From the Real Alcázar Palace to the imposing tower of the Giralda or its many delightful tapas bars, Seville’s charms attract millions of tourists every year.
But like other Spanish cities, Seville is struggling with its popularity, particularly among French, American and British tourists. Spain is the top travel destination for the UK with an estimated 16.5 million visitors in 2022.
Now, the Andalusian capital is bringing in a tourist rationing system to avoid the kind of environmental damage and strain on services that has provoked an outcry from residents in Barcelona and Palma in Mallorca.
Lanzarote’s president was recently forced to clarify her comments about tourist saturation and the need to attract “higher quality” visitors, which was widely interpreted as a snub to British holidaymakers, saying: “You are and will always be welcome here.”
Seville plans to head off such issues with a high-tech strategy, employing sensors to monitor in real time the number of visitors in the narrow streets of its central Santa Cruz neighbourhood, which holds many of the city’s best known historic buildings.
Linked to a Wi-Fi system, these will feed information back to civic authorities who can close down the central artery of the city for a period until the hordes are cleared by the tourist police. Authorities may also ask restaurants not to put out more tables outside so dawdlers move on.
Federico Rollán, head of the smart tourism office of Seville Council, told i that the city was “working on the control of tourist flows in the most crowded areas of the city centre”.
“Through Wi-Fi, optical sensors and the data that are provided from the antennas of mobile phone operators, we will know in real time the influx of passers-by in the streets of this area. From this data, we will be able to make decisions and promote co-existence between residents and visitors in this area of the city,” he added.
Planners want to encourage tourists to leave the cramped streets of the centre and see what else it has to offer.
The Castle of San Jorge, which was a prison used to torture prisoners during the Spanish Inquisition, is today being used for a modern art and craft exhibition called Masters of the Future, featuring some of the top names in this field, including British artists James Lethbridge, Shannon Clegg and Nick Webb.
“This was a place of torture but today is being used for art which brings beauty to people’s lives,” said Ramon Vergara, the curator.
Another area the city is trying to disperse tourists towards is Setas – mushrooms in Spanish – an enormous viewing platform and museum that looks like something from Star Wars and offers views over the city. Built over Roman ruins, its roof is made of thousands of pieces of wood.
On the outskirts of the city, Isla de la Cartuja straddling the River Guadalquivir is an open area popular for walking and cycling. It was the site of the 1992 Seville Universal Exhibition.
Seville – nominated the European Union capital of smart tourism for 2023 – is the third most popular Spanish city for British tourists after Barcelona and Madrid, attracting 151,000 visitors last year, a rise of 284 per cent compared with 2021.
It hosted more than three million tourists in 2022, not including those who stayed in Airbnb-style accommodation.