“This is an original manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Tourism Geographies on 26 January 2020, available online:
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14616688.2020.1713878 ” Who is the City For? Overtourism, Lifestyle Migration and Social Sustainability Jaime Jover and Ibán Díaz-Parra Department of Human Geography, Universidad de Sevilla, Seville, Spain
Abstract: Seville, Spain’s fourth largest city and the capital of Andalusia, is one of the most visited cities in the country and increasingly in Europe. Tourism has traditionally been an important sector for the urban economy, but after the 2008 financial crash it has become the city’s main source of income. Tourist numbers have soared over the last decade and they are likely to keep growing now that the Lonely Planet has labelled Seville the best city to visit in 2018 and Airbnb has chosen Andalusia as one of the top destinations for 2019. There has also been an increase in the number of migrants from wealthy countries over the last few years. Not surprisingly, these migrants and tourists share spatial patterns: both generally concentrate on Seville’s historic district and urban centre. We argue that the rapid increase of tourism and the settlement of lifestyle migrants in this part of the city have triggered spatial processes that have delved into social injustice. Therefore, we explore whether the growth of visitor numbers has reached the extent of overtourism, because the tourist infrastructure and its activities may clash with those of local residents. We also study whether the socio-economic profile of many of these residents has changed due to migration, which could potentially mean the beginning of a transnational gentrification process. Seville’s city centre is becoming a privileged place, where the average Sevillian cannot afford to live and is increasingly not comfortable. Our argument is supported by a combination of quantitative (demographic, housing and tourism statistics) and qualitative (interviews) analyses. This case illustrates how tourism helps to reshape historic urban districts and becomes socially unsustainable, as it gradually excludes indigenous communities.
Keywords: overtourism, lifestyle migration, social sustainability, gentrification, historic district, Seville.
1. Introduction ‘Tourism kills the city’ or ‘tourists go home’ have become commonplace stickers and graffiti in southern European urban destinations, prompting debates about ‘tourismophobia’ (Huete and Mantecón, 2018; Milano, 2018). Such fears aside, it is undeniable that social conflict has escalated as tourism has rapidly increased across Mediterranean cities and tourist arrival numbers have broken records. Contestation and mobilisation have increased in these destinations, with urban social movements denouncing tourism’s negative effects or touristification, i.e., tourism-related housing and real estate speculation, congestion and the privatisation of public spaces, the appropriation and commodification of culture or environmental issues, among others (Jover et. al., 2018). Departing from this, a network of European territories – mainly cities – coping with problems in highly popular tourist destinations was established in 2017: the SET (Southern Europe facing Touristification) network. In this paper, we focus on two interrelated processes: overtourism and lifestyle migration, and examine how they are related to the displacement of residents from historic city centres. The impact of tourism on coastal areas has been widely studied in the past, especially in ‘sun and sand’ destinations (Blázquez and Murray, 2010), while studies about the mobility and long-term settlement of expats in search of a better quality of life have also increased, leading to the conceptualisation of lifestyle migration (Benson, 2012; Hayes, 2018). Research has also focused on urban tourism destinations (Ashworth and Page, 2011), among them cultural destinations, ranging from large metropolises to mediumsized cities with an offer based on heritage, underpinned by relevant historic city centres 3 (Richards, 1996; Calle Vaquero, 2006). In this sense, Venice has become a paradigmatic case, where the flow of visitors has led to overtourism (Seraphin et. al., 2018). This situation, we think, may be affecting the social sustainability of local communities by displacing lower-income families, saturating public spaces or decreasing the quality of labour, the latter being a primary concern in contexts where employment is highly seasonal, wages are low, workers are not usually unionised and can potentially suffer from marginalisation (Cañada, 2018; Cheer, 2018). Tourism is receiving growing attention from political economy perspectives (Bianchi, 2018), where critical urban scholars stand out, focusing on the relationship between tourism and urban planning, local politics or socio-spatial processes such as gentrification (CócolaGant, 2018; Sequera and Nofre, 2018). Although these topics have already been discussed in cities with an economy that relies on the sector, the shift towards a sort of tourism dependency after the 2008 financial crisis and the austerity regime imposed in the European Mediterranean context require greater attention (Annunziata and Lees, 2016). We believe research must focus on broadening the cases of study, as well as on building bridges between tourism and urban studies, putting them into dialogue and learning from one another. In this regard, we wonder what the relation of tourism is with classic and transnational gentrification? Are overtourism and lifestyle migration leading to the effective displacement of residents in increasingly tourist urban areas? And are they threating the possibilities of social reproduction of local communities? We answer these questions by establishing comparisons between the increasing flow of visitors and the tourist infrastructure, the arrival of lifestyle migrants and the displacement of local residents in a destination that specialises in cultural tourism. We focus on Seville, Spain’s fourth largest city and the capital of Andalusia, the most populated yet most underdeveloped region in the country, recently labelled as one of Airbnb’s top destinations for 2019. Seville has received record breaking numbers of visitors in recent years, with the latest record being more than 3 million visitors in 2018 thanks to marketing campaigns that managed to secure Lonely Planet’s acknowledgement as the world’s best city to visit that year, among other achievements. Unlike Madrid or Barcelona, Seville has not received as much scholarly attention, despite being one of Spain’s main tourist destinations. Our hypothesis is that current trends in tourism-led urban economies are making traditional residential neighbourhoods within Seville’s historic district socially unsustainable. In the Mediterranean context, historic urban areas suffered disinvestment and population loss during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Before the end of the twentieth century there was a reversal in this trend as a result of urban renewal policies that usually translated into gentrification. We suggest that tourist specialisation jeopardises indigenous communities because it undermines the possibilities of reproduction of long-standing families who are subject to displacement at an even quicker pace than previous waves of local middle and upper class gentrifiers. Therefore, we explore the articulation among different processes taking place on a specific urban area in the past twenty years. 4
