaurants have adapted by focusing more on these guests, offering menus in Arabic, pita bread and halal meat. Down at the lake, on the esplanade behind the Grand Hotel, crowds of largely Arabic tourists sit, enjoying their holiday.

Nadine Scharfenort is a geographer at the University of Passau in Germany. She has just completed a postdoctoral thesis called "The Conflict Potential of Arabic Tourism in Zell am See-Kaprun." Scharfenort says that local residents are highly ambivalent about the presence of these tourists. Some are open-minded, stressing the positive aspects, like the fact that these tourists don't drink alcohol. But others are bothered by headscarves and have general reservations about Arabs.

In the evening, as dusk settles over the lake, it starts to rain. The European tourists rush under the canopies and awnings of the adjacent hotels and restaurants. In front of the Grand Hotel, though, two small girls merrily jump into the puddles. For them, the rain is a highlight of their holiday.

The travel industry is probably the most important economic sector in the world. It's far larger than the oil industry or the automotive industry and has an estimated turnover of 7 trillion euros a year, about 10 percent of global economic output. In addition to direct revenues, this staggering sum also includes related business sectors such as the hotel trade or the transport industry with all its aircraft, cruise ships and buses. It also includes souvenir shops and travel agencies.

In Spain, popular among holiday-makers, the travel industry accounts for fully 14.9 percent of the country's gross domestic product. And in many nations -- Greece, Portugal, Spain, France and the Czech Republic, for example -- the number of people entering the country exceeds the number of inhabitants. This creates jobs and modest prosperity, but it also establishes a certain dependency, which can also be dangerous if, as seen in Turkey and Egypt in recent years, there is a sudden massive plunge in the number of travelers.

Tourists, though, have begun returning to both countries. After all, when it comes to vacation, we tend to ignore potential terrorist threats or human rights violations -- as long as the price is right and the weather is nice.

Cheap, Cheaper, Cheapest

Affordability is the main thing -- and travel has indeed gotten much cheaper thanks to the internet. Travel portals like Expedia, Trivago and have edged out established travel agencies and even pose a threat to major European travel companies like TUI or Thomas Cook, which previously dominated the package travel market. Such websites constantly offer flights and overnight stays at bargain prices.

In contrast to holiday providers from the era of package tours featured in catalogs, these digital competitors don't operate their own hotels and they don't own airplanes, cruise ships, travel agencies or other things with expensive overhead costs. Their money is earned solely by brokering services provided by others. They can literally control prices in real time on their platforms and they constantly optimize their algorithms to generate revenues. They collect targeted data on customer preferences and are now even able to create tailor-made offerings on the fly.

This system, of course, wouldn't work without budget airlines, and without the internet, airlines such as Ryanair or EasyJet would not have become what they are today: the powerful drivers of the current tourism boom. Thirty years ago, they didn't even exist yet. Back then, Europe was still strictly regulated, with specific rules on which airline was allowed to fly to what destination. Each country had its own airline, and national airlines weren't allowed to service domestic routes in other European countries. Usually, there were also limits on the number of seats that could be offered on cross-border flights. The regulations were in place to protect the respective national airlines that were, almost without exception, state-owned.

Air traffic in Europe only gradually began opening up in 1987. Irish budget pioneer Ryanair, in particular, benefited from market liberalization, because it made excessive use of the new freedoms in air transportation. And because it was more consistent -- and brutal -- than any other company when it came to low costs. Budget carriers in Germany and Europe have a 30-percent market share today, a figure that is still growing.

Thanks to low ticket prices, travel has almost become a universal right, just like buying cheap T-shirts or shopping at a discount supermarket like Aldi or Lidl. This has also meant that a weekend trip to Berlin or Barcelona was suddenly seen as a viable alternative to an excursion to the local lake -- with dramatic consequences for the places and cities that were being visited. Barcelona, for example, has gone from being an insider tip to a mass destination, and budget airlines now have a market share of almost 70 percent in the city. At Berlin's Schönefeld Airport, budget carriers are responsible for almost 90 percent of all arrivals and departures. In the past 10 years alone, the number of passengers at the airport has more than doubled, from around six million to almost 13 million travelers.

This has helped transform the German capital city into one of the most popular destinations for overnight stays in Europe after London and Paris. During the evenings and on weekends, hundreds of young people from all over Europe can be seen partying across Berlin's central Mitte district. Although they don't leave a lot of money behind when they leave the city, they do leave tons of trash and empty beer and liquor bottles.

