Tourism can be defined as an activity that consists of traveling, with the objective of knowing different geographical places. Since ancient times, there were travelers who traveled to other places either for commercial, adventurous, spiritual reasons or to conquer new territories.

But the tourism sector as we know it today, emerged from the industrial revolution, when the travel business began to be formed by entrepreneurs such as Thomas Cook, who organized the first traveler routes. And as the means of transport and communications have been improving, tourism has also grown rapidly and today is a sector that generates many economic activities around travel. Leisure, cultural, accommodation or transport activities.

Today, many cities, countries and regions have seen tourism as an economic resource that is in high demand throughout the world and that generates the creation of many companies and jobs. In addition, many of these territories come to specialize in this sector, generating a certain economic dependence on it. As in industrial, agricultural or mining areas.

Due to this, a positive fact is that tourism forces local, regional and national administrations to get involved in the conservation of their historical heritage and natural resources, since the market creates competition, not only in prices, but in quality. That is why in cities where there were degraded and abandoned neighborhoods, they have been rehabilitated and today they are full of bars, restaurants, shops and tourist accommodation.

However, an economy oriented exclusively to tourism generates negative aspects such as overcrowding, environmental deterioration or noise pollution. This mainly hurts the local population, who on many occasions are forced to change residence, fleeing the noise or the high rental prices caused by tourism.

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One example of this is the Portuguese cities of Lisbon and Porto, which, thanks to tourism-oriented policies, have seen in a few years how many of their buildings have been rehabilitated with houses for tourist accommodation and premises for hotels. They are currently cities that attract significant foreign investment, as well as tourists, Erasmus students or manpower from other countries to work in the sector that generates the most jobs.

But it has also encouraged job insecurity, since tourism, without being an industry, has labor characteristics similar to those of jobs on construction sites or in factories, with long hours of work, low salaries that are often supplemented with tips, etc.

There is also the case of Mediterranean cities such as Barcelona or Venice, which are visited by millions of tourists a year, many of them on cruise ship excursions, which also produce significant waste in the Mediterranean Sea.

In the case of Barcelona, the excessive increase in rental prices in the historic center, in addition to the noise, has forced lifelong residents to move to other neighborhoods and to take measures, by the administrations, to regulate tourist flats. In large cities there is a zoning in which in addition to industrial, commercial and residential areas, there are also tourist areas. Perhaps with good planning this is not so negative.

And in the case of Venice, being a tourist city of great historical-artistic heritage value, it has today become a kind of city-museum full of souvenir shops, in which almost nothing remains of a city with its own identity. and quiet to live. In addition, the huge influx of tourists during the summer months has meant that the number of visits is limited and that an entrance fee is charged to visit the city.

A similar situation occurs in other tourist cities. In Amsterdam, as in many areas of the Mediterranean, the so-called "drunken tourism" has increased in recent years. For this reason, in the Netherlands, they are already betting on changing their tourism model towards a more sustainable one. Avoiding large tourist campaigns abroad, promoting proximity tourism and ecotourism in the face of mass tourism.

But the problem goes beyond the cities. The photographs that circulate around the network of the Great Chinese Wall, full of people as if it were a large shopping center, are well known. Or Maya Bay, the spectacular Thai beach made famous by a movie Leonardo Di Caprio shot there, with more tourists taking selfies than sunbathing. And many other natural or historical spaces less known but that suffer, on a different scale, the same overcrowding and deterioration.

In these tourist places it is important to apply tourist taxes or the charge to enter for better protection and maintenance, in addition to increasing the economic productivity of the place where you are. Although this can produce a kind of tourist elitism as already happens, for example in the Mayan ruins of Machu Picchu (Peru). Here there is a huge price difference in transport to the ruins, either by faster and more comfortable train, or by slow and uncomfortable bus and with a section on foot.

Something similar happens with the Camino de Santiago, a type of pilgrimage tourism with a more spiritual and natural essence but which is becoming more and more crowded and has already become a business. Around it there are accommodations, restaurants of increasingly better quality and higher prices. And people selling all kinds of services to the "pilgrims" even transport to carry only the backpack. Perhaps in the not too distant future there will be two types of road, the expensive and the cheap. Is it good to exploit it as an economic resource, or to allow it to maintain its spiritual essence without overcrowding it and thus be accessible to all? Are both things compatible?

Tourists on a walk along the Chinese Wall