2. State of the issue: Overtourism and Lifestyle Migration as Socially Unsustainable in Urban Cultural Destinations Social sustainability is a highly dynamic concept that brings together economic and social aspects, as well as environmental issues. Polese and Stren highlight that cities must be socially sustainable if they are to be environmentally sustainable, defining the former as the adaptability between economic growth and the ‘harmonious evolution of civil society, fostering an environment conducive to the compatible cohabitation of culturally and socially diverse groups while at the same time encouraging social integration’ (2000, p. 15-16). Dempsey et. al. (2009) define urban social sustainability through two key concepts: the sustainability of community and social equity, with the latter referring to a society ‘in which there are no “exclusionary” or discriminatory practices hindering individuals from participating economically, socially and politically in society’. Therefore, social equity also relates to social justice, while the sustainability of the community points to its capability for social reproduction. Taken together, we frame social sustainability as the capacity of indigenous communities to reproduce themselves, preserving their social habits and customs, which includes avoiding physical displacement. Such displacement is deeply unjust as locals are uprooted from the place where they live and have personally developed in many cases for years or decades. Here there is a connection with gentrification as a process that necessarily entails the displacement of local groups from their neighbourhoods. Gentrification involves population substitution by residents with a higher income and normally a higher status too, and is essentially explained by the rule of the market in capitalist cities, which comprises the logics of capital accumulation and its facilitation by public institutions under neoliberalism (Smith, 1996, 2002). When these newcomers are foreign middle and upper classes, we encounter a process of transnational gentrification. This has been addressed in urban contexts such as historic districts in Latin America, where it is driven by lifestyle migrants from the US and Canada (Sigler and Wachsmuth, 2015; Hayes, 2018). Aside from their higher power purchase and the better quality of life that this entails, these places attract them in a similar way as they attract visitors: by offering a unique and authentic urban culture, commonly stemming from material and/or immaterial heritage. In a globalised world, where standardisation of production and culture homogenisation are rapidly increasing at all scales, differentiation has become fundamental. This argument sustained Zukin’s (1995) idea of culture as ‘the business of cities’, because culture cannot relocate whereas it can be easily commoditised and, as an expression of identity, it helps reinforce the social order. Manufacturing symbols, images as well as places – especially in cultural tourism destinations – are key to understanding contemporary urban processes that ultimately contribute to the production of inequalities across the cityscape. In addition to transnational gentrification, scholars studying these phenomena have coined the term tourism gentrification. In this sense, neighbourhood upscaling and 5 socio-spatial segregation in urban areas popular with tourists is a deviation from gentrification (Gotham, 2005, Cócola-Gant, 2018). Although we understand that current waves of urban tourism are strongly interrelated with gentrification theory as regards market logics (such as the Airbnb rent gap, see Wachsmuth and Weisler, 2018) and neoliberal spatial strategies, and as much as tourism could be a key driver in neighbourhood upscaling, their effects differ slightly. The intensification of tourist activity in a specific area cannot be strictly identified as gentrification because there is not population replacement. Rather, touristification seems to be a more accurate term to define the process of rapid change in tourist-led urban economies and its consequences, also taking into consideration issues such as retail transformation, public space appropriation or the quality of air in relation to the enlargement of tourist infrastructures such as airports and cruise quays. Actually, the latter has become one of the sticking points of the aforementioned social movement network against touristification, which has recently signed the Stay Grounded declaration against air traffic expansion (Assemblea de Barris per un Turisme Sostenible, 2019). However, gentrification and touristification share the most important consequence: the displacement of lowerincome households. Overtourism is another way to refer to tourism intensification within and around urban areas. The World Tourism Organization defines it as ‘the impact of tourism on a destination, or parts thereof, that excessively influences perceived quality of life of citizens and/or quality of visitors experiences in a negative way’ (UNWTO, 2018a, p. 4). Likewise, Goodwin (2017, p. 1) says that overtourism ‘describes destinations where hosts or guests, locals or visitors, feel that there are too many visitors and that the quality of life in the area or the quality of the experience has deteriorated unacceptably’. Both definitions focus on perception, which is key to understanding the conceptualisation of overtourism, without forgetting that quantitative data on tourism (travellers, revenues, expenses, etc.) has not stopped growing worldwide over the past few years (see UNWTO yearly data reports). If touristification refers to the consequences of that increase in urban contexts, overtourism deals with the resulting scenario of the process, where two ideas must be highlighted. Firstly, it is not just the number of visitors, but the space they use and how they are distributed. It goes beyond traditional conceptions of tourism congestion or saturation; overtourism refers to a more severe situation. Tourism concentrates in specific urban areas, where public policies – from city marketing to heritage restoration – and private investment converge. These urban hotspots accommodate most of the city’s tourist infrastructure, both demand and offer, including public transportation and facilities, tourist amenities and heritage sites, hotels and hostels, vacation short-term rentals, restaurants, cafés and pubs as well as any other tourism-oriented leisure businesses. A spatially uneven distribution leads to touristification in an area that generally is or at least used to be mainly residential, so urban functions come into conflict, potentially spreading to surrounding neighbourhoods too. Secondly, overtourism occurs in a context where tourism has become monopolistic, i.e., the majority of new businesses that open are related directly or indirectly to tourism, in line with public policies that focus on attracting capital and 6 visitors. The high specialisation also means the restructuring of the urban economy, potentially dismantling other sectors, which could go beyond the city limits and spread across its hinterland (Murray, 2015). In this context locals’ perceptions of tourism change, following previous definitions. However, far from being a uniform phenomenon, overtourism develops differently depending on the local, regional and national contexts. We agree with both the UNWTO (2018a) and recent research (Koens et. al., 2018) that has pointed out that overtourism is not a tourism-only problem. The argument is that tourism competes with residential functions or urban mobility to the extent