For years it looked as if the two systems, traditional hub-and-spoke airlines and budget airlines, could continue to grow side by side uninhibited. But this summer, the model seemed to hit its limits for the first time. Flight cancellations, delays and re-bookings have become the order of the day. According to the International Air Transportation Association (IATA), delays in air traffic in Europe alone increased by 133 percent during the first half of the year. Some airports, such as those in Frankfurt, Düsseldorf and Berlin, are now asking travelers to arrive at the airport up to three hours before takeoff so that they can cope with the masses.

The chaos at the airports began with Air Berlin's bankruptcy last year. Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings, but also some of its competitors, secured some of the route rights without having the corresponding aircraft and crews. Demand also rose more strongly than expected. While just under 104 million guests took off from German airports in 2014, this figure had risen to over 117 million by 2017. Foreign passengers are also increasingly using German airports to catch their flights or as hubs for connecting flights.

The already heavily loaded system isn't designed for such a boom. And it's unlikely that the situation will change anytime soon. European air traffic controller Eurocontrol even expects the number of flights departing up to two hours late to increase sevenfold by 2040.

The rising stress associated with travel, however, is not enough to deter tourists. Sociologist Paolo Giuntarelli thinks he knows why: "Mass tourism is a phenomenon of our post-materialistic society. Possessions are no longer a priority -- we just want to be entertained," he says.

A City Overrun

Giuntarelli is the head of tourism for the Lazio region, with offices located in the capital city of Rome. He's here to hold down the fort, with many Romans having fled to the countryside in the height of the summer. It is too hot for them in the city.

But the high temperatures don't appear to have deterred visitors to Rome.

There are weeks when the Italian capital is literally overrun -- like at the end of July, when 60,000 altar boys and girls from all over Europe invaded the city, including 50,000 from Germany. The motto of the pilgrimage was: "Seek peace and pursue it!" Above all, though, it was the sights that they pursued.

On Tuesday night, they visited the pope. When their audience ended at around 8 p.m., St. Peter's Square was littered with plastic bottles, lyrics to hymns, Haribo bags and banana peels. The situation was similar at Pius XII Square, located just before it. The garbage bags on the side of the street had long since overflowed or burst. Even the pious produce refuse.

Rome is all about long nights on the piazza, with pasta, red wine and jovial singing. Late at night, though, tourists are no longer allowed to drink alcohol on the streets of Rome, with Mayor Virginia Raggi having decreed in 2017 that the ban would be imposed each year between July and October.

Rome needs tourists -- but it also needs to rein them in. This is most evident at the Trevi Fountain, where the first visitors start showing up early in the morning. Police stand guard around the clock so that nobody misbehaves. If someone holds their foot too close to the water, a carabinieri blows his whistle -- and those who dare to jump into the fountain face a fine of up to 450 euros under rules imposed last year by the mayor.

As a source of revenue, though, the visitors are highly welcome. Many throw coins over their shoulders into the fountain, because they believe it means they will return to Rome. Municipal workers regularly vacuum the coins out of the fountain, adding up to 1 million euros a year, which are donated to Rome's Catholic charity Caritas.

Marco D'Eramo lives right next door to Rome's Colosseum. He can monitor the daily growth of tourism right outside the front door of his seven-story building. Until about 15 years ago, all of his neighbors were Italian, but now 12 of the 40 units are holiday rentals.

Not long ago, D'Eramo set out to write down what was happening around him. But he quickly realized that there was much more to the story. So he wrote a book called "The World in a Selfie," which provides a thorough description of what he calls the "tourist era."

He believes the transformation of entire cities due to tourism follows a simple economic logic: The needs of the locals do not correspond with the needs of the tourists. Whereas a local resident might need a cobbler, the tourist wants a snack. With the rise of tourism, craftsman establishments are being transformed into fast food outlets -- and the neighbor with worn-out shoes ultimately loses out.

The transformation of an entire city happens very fast, d'Eramo has observed. If the Lonely Planet guide reports on a market, where "the locals do their shopping," more and more tourists flood the place. "At first it still looks authentic. But increasingly, items are sold that are of interest for tourists. And before long, the insider tip has become a purely tourist market."

