Tourist overcrowding is leading to "mistrust and rejection" of tourism, as highlighted in last month's protest in Palma. | Pere Bota


Gabriel Escarrer, the CEO of Mallorca-based Meliá Hotels International, Spain's largest hotel group, has once again pointed to holiday rentals - regulated and unregulated - as being one of the main reasons for tourist saturation and the threat to tourism sustainability.

In his latest LinkedIn Newsletter, Escarrer says that it is difficult not to take a position on an issue that "concerns us all" - the great debate about tourism. He highlights the difficulties in reaching a consensus on measures to be adopted to achieve "sustainable tourism that can coexist in harmony with destinations and generate a positive impact on local communities". (President Marga Prohens does of course hope that there can be a social and political pact for sustainability.)

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Escarrer again targets holiday rentals and the "uncontrolled growth of insufficiently regulated or illegal supply". He argues that expansion of this sector over the last decade is "key" to understanding the situation that many overcrowded destinations are experiencing. This overcrowding is, in turn, leading to "mistrust and rejection (of tourism) by citizens". "This exponential growth in tourist rental places is unsustainable and has a direct impact on access to housing."

He goes on to say that the tourism sector is "mostly aware that we should not grow for the sake of growing". "We should get better without necessarily going further." In this regard, he points to destinations in Spain "that have postponed quality by betting on volume", a strategy that he believes is wrong and which "leads to the degradation and exhaustion of these mature destinations".

Escarrer cites the case of Magaluf and its ongoing transformation. Hotels are emphasising "experiences" and the resort now has high-level gastronomy, an enhanced family tourism offer, and music and literature festivals.