of making them difficult or blocking them, once that cities were not initially thought of as touristic places–as did Disneyland, for instance–. Their valorisation and signification as heritage, and therefore their motivation to become cultural assets and participate in the accumulation of capital through tourism came afterwards (Eramo, 2014). Historic urban areas have joined tourist circuits, bringing about pressure on their residential function and social infrastructures, and jeopardising indigenous communities. Better-off foreigners who profit from the atmosphere created for tourist purposes and the facilities further intensify this process, despite there being differences between migrants and visitors in terms of adjusting to the urban culture, understanding the city and behaving accordingly. We must distinguish between those foreigners who spend a few hours or nights in a city, and those who stay longer because their integration, i.e., their relationship with the space and their own social bonds, is not be the same. Yet there might always be particularities amongst a wide range of cases: there will be lifestyle migrants who do not wish to integrate or tourists who are highly sensitive towards the places they visit. Overtourism remains under-theorised in academic literature. As Milano (2018) and Koens et. al. (2018) posit, tourism’s negative effects are not new; rather it seems as if old concerns have been reshaped. Nevertheless, this idea is disputable after the restructuration of capitalist cities towards expanding the tourist sector in the context of crisis, especially in the Mediterranean. The proliferation of peer-to-peer platforms such as Airbnb or Homeaway, the expansion of low-cost airlines or the deseasonalisation of tourist destinations are factors that explain this restructuring. At the same time, the response to the spread of tourism in urban areas has reached a new social climax, as we have already mentioned. Solutions must be innovative, and so far have focused on regulating the short-term holiday rental market, which has been identified as one of the main issues causing social unrest (Blanco-Romero et. al., 2018). Tourism’s growing social unsustainability needs examination given its unfair consequences to local populations and how it articulates with processes driven by privileged local groups, which could even threaten those communities created after previous processes of gentrification. Moreover, the damage these phenomena inflect on the destination is worth studying, as it has the potential for turning into intolerance and anger towards tourism, and therefore not just destroying part of the city’s social and cultural fabric, but also its condition as an economic resource. This is why we address the relationship 7 between overtourism and lifestyle migration linked with processes of gentrification and touristification through the lens of social sustainability, trying to contribute to debates on both tourism and urban studies.
3. Methodology and sources
We combine quantitative and qualitative methodologies at two scales of analysis: the national and regional, in particular the city. The first analysis serves as contextualisation for the case study of Seville, and draws on tourism, migration and housing statistics (from the 2001 census to the most recent data available), coupled with the main bibliography on the topic. At the city scale, we begin by giving a general overview of Seville’s historic district from the beginning of the twenty-first century, using academic literature and planning documents. We have also identified and assessed city sights by analysing local guides and the promotion they receive on Seville’s official tourism website (Turismo de Sevilla: https://www.visitasevilla.es/turismo-de-sevilla). We then move on to examine overtourism and lifestyle migration as being potentially socially unsustainable for Seville’s historic district. But, before, we draw on a different set of data to compare the evolution of Seville as a whole in relation to the historic district. In this sense, we explore demographic changes through variations in total population, age and level of studies, which could entail demographic revitalization or decline in relation to gentrification. Lifestyle migration numbers come from data on residents from wealthy foreign countries. Data on population is readily available from the yearly city statistics, whereas data on residents’ nationality or level of studies are restricted to census years (2001 and 2011). We also examine overtourism through statistics that indicate the specialisation in the area studied, focusing on the total increase in tourists and the evolution and distribution (applying a Kernel method) of the total number of tourist accommodation establishments and beds. To do so, we use the Andalusian Tourism Register and the collaborative project DataHippo (https://datahippo.org/en/), which gathers data directly from Airbnb and Homeaway websites. Quantitative analyses overlap with responses from 17 in-depth interviews we recently carried out with people from different backgrounds, divided into three profiles.
Firstly, we conducted 6 extensive interviews with current foreign residents of the area of study (EA), who have been living there for between 2 to 38 years, and who originally come from France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. They all fit the description of a lifestyle migrant, not just because they come from a wealthier country, but also because they decided to settle in Seville due to the cultural appeal of the city and especially of its historic district. Secondly, we interviewed 6 former residents of Seville’s historic district, all aged under 50 and who have moved or have been displaced in recent years (EB). All share a similar socio-demographical profile: adults living in reduced households with highly skilled members, as became predominant in the district at the beginning of the twenty-first century. They have another common factor: all still live in Seville. When they decided or had to move out of the district, they looked for a location 8 in nearby neighbourhoods so they would be as close as possible to where they used to reside. Because of this, we can reject the idea that their cases fit the cycle of creation of new households in the transition from young adults to midlife, which usually involves movement from the inner city to suburban locations and entails a completely different process. Within this group of former residents there are two Sevillians, two Spanish non-Andalusians (originally from Madrid) and two foreigners (Argentinian and French). Thirdly, we interviewed 5 Spanish residents (EC) who moved into the historic district during the period of study. These two last groups of participants helped us to understand the historic district’s demography (revitalisation or decline) and its connection to gentrification. All three profiles were also asked about how they have experienced the transformation of the historic district as a tourist destination, conflicts between residential and tourist functions, as well as factors of displacement. The recruitment strategy for finding our interviewees followed the snowball effect: the researchers talked to or sent emails to friends and acquaintances, asking for contacts in their networks that would fit any of the three categories. Out of all the responses, the researchers selected those who met the requirements, aiming for background diversity (in terms of age, nationality, level of studies, years residing in Seville) within each of the profiles.