In 2017, 14.7 million visitors poured through Rome's alleyways, representing one quarter of all visitors to Italy. Overnight visitors stayed an average of 2.5 days, much like in other major European cities.

Travelers rarely end up in the surrounding areas, in Frascati, Tivoli or other parts of the region, known as Latium. Giuntarelli, Rome's chief tourism official, would like to redirect them to the smaller towns and cities in the region, where they could experience the Italian way of life, "good food, good wine." Or follow the Way of St. Francis pilgrimage trail, which runs through Latium.

Giuntarelli extols the virtues of Latium in newspaper and radio ads and distributes pamphlets at tourism expos. One of them advertises Latium as a great site for a wedding, another presents Latium's thermal baths. Giuntarelli also wants to make the region known as a golf destination. "We're working on it," he says.

Little Money, But Lots of Garbage

Because Latium isn't alone in its problems, the region has teamed up with NecsTour, a network of 37 European regions that have committed themselves to sustainable tourism, a form of travel that satisfies economies and vacationers without harming the environment.

In other words, the opposite of cruise ships. "That is not the tourism that we want to support," says Giuntarelli.

The gigantic ships belch massive amounts of pollution into the air and contribute little to regional trade or the local hospitality industries. Their passengers are only in the city for a few hours, they spend their nights on board and often eat food they bring with them when they go on land. They leave behind little money, but lots of garbage. "Cruise ship tourism is good," says Giuntarelli with a resigned smile, "for the cruise ship operators."

In Dubrovnik, Croatia, cruise ship passengers only spend an average of 24 euros per day compared to an average of 160 euros per day spent by other visitors. The city is suffering more than most from the onslaught of the tourists. Since its picturesque Old Town became the backdrop for the fantasy saga "Game of Thrones," the number of visitors has risen dramatically. Each year, 800,000 people arrive on cruise ships alone.

Dubrovnik has 42,000 inhabitants -- and most of them prefer to stay home when the cruise ships arrive. But because not only the residents, but also the medieval city structures themselves, are suffering, the number of visitors is to be reduced to 8,000 people per day. Otherwise, UNESCO has threatened to strip the city of its status as a World Heritage site.

"A new approach is now being considered -- one that moves away from the one-sided thinking about growth that has characterized tourism policy in most cities so far," says urban planner Johannes Novy, who is currently researching urban development and tourism at London's Westminster University. He says that for too long, the question was: How do we lure more tourists to a city? "It was not about other goals, including the question of how one could work to counter the negative consequences." Novy says that tourism itself isn't always the problem, but certain aspects of it -- "for example, the party tourism that is pervasive in many cities, or the longtime unrestrained boom in holiday rentals."

Increasingly, he says, those in positions of responsibility have begun trying to combat the "growing pains" associated with the travel boom, as Novy calls it. They want to redirect the streams of tourists, as officials in Rome are trying to do, or even to limit them, as Dubrovnik is doing. Barcelona is no longer approving new hotels, Paris has strictly regulated Airbnb and other apartment-rental platforms and Palma de Mallorca has even completely banned the renting of holiday apartments on the platform. But no other city is taking measures as rigorously as Amsterdam.

The Last Resort

But still they exist, the cities and regions that welcome the tourists who are no longer as welcome elsewhere, where nobody gets worked up about constant parties and binge drinking rituals.

Daniel Stefanov is standing on a podium, squeezed between a street and the beach, where he watches the crowd as it sinks into the foam. His helpers have placed two foam cannons by the dance floor at the Megapark Dolphin, a giant, insane party venue that Stefanov has created with his business partners at Golden Sands, Bulgaria. From one cannon, the foam is spraying like raw cake batter onto the partying vacationers, while fine soap clouds are raining out of the other one. The crowd, standing in knee-deep foam, cheers.

Stefanov has come one step closer to fulfilling his goal: that of turning Golden Sands into a regular destination for partying German tourists, an alternative to El Arenal and Playa de Palma.

Fifteen years ago, Stefanov and his partner Sava Daritkov, 44, opened the outdoor nightclub Megapark Dolphin in Slatni Pjasazi, a vacation spot on the Black Sea. The club is filled with swimming pools and an adjacent dance floor. Eight years ago, they added the "partystadl," or "party city," where German pop music is played and a half-liter of beer costs the equivalent of 2 euros.

