Move to ban new hotels in Spain’s San Sebastian due to overtourism

On Spain's Basque coast, the city of San Sebastian, which can host up to 10 visitors for every 100 inhabitants at the height of the tourist season, is set to ban the opening of new hotels to combat overtourism in the city centre.

Making a reservation mandatory for being able to access a destination, temporarily closing a fragile site for a season, limiting the number of tickets available for ferry crossings, regulating the number of visitors via time slots – there are a whole host of solutions that have already been implemented in various popular tourist destinations to try to manage the density of the tourist population.

In most cases, these measures concern natural sites such as the island of Porquerolles, France, or iconic monuments like the Acropolis in Athens. But one destination is looking at the issue from a different angle, that of hotels and lodgings.

In San Sebastian, on the Spanish Basque coast, the idea of banning the construction of new hotels and rentals is gaining ground, as UK newspaper Express reports, relaying the words of the city’s mayor.

Spain’s famous gastronomic destination is said to have recorded an 85% increase in tourist numbers between 2005 and 2019. It is now estimated that there are 10 tourists for every 100 inhabitants in San Sebastian at the height of the season.

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San Sebastian bill to be passed first

The measure, which had already been suggested at the beginning of the year, could come into force next year if the bill is passed.

In concrete terms, it consists of not granting any licences for the opening of new accommodations – hotels and tourist apartments such as those listed on the Airbnb platform. The new ban would only concern a particular, well-defined area, namely the city centre defined as the Centro-Parte Vieja, Gros, Antiguo-Ondarreta, Ibaeta and the Paseo de Francia district, according to Some fear that room rates will rise as a result.

This is not the first time that a ban on new hotel openings has been considered in Spain in an attempt to curb saturation of a city centre.

Back in 2017, Barcelona adopted an urban plan preventing any new hotel construction in the city centre. And if we look only at apartment rentals in the manner of Airbnb, San Sebastian wouldn’t be the first city to ban this type of tourist accommodation, since Palma de Mallorca, in the Balearic Islands, set up such a policy back in 2018.

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