4.1. National: Spain and Andalusia as a destination for foreigners Tourism is undeniably one of the most important economic sectors worldwide, gaining weight yearly. Southern Europe helped sustain that global growth, up to 12.8% in 2017, and Spain was one of the international arrivals largest earners with 8.6% more than the previous year. A total of 81.8 million tourists visited Spain in 2017, the second most popular destination in the world (UNWTO, 2018b). However, there is an uneven distribution of tourism within the country: some regions like Andalusia have a higher specialisation than others. Reasons are found in recent history. Spain began specialising in tourism during the rule of the fascist dictator Francisco Franco (1939-1975), particularly from the 1960s onwards when ‘desarrollism’ began. As Murray (2015) has studied, Spain became a perfect target for recycling international capital by investing in real estate and at the same time satisfying an increasing tourist demand. The transition of Spain towards a liberal democracy in the early 1980s coincided with the rise of neoliberalism, and therefore the economy restructured sharply towards services, deepening its specialisation in tourism and real estate. The development of both sectors is key to understanding Spain’s and Andalusia’s most recent periods of economic growth and crisis, which illustrates the fluctuation of foreign investment in real estate (Jover and Díaz-Parra, 2019) or hotel financing (Yrigoy, 2016). Following this growth there has been a greater presence of foreigners in both Spain and Andalusia. At the end of the twentieth century, migrants did not even make up 3% of 9 the Spanish population, while in 2011 they represented almost 12%, with a similar figure being registered for Andalusia (data taken from Population and Housing Censuses, Spanish Statistics Office). As the twentieth century drew to a close, most migrants arriving in Spain came from African and Latin American countries, whereas the first years of the new century witnessed a rise in the number of migrants from EU states. As a result, there has been an increase in foreigners purchasing houses in Spain, depending on the economic situation. In 2006, almost 9% of the market share in real estate belonged to migrants, with the British being the largest group of buyers. Sales to Ecuadorians, Moroccans and Romanians also increased, following the growth of these nationals settling in the country (data taken from College of Spanish Property Registrars statistical yearbooks). In 2010, as the real estate bubble burst, housing prices continued to be relatively high and unemployment grew, the Spanish migratory balance reversed and foreign housing buyers fell to 4.45%, with British, French and German buyers still being active. New buyers have emerged from Russia and Nordic countries since 2012, with a particularity: the international share of the market grew, while the numbers of total dwellings sold fell by more than 100,000 compared to 2010. Although house purchases have not recovered their pre-crisis peak, since 2016 the market has been reactivated, in part due to migrants who now represent 13.11% of the total number of buyers (13.84% in Andalusia). These foreign purchasers, mainly from wealthy northern European countries, have been fundamental for the Spanish real estate market during the crisis years. Among them there are many investors, but also lifestyle migrants who buy a second home, especially in regions such as Andalusia. 4.2. Local context: Seville’s historic district as a tourist space Seville’s tourist success is not entirely novel. In 1929 the city hosted the IberoAmerican Exhibition with the purpose of restoring its commercial ties with Latin America. As a result, urban restructuring was intense, significantly in the Santa Cruz quarter (Díaz-Parra, 2016). The latter became one of the main tourist attractions after the slight opening of Franco’s regime in the 1960s. By that time, Seville’s urban growth had surpassed the city walls and the historic district’s population declined. That trend continued for decades as the city spread, but distribution was socio-spatially uneven (Cruz Villalón, 1986). In general terms, the historic district’s northern half was traditionally where housing for the working classes was located, as well as low intensity industries, which were socially stigmatised and dismantled respectively through the second half of the twentieth century. Despite strong depopulation, density was still higher than in the southern half, where the council fostered tertiary uses. This area became the city’s shopping precinct, turning its public spaces into commercial streets that shared this function with administrative or religious buildings, which had been located in this southern part for centuries. It has traditionally been recognised as the city centre (Villar Lama and Fernández-Tabales, 2017). The main tourist attractions are located here, including the city’s UNESCO World Heritage sites: the Cathedral, the Royal Palace and the Archives of the Indies.
Distribution and intensity of tourist attractions in Seville. Source: Authors based on the official Seville tourism website and fieldwork. The listing of these monuments dates back to 1987, when the first City Master Plan under democracy was approved. This document guaranteed the largest urban restructuring since 1929, coinciding with another world event: the Universal Expo in 1992. After decades of neglect, the exhibition was an excuse to recover the city’s cultural heritage and boost tourism. Therefore, urban planning concentrated its efforts on renovating those quarters that had suffered from abandonment in the historic district’s northern area, leading to strong speculative tensions during the 1990s and resulting in gentrification dominated by local middle classes (Díaz-Parra, 2010, 2014). The following and currently lasting City Master Plan of 2006, alongside city-brand strategies (Seville City Council, 2003, 2006) elaborate on this idea of turning the whole historic district and more especially its northern half into a privileged, tourist-friendly space (Jover and Díaz-Parra, 2019; Jover, 2019). Among others, public policies have allowed new tourist infrastructures, reduced to a minimum the few existing public housing developments or adopted a flexible idea of restoration when it comes to renovating historic buildings. Nonetheless most of the tourist infrastructure can still be found in the southern half. Figure 1 shows the importance of this area regarding the distribution of the main tourist attraction hubs on three levels of intensity. 11 Figure 2: Total population in Seville and its historic district (2001-2017). Source: Authors from Seville City Council Statistics Service.