Stefanov and Daritkov have invested a lot into their dream. They imported hefeweizen wheat beer from Germany and hired singers who otherwise performed at establishments in Mallorca that are popular among German party tourists. And they began organizing foam parties. For 20 euros cover, visitors can drink the cocktails of their choice for an hour and get covered in foam, every Tuesday and Saturday.

This season has proven more successful than any that has come before. First came the wave of high-school graduates coming from Germany in the early summer. They were followed by football and bowling clubs. Their guests tend to be men and women in their early and mid-20s who only need three things for a successful vacation: "sun, sand and suds." The trend is likely to continue until late September, Daritkov says. And there is one more thing he really wants to say: "We're pleased about all the visitors."

It's a sentence that has taken on a new meaning in an age when tourists partying to excess with buckets of cheap sangria are no longer welcome in many places. Mallorca no longer wants to be a party island and has even banned nighttime binge drinking and sex on the beach. Golden Sands, the message seems to be, isn't only cheap, but the party isn't over.

Niklas, Marvin and Marcel are standing at the bar at Megapark Dolphin holding a glass of vodka with peach, wearing bright green vests with the motto of their previous trip, an excursion last year to Mallorca: "Malle 2017. Buckets for everyone." They were there with about a dozen friends. The new rules on Mallorca, says Niklas, a 24-year-old car mechatronics technician, are the reason they decided to come to Bulgaria. He says they had witnessed in El Arenal how Spanish police arrived with three cars when a bucket of sangria was spotted on the beach despite the ban. They thought the reaction was a bit over the top.

The situation is altogether different at Golden Sands. There are no residents here to complain about the ruckus. 

By Dinah Deckstein, Lothar Gorris, Sebastian Hammelehle, Nils Klawitter, Alexander Kühn, Armin Mahler, Martin U. Müller, Ann-Kathrin Nezik, Raniah Salloum and Robin Wille

Lula da Silva’s vision of Brazil is a damaging fiction

My successor as president falsely casts himself as the victim of an ‘elite’ conspiracy

Fernando Henrique Cardoso

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva portrays Brazil as a democracy in ruins, in which the rule of law has given way to arbitrary measures designed to undermine him and his party. This is not true © EPA

Former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has every right to defend his point of view in the country and abroad regarding the legal proceedings that weigh on him. These led to his imprisonment after a federal court of appeals in January upheld his conviction for corruption and money laundering.

The manner in which Lula da Silva has chosen to defend himself to the world, however, needs to be challenged. In a recent article he presented a version of recent Brazilian history that bears no relation to reality. This would be a problem for historians were he not the influential political leader that he is.

The former president portrays Brazil as a democracy in ruins, in which the rule of law has given way to arbitrary measures designed to undermine him and his party. This is not true.

It is also not true, as Lula da Silva claims, that Brazil was directionless before he assumed the presidency in 2003. One only needs to remember the successful stabilisation of the economy after years of hyperinflation, which began with the Real Plan launched by former president Itamar Franco and continued during my government. This was also a period marked by the establishment of social welfare programmes that Lula da Silva would subsequently expand.

His is a peculiar version of the past few decades of Brazilian history in which he sometimes appears as the people’s saviour and sometimes as the victim of an “elite” conspiracy. It lends itself, inadvertently, to the delegitimisation of the collective effort that is the foundation of Brazilian democracy.

President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment and removal from office in 2016 was not, contrary to what Lula da Silva claims, a coup d’état. It was the result of, among other things, her government’s violation of Brazil’s fiscal responsibility law in the run-up to the 2014 election.

The impeachment process followed all the constitutional proprieties under the supervision of the Brazilian supreme court, in which the majority of justices were nominated by Lula da Silva and Ms Rousseff.

My criticism is not motivated by personal antagonism. Lula da Silva and I fought together against the authoritarian regime that ruled Brazil between 1964 and 1985. When, subsequently, we ran against each other in democratic elections, I maintained a constructive relationship with him.

I am sorry that the former president faces additional charges of corruption and money laundering. But the fact is that the legal proceedings in which he has been involved followed due process and have been carried out in accordance with the constitution and the rule of law.

Lula da Silva’s case is not an isolated one. In Brazil there are politicians from every party in prison, many of whose convictions were upheld by an appeals court. They include members of my own party, the PSDB.

