In many cases, these two tourism models clash and cancel each other out. Where there are undisciplined masses of noisy tourists, it is difficult to find travellers with taste and sensitivity. Quantity vs. Quality. The usual dilemma. What type of tourism does Granada want to capture and what strategies have been designed to achieve it?
Another essential issue of the debate about tourism is the relationship between foreign visitors and residents. Ethan Kent, the vice-president of the NGO Project for Public Spaces, expressed his interesting point of view about the impact of tourism in public spaces that for this reason are not public anymore: “Those responsible for tourism have to invest to create public spaces, not make advertisements. The authorities support tourism by promoting a cheaper version of the city that is seen just as a place to abuse and to take pictures. Then we ask why people choose other places. We need governments that support the local community and organize public spaces with respect for the strong identity of the community, thus offering a deeper and more satisfactory experience to tourists. This way, visitors will feel that they are really playing a role in the place they are visiting. For public spaces, the first thing to take into account are the residents, tourists cannot predominate. By doing this, they will act better and they will feel their contribution to the city thanks to the experiences shared with the locals. In a city with few public spaces, there won’t be a good relationship between tourists and residents.”
A great part of Granada’s economy is based on tourism, and the Alhambra and the Albayzín are the most important tourist attractions of the city. The hotel industry, for example, breaks the records of the number of visitors year after year. Thus, there is open debate on how much overtourism the city can tolerate, particularly in a district whose origins date back to the Middle Age, and where it is not strange to see older people surrounded by Segway tours that are too modern and invasive.
It is fundamental to bear in mind that the cities and the districts are alive and subject to changing processes and mutations. Talking about historical districts, the coexistence between conservative interests and the need to evolve and adapt to the new times causes special conflicts and tensions.
The Albayzín was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO almost 25 years ago. This implies a great campaign for international promotion but, at the same time, the need for the authorities to implement measures of protection. Thus, it is important to think about the numerous challenges of the future to protect this centuries-old district which tries to survive during these complicated current times.