5. Findings: Changing dynamics within Seville’s historic district 5.1 Revitalization and gentrification The trends within Seville’s historic district of population decline and aging that had started in the 1990s reversed in the new millennium. Figures 2 and 3 compare changes in total population and the elderly rate respectively between Seville and its historic district since the beginning of the twenty-first century. At this time the population grew by more than 13%, while the elderly rate (the segment of population older than 65) decreased by nearly 3%. Rejuvenation was the result of new younger households, because elders’ absolute numbers remain stagnated. This is especially meaningful once Seville as a whole had the opposite tendency: stationary population growth and the elderly rate rising by 2%. Therefore, Seville city centre’s particular dynamic responded to the settlement of new residents with a specific profile: young adults with high levels of education and highly skilled jobs. According to the national censuses, numbers of university graduates in the district between 2001 and 2011 grew from 19.79% to 43.02%, while the illiteracy rate fell from 15.9% to a marginal 2.68% (Spanish Statistics Office). But, as the economy started to recover after the 2008 financial crisis, the tendency changed. In 2012, the historic district began losing population yearly, while the elderly rate grew, ranking almost equally with that of Seville as a whole. Again, this rise does not go hand in hand with an increase in the number of elders, so it can only mean the displacement of young households.
12 Figure 3: Elderly rate in Seville and its historic district (2001-2017). Source: Authors from Seville City Council Statistics Service.
We have identified a first wave of local middle-class gentrification approximately between 1995 and 2012, which is confirmed by current and former residents who we interviewed and who settled in the district during that period. As regards their reasons, they generally highlight the existence of a communitarian milieu, that either existed previously or was created by the new settlers. Nearly all the Spanish respondents mentioned the pre-existence of a network of friends living there, as well as shops, pubs, squares and other spaces of socialisation. Another topic in line with the communitarian milieu is the conception of the area as a ‘barrio’, underlining its own personality and the close and friendly relations between residents. Participants refer to people frequently greeting each other in the streets, shops and pubs where they would go any time with a high probability of bumping into friends. In their opinion, cultural life (bookshops, cafés with live music, cinemas, etc.) also gives personality to the historic district and is a factor in attracting new residents. EB4 said: ‘I liked the aesthetics too. I came from Madrid, huge and impersonal, and I enjoyed living in a “barrio” of little cute houses… I had the feeling of living in a story, a special place, authentic, as if I were on a permanent vacation’. Besides the socio-cultural element, other reasons to live in the area are proximity to their jobs, mostly highly skilled (EB1 works in an architecture studio, EB3 and EB4 are studying at the university) or owning a pub (EB2 and EC2). Every interviewee who settled before 2010 made it clear that the area offered the opportunity to stay. They usually refer to large and roomy flats with relatively low rents, and some of them who are owners after buying in the 1990s (EC1 and EC4) also remember reasonable housing prices. EC1 is a civil servant who moved in at the end of the 1980s, when: ‘We used to call the neighbourhood [San Luis, in the district’s northern area] Beirut … they developed new buildings, renovated old ones, streets, squares… I 13 imagine they expelled long-standing residents or the older ones progressively died, and then more expensive flats began to appear … We were lucky because we bought in 1988. My brother bought an adjacent flat, very cheaply. He sold it a few years later, making a high profit, because he wanted a larger one to have a family. Already in the 1990s there was a boom on flat prices’ EC1 also makes reference to the social strata that used to live in her neighbourhood: ‘Before there were a lot of low-class people, drug users… There were many corrales de vecinos [old collective tenants’ houses that were very common in Andalusian cities]. Some were lifelong residents and others were homeless or squatters. I saw the police foreclosing entire buildings’. EB1 depicts and summarises a similar idea. She moved in the early 2000s and left in 2016, and suggested two processes of population substitution: ‘Initially, only people with low salaries or even marginal people lived here … they were displaced, sometimes in a violent way. We, younger people, came because renting was cheap. I think we tried to live together with old residents. The second substitution process is of residents by tourists’. 5.2. Overtourism The growing tourist appeal of Seville’s historic district is a recurrent theme in almost all interviews. An idea that revolves around is that, as the gentrification frontier – using Smith’s (1996) conceptualisation – has expanded, so has tourism, which has not stopped growing in Seville since the beginning of the century. In 2001, there was an average of 450 tourist accommodation establishments: 150 hotels and hostels and 300 holiday apartments. The latter are usually inexpensive short-stay lodgings that abide by the tourist legislation and include a series of rooms within the same vicinity, normally an entire building – guesthouses would be a good example. Hotels and hostels had the largest share of estimated tourist beds in 2001: 14,131 compared to just 700 in the case of apartments. Figure 4 shows official data on the evolution of tourist beds over the past few years. Seville’s accommodation offer stagnated between 2006 and 2009, the worst years of the crisis, when national arrivals dropped dramatically. However, since 2010 there has been an increase in the number of hotel and hostel beds again. Apartments have behaved differently: there was a slight decrease in 2013, precisely a few months after Airbnb landed in the Spanish market. A year later apartments grew again, with 2014 and 2015 being the turning point for short-term rentals in Seville. The ease of advertising on these platforms and Seville’s success as a tourist destination meant that many Sevillians chose to rent entire flats and houses to visitors as a permanent business. Until 2016, most short-term vacation rentals were unregulated, except for those that were officially recognised as apartments. In this year the Andalusian government passed new legislation that enforced administrative control over this business through licenses, so a difference with hotels and especially apartments was made and statistics began. Unlike apartments, tourist homes do not have to be in a building for tourist purposes, rather they usually are in those with a residential use. A tourist home can be a room in a private house or, as in most cases – up to almost 78% –, an entire property. Beds in that 14 accommodation category have skyrocketed ever since, up to 18,468 in 3,897 tourist homes, whereas there are currently 22,140 beds in 218 hotels and hostels across the city. When all the establishments are added together there are 44,220 beds in Seville, a figure that undoubtedly falls short, as beds in tourist homes only show a partial reality because many are operating without a license.