The precedent for imprisonment after a conviction is upheld in a federal appeals court stems from a judgment by the supreme court that long precedes Lula da Silva’s conviction. Convicted persons begin serving their sentence without this affecting their right to appeal to higher courts.

Moreover, Lula da Silva’s ineligibility to run for president in the forthcoming election is the consequence of a popular initiative that received more than 1m signatures, was then approved by Congress and signed into law by the former president himself in 2010. The so-called clean slate law (lei da ficha limpa), the result of a civil society campaign against corruption, prohibits anyone convicted at the appeals court level from running for office.

The popular initiative that resulted in the law was a direct response to the Mensalão scandal, a votes-for-cash scam uncovered in 2005. The dismantling of this corruption scheme did not prevent another, even larger one from being perpetrated in some of the largest state-owned companies, notably Petrobras. The investigation into this scandal, known as Lava Jato or “Car Wash”, uncovered a scheme to divert billions of dollars to Lula da Silva’s Workers’ party.

Brazil is going through a painful but necessary process of re-moralising its public life, and the actions of the Federal prosecutor’s office and the judicial branch are part of this.

I am not always comfortable with the length of the sentences imposed or with the expansion of “preventive” pre-trial detention, in which the accused is imprisoned before even his or her first trial in a lower court.

It is a grave distortion of reality, however, to say that there is a targeted campaign in Brazil to persecute specific individuals. My country deserves more respect. 
The writer was president of Brazil from 1995-2002

Lagarde warns of US-China trade war ‘shock’ to emerging markets

Concern that crisis hitting Argentina and Turkey could spread to developing world

James Politi and Sam Fleming in Washington

Christine Lagarde, IMF managing director © Bloomberg

Christine Lagarde has warned that the escalating US-China trade war could deliver a “shock” to already struggling emerging markets, raising the prospect that a crisis ripping through Argentina and Turkey could spread across the developing world.

The IMF managing director told the Financial Times that her staff does not yet see “contagion” spreading to multiple countries beyond those currently fighting investor flight.

But she warned that “these things could change rapidly” and cited the “uncertainty [and] lack of confidence already produced by the threats against trade, even before it materialises”, as one of the main dangers facing the developing world.

Ms Lagarde’s comments came as Donald Trump, US president, is preparing to slap new tariffs on $200bn of Chinese imports, sharply ratcheting up the US trade war with Beijing. China vowed to retaliate and Mr Trump has said he is prepared to impose levies on a further $267bn in Chinese products in response.

The brinkmanship has intensified just as emerging markets are struggling to win back market confidence after a sharp sell-off triggered by a rising US currency, which has raised questions about whether governments and companies can pay off billions in dollar-denominated debt.

So far, the developing world crisis has focused on Argentina and Turkey, both of which have specific fiscal or political issues that have raised investor concern.

But countries as diverse as South Africa, Indonesia and Brazil have in recent weeks seen outflows, raising the risk of a broader crisis. Turkey’s central bank is due to meet on Thursday after signalling that it was prepared to raise rates to restore investor confidence, and Argentina has asked the IMF to speed up a $50bn bailout loan to shore up its finances.

Ms Lagarde said the new austerity measures announced by Mauricio Macri, Argentina’s president, would be a “key determinant” of the fiscal policy going forward. The IMF, she said, was considering the Argentine request for a “rephasing” of payments.

Ms Lagarde said that an increase in US-China tariffs would have a “measurable impact on growth in China” and would “trigger vulnerabilities” among its Asian neighbours because of their integrated supply chains.

She also said that the adverse impact in the US would mostly be felt by the “low-income people within the consumer population” who would be hit by higher prices on a wide range of goods.

“It would add a shock to a situation where there is no contagion but there are fragmented vulnerabilities. It would add an additional shock to it,” Ms Lagarde said of the developing world. “Trade is a positive, trade is a plus, trade needs fixing certainly but it is a tool and an engine for growth that should not be under threat, particularly at the moment.”

In Argentina, Mrs Lagarde said the IMF was looking for monetary policy to have “clarity, transparency, proper and due information to market operators, and improved communication”.

This would have a significant impact on domestic confidence given citizens’ focus on the currency markets, she said. In addition, the IMF was looking at whether Mr Macri’s austerity measures would deliver the promised balanced budget a year earlier than originally planned.

