Does tourism kill the toured? An unexpected overnight in Barcelona at the weekend reminded me that cities should be be careful what they wish for. Barcelona is the most-quoted example in the world of a city that has used design and creativity to make itself attractive to tourists. But having come in their hordes, they are eating the place alive. When I first ate at Restaurante Los Caracoles 25 years ago, most of its customers were local. On Saturday night, most of its its customers were foreigners – loud, pink, huge ones. (I do not exclude myself from this category). At least 50 percent of the tourists and conventioneers arriving to eat looked clinically obese. Some found it hard to squeeze through the door. The percentage of obesity among the cooks and waiters working like crazy to feed us was …zero %. Meanwhile, outside on the Ramblas, Spanish families trying to stroll slowly with children were jostled by gangs of drunken Easyjet Brits on their way to party.
Carbon emissions are not the only damaging by-product of tourism. Tourists change local cultures, too – especially temporal ones. Londoners, who hurry, can’t help but impose their own time values on places they go to for weekend breaks. But I have a solution. Visitors to Southern cities should be compelled to spend time in Temporal Quarantine at the airport on arrival. Once judged to have slowed down, they would be given a smart bracelet to wear for the duration of their visit. The bracelet would contain GIS software that would detect any stagggering around, and an accelerometer would detect unseemly pedestrian speed. Anyone caught disrespecting the city’s normal tempo would be subject to compulsory liposuction on the spot. I am told it is is an enervating procedure.