With a busy Christmas travel season ahead, another European city has announced measures to combat overcrowding in its streets over the festivities.
Under plans drawn up by officials in Madrid, Spain to manage security and mobility, a “black level” alert has been declared due to the high numbers of visitors causing both traffic and pedestrian congestion.
“Diversifying and deseasonalising”
Nearly nine million people visited Madrid in 2023, including approximately a million in June alone. And fulfilling TUI boss Sebastian Ebel’s predictions that higher summer temperatures would see holidaymakers extend vacation seasons into the autumn and winter, Spain as a whole is still seeing a wave of popularity as a destination, with October 2023’s international tourist numbers up 13.9% on last year’s figures and November 9.3% up as well.
“We are transforming the historical nature of our tourism,” says Jordi Hereu, Spain’s Minister of Industry and Tourism. “Spain continues to be a leader, the recovery of the sector is absolute and full, but we are diversifying and de-seasonalising the flows, which results in a more sustainable tourism that’s less dependent on the high summer season.”
Héctor Gómez, Acting Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, told euronews: “The tourism sector is one of the main economic engines of our country,” adding, “Spain continues to create jobs linked to tourism activities and does so in an increasingly robust way and always under the motto of quality, stability and excellence.”
“Robust” is one way of describing Madrid’s plans for handling the crowds, which one British newspaper termed “draconian”. Drones will reportedly monitor footfall and crowd movement in the city and trigger shutdowns of certain areas, including private and public transport. More than 1,200 municipal police and additional agents will be on standby to help regulate the crowds, allowing people to exit certain areas but not to enter.
Which areas are likely to be affected?
The rules apply to the whole of the city, but authorities are reported to be particularly concerned about popular historic areas such as Preciados as well as El Carmen, the Plaza del Celenque, the Calle Alcalá, Plaza de Cibeles, where crowds gather around the fountain at times of celebration, and the Gran Vía.
Madrid joins the likes of other Spanish cities, such as Seville, which has introduced rules applying to groups of revellers on appropriate attire and behaviour. Italian and Dutch counterparts too are experimenting with ways to curtail certain types of tourist behaviour and monitor crowding.