The fund was also weighing economic reform measures and their impact on the economy. Ms Lagarde said it was essential to continue focusing on vulnerable citizens of Argentina, who could take a hit as a result of the tightening. The IMF is hugely unpopular in Argentina for past programmes which many voters believe were overly focused on austerity.

She said that Argentina had about 0.2 per cent of economic output, if needed, as a “safety valve that should be used” to protect the most vulnerable.

“If President Macri includes serious reforms in his plan then we will look at it, we will assess the impact on the macroeconomic situation of Argentina, determine the debt sustainability and work with them,” she said.

A Sea Change in the Security of the South Pacific

Small countries have been caught in the current of great power politics.

By Jacob L. Shapiro

Concluding today is the 49th Pacific Islands Forum, an annual three-day summit that has gone broadly unnoticed by much of the world. The few headlines that managed to creep their way into continental news agencies concerned a minor spat between the host, Nauru, and China, whose delegation eventually walked out of a meeting Sept. 4. Most overlooked the fact that forum members agreed in principle to jointly augment the national security of Pacific island nations.

The agreement, called the Boe Declaration, has been in the works for a few months. Australia and New Zealand, the two strongest forum nations, hinted in July that a new regional security architecture would be announced at the recent summit. Outspoken advocates of the declaration, Australia and New Zealand want to strengthen the forum to counter China’s growing economic influence in this part of the world. Until recently, the biggest threats to the forum were run-of-the-mill internal problems such as civil unrest and natural disasters. But Canberra and Wellington want these island nations to prepare for worse.

The new declaration itself, like others before it, is almost uniformly unremarkable. It repeats previous declarations and offers platitudes about cooperation and information sharing. It identifies no country as a threat – if anything, parts of it are as much a criticism of U.S. efforts to undermine international institutions as they are a defense against Chinese intrusión.


Unlike others before it, however, the new declaration includes in a small section near the end wherein the forum members “recognize that national security impacts on regional security” and pledge to develop national security capacities accordingly. That is a sea change. The previous security framework, known as the Biketawa Declaration, is far more specific on the mechanism by which forum nations can intervene in the affairs of neighbors – Australia and New Zealand have used it in recent years to deploy forces to the Solomon Islands, Nauru and Tonga – but it is chiefly concerned with internal problems that require outside assistance. The Boe Declaration explicitly deals with the need for forum nations to develop capacities to resist external threats. The post-summit communique also notes that a detailed plan for implementation of the Boe Declaration will be completed by November.

As with all multilateral institutions, the challenge for the forum is that its members all have different national interests. The forum comprises 18 countries, and while most of them share a similar geographic identity as small island states in the South Pacific, they don’t necessarily share the same goals. Nauru, for example, still recognizes Taiwan, and barely trades with China. (It accounts for just about 1 percent of Nauru’s total imports and exports). That’s a far cry from a country such as Vanuatu, which owes half of its $440 million in foreign debt to China, which is also the island’s top source of imports and a top five export destination. Samoa and Fiji criticized Nauru for rocking the boat with China even as they were agreeing to boost national security capacities.

Even so, the Boe Declaration was adopted unanimously and so is a first step toward a more unified Pacific Islands Forum, with Australia and New Zealand playing a leading role in its cohesion. For all the talk of China’s ambitions, Australia and New Zealand are still in charge, dominating forum countries by almost every metric. The Boe Declaration reflects this balance of power even as it acknowledges what has now become clear – that these small nations are caught in the current of great power politics.

Egypt’s Red Line in the Red Sea

Cairo can’t afford to compromise the Suez Canal, even at a distance.

Xander Snyder

With all the reports of Saudi Arabia using American weapons to kill people in Yemen, it’s easy to overlook Egypt, a quieter if not quite silent Saudi partner fighting in Yemen’s civil war. Its reluctance to get any more involved than it currently is comes from experience. It lost some 25,000 soldiers when it sent troops to Yemen during the North Yemeni Civil War of the 1960s – a campaign that led only to economic calamity at home. This round, it made sure to limit its involvement to naval operations and air support despite Saudi pleads to commit ground troops.

And it makes sense that this would be the case. Egypt has a vested interest in Yemen (otherwise it wouldn’t have sent troops back in the 1960s), but unlike Saudi Arabia, which shares a border with Yemen, its interests are not on the ground. Instead, its interests are in the water. It needs to maintain freedom of navigation throughout the Red Sea, which runs from Egypt’s Suez Canal in the north to the Bab el-Mandeb in the south, a strait that at its narrowest is just 12 miles (20 kilometers) wide.