Figure 4. Tourist beds in Seville (2001-2018). Source: Authors from Spanish Statistics Office (for hotels & hostels) and Andalusian Tourism Register (for tourist apartments and homes).
This issue is readily visible if we compare official and advertised data for tourist homes. DataHippo indicates there were 9,553 tourist homes in the city on Airbnb and Homeaway websites in 2018, although the figure might be lower due to aggregation issues. Yet, as we have said, overtourism is not just about the accommodation offer. Figure 5 (left and right) show respectively the distribution of tourist homes and hotels, as well as their spatial density. Both variables concentrate on Seville’s historic district, and behave differently. Hotels cluster around the district’s southern half, close to the UNESCO sites in Santa Cruz and to the west, in the Arenal and Museo neighbourhoods. Unlike hotels, tourist homes are spread over the historic district, including the northern area, with a huge concentration in the Santa Cruz, Alfalfa and Alameda quarters. Arenal and Museo are also popular, as is Triana across the river. The increase in the offer should not surprise us if we take into account how demand has evolved. According to the Spanish Statistics Office, tourist numbers have grown by 80% in the past decade, with overnight stays reaching 5.5 million in 2018. Regarding distribution patterns, hotels follow the logic of the southern half of the district being the city centre. Respondents to our survey generally made a strong differentiation too. More precisely, they, especially those who have been residents for longer periods of time, tend to talk about the southern half as being almost entirely specialised in tourism. As has been said, there is a perception of tourism expansion 15 towards new spaces, especially in the northern quarters, where many participants live or used to live. Some are bemused to see groups of visitors entering a part of the city where ‘chavs used to hang out’ (EB2) or homeless people still gather (EB4). Besides, the feeling is stronger once tourism is no longer confined to particular seasons: ‘My perception is that there was tourism before, but only in summer and in the south side. They [the tourists] didn’t come here [to the northern quarters]. Now they do. I don’t know whether there are more tourists or if they walk further’ (EB4).
Figure 5. Distribution and density of tourist homes (left) and hotels (right) in Seville historic district in 2018. Source: Authors from DataHippo (for tourist homes) and Seville City Council spatial data infrastructure (for hotels).
Most interviewees, especially those who were forced out of the district, point to a ‘tourism breakdown’ in certain areas. Some (EB1, EB4, EB5 and EB6) link the increase of tourists with the rise in the cost of living. EB2 claims she stopped walking through certain streets where visitors pass by in the five years before she moved out, which she did recently. She also feels that because of tourism, meeting points for people living in the area have decreased, as shops constantly change and public squares are overcrowded. Respondents perceive an increase in dirtiness too, pointing to tourists’ behaviour, what alternatively would be bringing about locals caring less for their public spaces. Actually, EB4 blames residents for this situation: ‘Tourists don’t bother me. What does are people who always give priority to foreigners, instead of making easier living conditions for residents’. In this sense, EB6, a French national who has been living in Seville for years and used to reside in the historic district, told us of a recent 16 anecdote: ‘A very unpleasant thing happened in a pub that used to be one of my old haunts... One morning I decided to go there on my own to have breakfast. The bill was 3 euros for half a piece of toast and a cup of coffee [very expensive by Seville’s standards], and it was because I look like a tourist, so I decided not to go back anymore’. 5.3. Lifestyle migration Seville’s foreign population has increased in the years under scrutiny from 2.3% in 2001 to more than 7% in 2017, despite some deceleration registered in 2015. Most migrants have economic grounds for moving (Torres et. al., 2011), but there is also room to consider lifestyle migrants. The aggregation of population from the top 20 Human Development Index nationalities in Seville is up to 3% of the city’s total population, while the top 5 OECD nationalities more common is below 1%. However, the spatial distribution of these migrants is worth studying. The percentage of Sevillians in the historic district is lower than in the city as a whole, decreasing in the years under scrutiny, whereas numbers of non-Sevillian Spaniards remain stable. By contrast, foreign residents in the district have gone from making up almost 4% of the population in 2001 to 15% today, with significant growth being the result of lifestyle migrants, especially those from the top 5 OECD nationalities (British, French, Germans, Italians and North Americans) who make up 40% of the district’s foreign population. In 2001, the most widely represented nationalities in the district came from Latin America, Africa and Asia, which changed in 2011. For example, numbers of Moroccans fell from 8.1% of foreigners in the district in 2001 to 5.5% in 2011, while Italians went from 6.5% to 10.7% over the same period (data from national censuses, Spanish Statistical Office). Despite this, the top 5 OECD nationalities follow a similar tendency to national residents in the district, growing in the century’s first decade to then decrease after 2013. However, they are still relevant and growing in comparison to the city as a whole, as seen in Figure 6.
Figure 6. Top 5 OECD nationalities and their relative weight in Seville and its historic district. 17 Source: Authors from Seville City Council Statistics Service.
