How many tourists are just too many?

EVER since Queen Victoria, with her consort Albert, Prince Alfred, Princess Alice, and Princess Helena in tow, visited Killarney in 1861, tourism has been an important part of our economy, especially where alternatives are limited.

We celebrate every opportunity to promote the industry. Though it’s 65 years since John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara came to Ireland to make the stage-Irish classic The Quiet Man, it’s still invoked as a lure for tourists. That process continues thanks to JJ Abrams decision to film Star Wars on Skellig Michael. However, there seems to be a wind shift in how tourism is regarded, if not yet in Ireland then in places where tourism euros are just as appreciated.

A wave of anti-tourism protests has taken place in Europe’s popular destinations. Locals in Barcelona, Mallorca, and San Sebastián have had enough disruption. So great is the impact of the 75m tourists in Spain each year that an anti-tourism march is planned for next week in San Sebastián during Semana Grande — the great festival of Basque culture. Venitians, who host 20m visitors a year, are equally unhappy. So too are the population of Dubrovnik — especially as Airbnb has hit housing costs.

It would not be surprising if Irish interests used the nothing-to-see-here defence but that would threaten the goose laying the golden egg. It may be too early to talk about quotas but it seems prudent to start thinking about the idea.

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