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Aug. 17, 2019 | Saturday
Local News
Letter to the editor: Increased parking fees welcome
File photo.

SUBMITTED BY SANDRA DAVIS.
OPINION

Concerns expressed by the NOTL Chamber of Commerce regarding a parking fee increase for tour buses using the lot at Fort George fail to consider three key issues: the economic benefits bus visitors generate in the town versus those provided by longer-term visitors, and the impact of rampant tourism on residents as well as town infrastructure.

On Jan. 13, CBC’s Sunday Edition aired a program on “overtourism”, which looked at the issue mostly in relation to tourist hotspots in Europe. Some of the comments made during the program could also apply to NOTL and Old Town in particular: “As a growing, global middle class gains increasing access to low-cost travel, residents in tourism hotspots say they are overrun. Housing costs are skyrocketing, driving out residents. Infrastructure is overburdened. The environment is suffering and so is local culture.”

Stephen Burgen who writes for the Guardian and lives in Barcelona said that certain areas in the city, like the famous La Rambla pedestrian boulevard, are clogged with tourists. “(La Rambla) is now really a no-go area for residents for about nine months of the year, because it’s just so full of tourists.” In those neighbourhoods, Burgen says, businesses that formerly served local residents, such as dry-cleaners, are being driven out due to high rent and replaced by tourists-oriented services like bicycle-rental shops and tapas bars. He says short-term, apartment-rental agencies like Airbnb are driving up housing costs, meaning many locals can’t afford to live in the city any longer.

Of course Old Town is not Barcelona. None the less, perhaps there is a real need to manage tourism here. CBC’s program discussed tour busses and cruise ships and their role in depositing large groups of tourists in towns for short stop-overs and some panelists questioned the value of this type of tourism to the host towns.

There were varied opinions on the panel – but there was unanimity on one point “the way tourism is managed in much of the world needs to change, fast.”

The Chamber of Commerce’s mandate is to promote business, including tourism. The job of managing tourism must fall to the Town of NOTL. An increase in the cost of bus permits is likely a good start.

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