As for the reasons as to why they settle there, expats living in the area can shed some light. Many recognised they came for leisure or to study, and decided to stay in large part due to the historic district, putting forward a cultural argument. For example, EA2, a French national in her thirties, says: ‘I wasn’t sure why, but I wanted to live here, it has something special, the historic side, the charm, the colour, the light’. Similarly, EA5, a German who has lived in Seville for 38 years, mentions the city attracted him because of ‘the love, the magic, the fantasy… the flamenco, its freedom and rebel’. In parallel, there is the idea of a community feel that previous respondents also brought up. EA1, a 40 year-old Italian who settled in the northern side of the district in 2004, says ‘I love to hit the street knowing something may come up. In Italy you meet up friends and have to be punctual, here you don’t arrange anything, you come across people’. EA2 also comments on the district’s northern side: ‘I like the “barrio” atmosphere, the little shops, the friendly environment where people know each other’. EA4 and EA6 share similar reflections, although they have moved in recently (5 and 2 years ago respectively), so their opinions differ. EA4, a retiree from the Netherlands who sold his house in his homeland to buy and restore an old building in Seville that he now rents partially on Airbnb, highlights: ‘I enjoy the streets, the bars, everything is cheap and authentic’. EA6, an Italian in her early thirties who works as a hotel receptionist, mentions she often enjoys being around fellow countrymen: ‘My favourite place is in Alameda… When I want something familiar or I want to relax, I go to a café there. I’m friends with the owner, he’s Italian too’. Most participants have friends from their nationality living nearby, highlighting it as another reason why they like the district besides proximity to their jobs or to services. EA6 is not the only interviewee working in the tourist sector; EA2 is tourist guide, while EA3 has a restaurant precisely in Alameda quarter whose clientele is increasingly foreign. EA1 recognised she has also thought about changing jobs and do something related to tourism, although her testimony is relevant in another direction. She commented that her main reason for settling here was cheap rents, highlighting how prices have risen: ‘I lived close to Alameda for 10 years (between 2004 and 2014). Rent was €370 for 70 square metres. Then I moved to another place and I paid €400 for 50 square metres… Recently I found a tiny attic for €250, but I had to move again. When the owner said I had to go it didn’t surprise me, because he had refurbished the floor below me and turned one house into two. One of the builders told me it was for holiday rentals. Other residents in the building didn’t agree [with what he was doing].’ EA5 confirms he and his colleagues, many of them also expats, have noticed this process, and reflects on it: ‘I guess everybody looks for the same: the picturesque, the beauty, the lifestyle in the streets too. That’s what the historic district had, especially before. Now it is another thing, closer to a theme park’. It is notable that all participants, to different degrees, have noticed urban transformations in recent years. Even EA6, who 18 only arrived recently but did her Erasmus in Seville ten years ago, has experienced it: ‘Prices have gone up, you can’t find flats for workers or students, it’s all for tourists… Before you could choose between 10 flats with more or less a similar rent, but now you only have 3 apartments in bad shape and really overpriced’. Most respondents also recognised that they deliberately avoid certain areas where tourism is more intense, around the UNESCO sites, and would only go there when they have visitors. EA5 insisted: ‘Tourism is necessary and good, but it has become a servitude. Any new store that opens is another franchise, another bar, and another souvenir shop. There’s no alternative here’. EA1 and EA6 share this thought, and this latter comment: ‘Thanks to tourism I can make a living in Seville. But there are bad things, such as the higher rents and the erasure of traditional places. For example, there are many hipster bars opening… In town you just find artificial places now. Which isn’t wrong at all, I like to have a frappucchino sometimes, but I remember when there was one Starbucks, now there are so many!’ 5.4. Displacement and social unsustainability There are two key ideas that local and foreign residents generally perceive. Firstly, there is the production of an urban community or ‘barrio’ in the successive processes of settlement in the historic district, despite – and indeed sometimes as part of – gentrification. Nevertheless, many interviewees describe these communities as ephemeral, as people, businesses and places have been constantly changing for the past two decades. In fact, many feel a sort of distance and resentment towards the area. Related to this, there is also a rejection of overcrowding of people in the streets, shops and pubs, as well as road traffic congestion. For example, EB3 was abroad for some time, and when she returned to Seville: ‘I didn’t want to come back to the city centre, because the “barrio” I knew wasn’t there anymore’. The feeling of some kind of displacement is strong, with different views being adopted. Some consider themselves at a disadvantage due to the rising of the cost of living, both in terms of rents and basic goods, delving into the feeling of estrangement from the place – often even if they still reside in the area. Others have a similar perception, but have moved away because they wanted to buy instead of rent. For instance, EB6 comments that ‘we decided to buy a flat because we wouldn’t afford rising rents in the city centre’, while EA2, who is looking for a flat at the moment, links this increase in rents to short-term rentals: ‘There are way more vacation homes, I barely have neighbours now. The building next to mine is entirely for tourists. In my building there are four [shortterm rentals] … I liked going on holidays knowing the person across the corridor has my number in case anything happened. Now I never know who’s there. That bothers me… When I’m at work, tourists ask me how much I pay and where I live. Then they tell me they are staying in a beautiful Airbnb, and they aren’t aware that a family used to live there before paying a normal rent, and now they can’t because it has risen too much.’ 19 EA2 has also noticed how supermarket franchises targeting tourists have increased. In general, there is a perception of displacement of traditional retail typologies (local shops and pubs) in favour of franchises and large firms. For instance, EB4 states: ‘With time, there weren’t local shops anymore, just franchises, even the market [Mercado de Feria, close to Alameda] had become expensive… many greengrocers and fishmongers closed… even the hardware store closed!’