Sun, Apr 07, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Mayors of world unite to address mass tourism

Reuters, LISBON

As major cities struggle to tackle the challenges of mass tourism, mayors from around the world gathered in Lisbon and adopted a first of its kind declaration to ensure the growing sector is beneficial for visitors and locals alike.

Mayors and vice mayors from 16 cities, including Lisbon, Barcelona, Paris, Sao Paulo and Seoul on Friday pledged to put sustainability at the core of the tourism industry by using new technologies to build “cities for all.”

The declaration comes at a time that low-cost airlines have created tourism booms in many leading cities, but at the same time prompting outcries from locals who have been pushed out because of surging house prices due to short-term rentals.

“We truly believe innovation can lead to many solutions to problematic issues in urban tourism development,” said Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary general of the World Tourism Organization.

The declaration highlighted the contribution of tourism to cities’ economies, but it also acknowledged some of the challenges, including pressure on infrastructure, relationships between visitors and locals, and fair working conditions.

“Lisbon needs to have a strong economy and tourism is part of that, but we also need quality of life, public services adapted to a growing number of visitors and we need a city where there is access to fundamental rights, including housing,” Lisbon Mayor Fernando Medina told reporters.

Locals say they are being pushed out of their city as private developers transform houses into Airbnb properties, hotels and luxury flats.

Airbnb Inc faces legal battles in several countries, while Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Tel Aviv and Dublin have all either announced or adopted measures to regulate temporary rentals through Airbnb.

Airbnb and other private companies were at the discussions, the World Tourism Organization said.

Medina said that there was a link between housing costs and tourism, and property renting platforms put some pressure on cities.

The Lisbon City Council, alongside the Portuguese government, was working on regulations to control the phenomenon, which especially affects historical areas, he said.

“We don’t want to lose the diversity of our historical neighborhoods,” he said.

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