19th April 2024
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Seville council wants to charge a fee for visiting its popular Plaza de España

Tourists visiting the Andalusian city of Seville may soon have to pay a fee to explore the wide, ornate Plaza de España square, the council said, as part of plans to control tourist overload in a public open space.

‘We are planning to close the Plaza de España and charge tourists to finance its conservation and ensure its safety,’ Mayor José Luis Sanz wrote on X (formerly Twitter), accompanied with a video showing missing tiles, damaged façades and street vendors occupying alcoves and stairs.

Sánz also said there are plans to create an artisan workshop school in the square and that the earnings from ticket sales will pay for a 24-hour surveillance service.

Complete with a semicircular Neo-Moorish palatial structure framed with tall towers on both ends and four bridges over a moat, the Plaza is part of a complex built for the 1929 Ibero-American Exhibition. Thousands of people from all over the world visit it daily, in horse-drawn carriages or on foot.

The structure served as the set of the 1999 film The Phantom Menace of the Star Wars franchise, and is also a hot spot of cultural life in Seville, hosting concerts, plays and fashion shows.

Although Sanz made clear that local residents would still be allowed free access, many social media users, including those from Seville, were quick to criticise the plan.

Opposition socialist leader and former Seville mayor Antonio Muñoz also criticised Sánz’s plans to ‘privatise’ the iconic square, arguing that ‘nobody would even think of closing off San Marcos Square in Venice or the Plaza de Mayor in Madrid’ and that it essentially represents ‘stealing public space from the general public’.

With more than three million tourists a year and a population of 700,000, Seville is the third most visited city in Spain, which in turn is one of the world’s most visited countries, with tourism representing 13% of GDP.

Many cities are struggling to find balance between much-needed tourism and maintaining their appeal to residents. Italy’s lagoon city of Venice will introduce a trial fee from April to limit the number of day trippers.

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