. In line with land uses within the district, many participants also make a significant differentiation between quarters. EB1 claims to have changed her social relation’s centre of gravity progressively from west to east, before leaving the district. She was first evicted from San Lorenzo and moved eastwards to Alameda, but soon after she felt nightlife and tourism had taken over the area so decided to leave. Likewise, EB2 and EB4 moved from Alameda to San Julián (in the district’s north-east corner) before moving out. EA1 and EA6 have followed a similar path but managed to remain in the district. Taken together, interviewees’ reasons to move towards other areas are the rise in the cost of living, where housing prices are fundamental, and more broadly escaping from the impact of tourism in the socio-cultural fabric. It is significant that among both current and former residents there is a feeling of disorientation that is the opposite of the sense of community that attracted many of them to the area at first. ‘Before, you knew the bartenders, the pub owners, your neighbours… Now you don’t know if they are from Madrid or China. It changes a lot, pubs are open for two years and they change again’ (EB1). EA1 and EA2 share that view, and the latter adds: ‘If tourists ask me… I’d rather recommend tourist quarters like Santa Cruz, because it’s already ruined, than suggest they go to other traditional “barrios” in the district’. EB3 states: ‘The district is depersonalized. It changes every six months, shops and people, so is harder and harder to make social bonds … Only homeowners stay, you can’t stay renting nowadays… My feeling is the city centre is not a “barrio” anymore. You don’t know your neighbours because of vacation homes. Before there were more people living in the area, living there all year round.’ EC1 and EC2 share this perception, but not all current residents agree here. For instance, EC4, a professional who moved in at the beginning of the 1990s, likes the transformation of the built environment and the social milieu around Alameda. In his opinion, the square’s renewal has made anybody in the city to use the space, whereas before it was appropriated by very specific social groups. The area has changed from a marginal place with a strong underground culture to a metropolitan quarter for Seville’s entire population and visitors. A few current and former residents share this opinion (EA5, EB1 and EC3). Similarly, those who have settled down recently also have a positive view on these particular upscaling transformations and do not feel distance or resentment as long-standing residents do. This would be the cases of EA6 or EC5, a young professional who moved in recently and views the cultural activities in the area positively, perceiving a sense of community. 20
6. Discussion and conclusion
As we have shown, the population of Seville’s historic district declines from 2012 onwards, being a turning point compared to previous tendencies. This reduction corresponds to a decrease in adult households, precisely a group that had been growing since the 1990s. A possible explanation would be that a transnational gentrification process is taking place, where local low and middle classes are expelled from the district as a consequence of rising rents and cost of living, being replaced by lifestyle migrants with higher purchasing power. However, demographic data and expats’ testimonies illustrate how foreign households from richer countries may also struggle and, in some cases, are being displaced in a similar way to the local population in the area. All lifestyle migrants interviewed decided to settle in Seville’s historic district for cultural- and/or leisure-related reasons, yet not all enjoy a higher purchasing power, which could be assumed because of their nationality. Therefore in a few cases their behaviour in terms of where to work – for instance in the tourist sector – and to live shares similarities with that of Sevillians. Therefore, there is not enough evidence to sustain that a process of transnational gentrification is active. Lifestyle migrants’ consumer practices may be intertwined in many cases with those of tourists, and their role in attracting tourism could be worth studying in-depth, but they are not at the core of the urban transformations and increasing social unsustainability taking place in Seville’s historic district.
Lifestyle migrants cannot be strictly assimilated to tourists when it comes to analysing urban processes, as they may experience the consequences of touristification too. The historic district’s population decline since 2012 coincides with the recovery after the economic crisis, and more specifically, with an increase in tourism numbers, following strategies that had been planned out in some cases even before the crisis. As we have seen, these increasing numbers correspond to the accommodation offer, especially the boom in short-term vacation rentals, and to the demand, which has grown at the same time as permanent residents (indigenous or foreign) have been decreasing in number. Therefore, an alternative explanation to the process is that tourists are competing for space – mainly in the housing market – with residents, forcing out those with less income. This explanation coincides with the perception of both former and most current residents of the historic district, who highlight the ever-changing quarters, where every season there are new people and a growing number of trendy shops. As a result, the character of the ‘barrio’ vanishes and even perceived ‘authenticity’ disappears, which in local cultural codes means the absence of anything resembling a community. Previous processes of gentrification in Seville’s historic district were ethically questionable and profoundly unjust, as there is evidence of the displacement of indigenous communities since the early 1990s. Nevertheless, local or foreign middle classes settling in the area were at least creating new communities, a possibility that current urban processes make more difficult nowadays. 21 The high specialisation in tourism and its distribution towards traditionally residential quarters is culminating in overtourism of those areas instead of alleviating already saturated hotspots. Drawing on demographic and tourism statistics combined with the analysis of residents’ perceptions, Seville’s historic district is suffering from overtourism, with there being differences between neighbourhoods such as Santa Cruz, Alfalfa or Alameda. Figures may not be as high as in other urban Mediterranean destinations like Barcelona or Venice, but the effects on the socio-cultural fabric share similarities due to a strong spatial concentration. Understood as an increase in tourist activity that reduces the attractiveness of the conditions that make it possible, overtourism is affecting residents, both nationals and foreigners, who increasingly avoid the most tourist areas or are disappointed because the neighbourhood they moved to has changed radically. Furthermore, many of these residents cannot afford to live in the historic district due to touristification, as a few of our participants have recognised to differing extents. All this together is not only making the reproduction of the already shrinking traditional local communities impossible, but it also makes the development of new stable communities impossible. Seville’s historic district is socially unsustainable as these processes produce a city that is only for visitors and that has come to reject many of those who actually live in it and shape it every day. However, further research on the topic is needed to establish a correlation between displacement and increasing tourism or to deepen our knowledge of how overtourism affects visitors’ perceptions, as well as more studies on a micro scale, focusing on particular neighbourhoods or even on significant streets. Funding We acknowledge support from the Portuguese Science and Technology Research Council (FCT) within the scope of the SMARTOUR project (Ref: PTDC/GESURB/30551/2017) and the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation through the LIKEALOCAL project (Ref: RTI2018-093479-A-I00).
Acknowledgment We would like to thank two anonymous referees for their insightful comments on a previous draft of this paper. The usual disclaimers apply. Disclosure statement No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
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