Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia, the north of Spain, is one of the country’s most popular pilgrimage cities with over 300,000 tourists and pilgrims visiting every year.
The mayoress of the city, Goretti Sanmartín, said they are fed up with being a « theme park » and intend to introduce a new tax for visitors.
With the new tourist tax, the local council aims to achieve « controlled quality tourism » and make the historic destination a « comfortable and breathable » place for both locals and holidaymakers.
Sanmartín explained that a tourist tax is necessary to « defend some of the costs » of tourists and wants « planned and controlled growth, with an offer based on authenticity and heritage ».
She added: « I want this municipality to stop being just a tourist destination and a theme park. I want a Santiago from which there is no need to flee due to uncontrolled tourism. »
The city’s goal is to make tourism « different, of quality, » by creating new policies « for the people who live and work » there in order to improve coexistence.
The mayoress explained: “We will look for formulas, for example, so that souvenir shops do not proliferate.
« We will try to rearrange the busiest spaces, such as the descent to San Pedro or Praza do Obradoiro; and we will try to make people aware of this policy of good practices before coming, » she told Praza.gal.
The main concern is that tourists concentrate in the historic city centre, and they need to « know at the origin that they have to respect the rights of the neighbourhood to rest, to occupy the spaces ».
The local council is working on a decalogue of Good Practices to « inform and raise awareness » of all the people who visit Santiago de Compostela.
One of the first issues to be addressed will be the tourist tax, which will contribute to alleviating the negative effects of the activity and « defray some of the costs » of tourists in the destination.
Sanmartín added: « The tourist tax is necessary because there are a series of expenses derived from tourism, which has many positive aspects but also has some prejudices for the city.
« Nobody stops coming to the city because they have a tourist tax and at least contribute to those expenses that tourism generates. »
Santiago de Compostela is visited by thousands of people every year after completing the epic Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail.