Tourism on the Costa Brava Europe Europeans

Europe -- the continent that produced Greece, Rome, the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution -- has historically been host to more tourism than any other area. Even today most tourists in Europe are Europeans, vacationing away from home in some other country. In addition, Europe is an important historical-cultural destination for overseas visitors and especially for individuals whose forebears departed Europe a generation or more ago to colonize elsewhere, and who now still feel a sense of bond or identity with an ancestral homeland.

Mass tourism is pervasive throughout most of the continent, and the industry is well-organized and economically very important to many countries. However, the attraction of tourists to any given center is highly competitive, and governments have been active and influential in stimulating tourism. Despite good intentions to generate outside income, the promotional techniques have not always been beneficial as Davydd Greenwood shows in chapter 8 that government efforts, using "local color" as a "comeon," proved disruptive to the target community.

In the mid-1960 s, when I first began to look at tourism on the Costa Brava, the majority of tourists still formed part of the generation that had experienced World War II and its aftermath. They were interested in the affordable holiday, the Mediterranean sun and beaches, and the very novelty of foreign travel. Today, the tourists are the children and grandchildren of that postwar generation, and while sun and sea are still major attractions, they have grown up with travel and vacations as a normal part of life. They have also come to expect much the same degree of infrastructural. support whether they visit Spain or some other European country. In a more subtle way, the passage of time has brought about an important structural change: the European tourist who feels comfortable and at home in a given location is increasingly likely to purchase property there and, in due course, to make it his retirement home. For Spain as a whole, we already have to think in terms of more than a million foreign property owners currently purchasing homes at the rate of 50,000 a year. Whatever else it may imply -- and the matter is not unproblematic -- a movement of this scale raises questions respecting the sharp distinctions between the categories of host and guest.

If a change is taking place in the composition of foreign tourism on the Costa Brava (and local officials and other informants tend to support such a view), even more important changes have taken place in the context within which tourism policies are developed. Most critical of all has been the transformation of Spain from a dictatorship to a democracy. Psychologically and culturally, this has done a great deal to end decades of peripheralization; politically, democracy has meant not only elected central and autonomous governments, but an important measure of administrative decentralization.

Without question, these political changes have functioned to make tourism and related issues, such as environmental protection and urban planning, questions about which local people not only have opinions, but the means to make these points of view known and considered as well.

In the meantime, tourism has not only grown to be the leading Spanish industry, but one so successful that it is responsible for two-thirds (twelve thousand million dollars) of the country's positive balance of payments. Indeed, tourism is one of the few bright spots in an economy beset by high unemployment (some 20 percent of the national workforce) and the problems of industrial reconversion. Also, much in the same way as there has been something of a change in the composition of tourist traffic, the more than two decades of profitable seasons has had its influence on the inhabitants of the Costa Brava, most obviously in terms of economic security. Altogether, it should not surprise us that tourism is enjoying a considerably more positive image today than was the case a decade or more ago -- an attitude not limited to those who make their living from this sector.

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