Yet recent events could compel Cairo to deploy the troops it once refused to. In July, two Saudi ships were attacked by Houthi rebels, the Yemeni insurgents who took control of the government in Sanaa. The Houthis said they were warships; Saudi Arabia said they were oil tankers. Whatever they were, Riyadh responded by temporarily suspending oil exports from the Red Sea.

Then on Aug. 6, a retired officer from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps told Fars news agency, a government mouthpiece with close ties to the IRGC, that Iran had instructed the Houthis to conduct the attack. The accusation hasn’t been confirmed, but it’s well within the realm of possibility. Iran supports the Houthis, though the government in Tehran denies it. The Houthis have a habit of attacking Saudi targets. And as U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil draw closer, Tehran has said it would to go to more extreme measures to protect its interests, including by blockading the Strait of Hormuz. Even as recently as July, the head of the IRGC issued a veiled threat suggesting Iran might do what the Houthis did to the Saudi ships.


This is a threat Egypt takes seriously. A week after the Fars report was published, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi condemned Iran’s involvement in the attack, even if he refrained from referring to it explicitly: “We categorically reject that Yemen would become a foothold for the influence of non-Arab forces, or a platform for security and stability threats against the brotherly Arab countries or freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab Strait.” It’s no coincidence that he issued the statement during a state visit by Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the president of what Saudi Arabia claims is the legitimate government in Yemen.

Statements such as these are often as meaningless as they are perfunctory. But in this case, el-Sissi has sent a clear message by drawing a red line through the Red Sea, which is vitally important to the Egyptian economy. Right now, tolls from the Suez Canal generate about $5 billion in annual revenue, accounting for just about 2 percent of Egypt’s gross domestic product. But Cairo has grand plans for its future. In 2015, it completed an $8 billion expansion of the canal that opened a second passageway, allowing for two-way traffic and representing the first step toward Cairo’s eventual goal of making Egypt a regional industrial and logistics hub. Egypt hopes that canal revenue will more than double by 2023. Its investment minister even expressed the hope that the canal and its associated economic activities – specifically, a special economic zone featuring industrial parks and ports on the Mediterranean and Red seas – will eventually comprise as much as 30 percent of the Egyptian economy.

The canal, moreover, is the source of a consistent and substantial inflow of foreign currency. For a country that has recently had to float its currency per the terms of a loan from the International Monetary Fund, more foreign currency reserves mean more protection in the event the Egyptian pound weakens. Given the ongoing currency crises in Turkey and Iran, this is no small consideration. Egypt itself avoided a foreign currency crisis four years ago only by taking the aforementioned IMF loan.

Keeping the Red Sea free of an aggressive Iranian presence, and keeping the Suez Canal full of traffic, is therefore in Egypt’s interest. Saudi Arabia’s suspension of oil exports spooked Egypt, which was worried that shipping companies might take it as a sign that the Red Sea was no longer safe to use. An anonymous official from the Suez Canal Authority went so far as to claim that Egypt strongly but privately encouraged Saudi Arabia to resume exports accordingly.

It’s too early to say whether anyone has yet crossed Egypt’s red line. But if American actions force Iran to adopt a more hostile posture in the Red Sea, Egypt may have no choice but to intervene more heavily in Yemen. It can’t afford to let Iran block these vital waterways. But, importantly, neither can the world’s trading powers. It’s in their interest to keep global trade humming too, so if worse comes to worst, the burden wouldn’t fall on Egypt alone.

Colombia’s Peace Agreement Is Under Siege

Shlomo Ben-Ami

MADRID – In 2016, Colombia’s government reached an historic peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), ending a 52-year-old war that had killed more than 265,000 Colombians and displaced another seven million. The deal has been hailed as a new model for resolving seemingly intractable conflicts. But it is now being tested like never before.

Eradicating the root causes of such a protracted conflict would be difficult enough in the best of times. With Iván Duque Márquez taking over Colombia’s presidency, however, it will become much more so. Duque’s mentor was former President Álvaro Uribe, the political nemesis of Duque’s immediate predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos, the architect of the peace accord.

Already, Duque has refused to recognize key pillars of the deal, beginning with the FARC’s status as a legitimate political party that can participate in democratic elections. He has also rejected the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), a new extrajudicial court system created as part of the deal to manage transitional justice – the legacy of abuses by FARC guerrillas and the right-wing paramilitary organizations that fought them.

Colombia’s powerful conservative establishment has never been happy with the liberal spirit underlying the JEP, which aims to be more restorative than punitive, putting the victims – and the truth – front and center. The results might include reparations and acknowledgements of perpetrators’ guilt. But top FARC leaders would be able effectively to avoid prison sentences for their crimes.

Colombia’s Senate, however, has now removed from the JEP’s jurisdiction high-ranking military, business, and political figures suspected of colluding with the right-wing paramilitaries. The senators argue that the military needs a new tribunal with “impartial justices,” rather than the “leftists” of the JEP. In this manner, the deal was undermined before Duque was even inaugurated.

The good news is that, thanks to a ruling by Colombia’s Constitutional Court, the president cannot substantively change the peace deal’s terms. But Duque could still weaken the agreement by denying the resources and political attention needed to implement it. The question then becomes whether he will choose a pragmatic approach, even if it means clashing with Uribe, just as Santos did.

Even without Duque actively undermining the peace agreement, however, the implementation challenges are profound. While FARC has officially demobilized, some FARC fronts have refused to give up the fight. They are now locked in an all-out war with paramilitary groups, some of which arose from the right-wing paramilitaries that demobilized in the early 2000s; the National Liberation Army (ELN), a Marxist militia that resisted Santos’ offer of a separate peace deal; and criminal bands vying to take over FARC’s illicit economy.

That economy included coca, the raw material for cocaine. Most of the fight for control of this and other illicit assets is concentrated in about one-quarter of the country’s municipalities, just 5% of which are under state control. Given Colombia’s massive size, the country’s peace and stability have always depended on the state’s ability to provide services and institutional support to historically marginalized areas.

Now, areas that have been evacuated by FARC lack such support, leaving them vulnerable to renewed volatility, reflected in a rise in politically motivated assassinations. Small landowners, intimidated by the violence, are now being forced to sell at bargain prices the stolen lands they recovered as part of the Law of Victims and Land Restitution – another pillar of the peace agreement – to major agro-industrial companies.

Such companies are also gaining access to areas of the Colombian Amazon evacuated by the FARC – areas covered in virgin forests that are now in danger of being destroyed. Last year alone, Colombia lost almost a half-million hectares of forest cover – a 46% increase over the previous year. The destruction of this vital ecosystem threatens to accelerate climate change.

These are serious challenges, which can be overcome only with deep and long-term structural reforms. But that is no excuse to give up on the peace deal. After all, such challenges were to be expected: unlike peace deals between functioning states – which would focus on, say, delimiting borders – agreements with non-state actors are virtually always followed by complex and protracted state-building efforts.

Consider the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland after three decades of violence. The deal was signed in 1998, but it was only seven years later that the Irish Republican Army agreed to disarm. Another two years elapsed before Protestants and Catholics reached a definitive power-sharing agreement. When power-sharing governments have faltered, the UK government has temporarily reimposed direct rule.

Like the Good Friday Agreement, Colombia’s peace agreement is based on a simple bargain: political participation for disarmament. But the only way to implement the deal is to reconstruct the country’s abandoned rural periphery – a highly complex task made all the more difficult by resistance from vested economic interests and the conservative politicians who serve them.

Owing partly to such resistance, Colombia’s government, according to the International Commission on Human Rights Verification, has so far achieved only 18.5% of the reforms, laws, and promises – from economic reparations and security guarantees to assistance to farmers who agreed to end coca production – stipulated by the peace accord. Duque’s presidency will be judged by his willingness to challenge vested interests and advance the peace process.

The peace deal is not perfect. But the fact remains that Santos bequeathed to his successor a country that is free of the scourge of the FARC insurgency and on the path toward lasting peace, not to mention a roadmap for a potential peace deal with the ELN. He also laid the groundwork for rural reforms that, if completed, would produce nothing less than an agrarian revolution in Colombia. Duque must not waste a golden opportunity to deliver to his country the durable peace and stability of which Colombians have long dreamed.

Shlomo Ben-Ami, a former Israeli foreign minister, is Vice President of the Toledo International Center for Peace. He is the author of Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy.