Mass tourism prompts protest in Austrian village

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VIENNA – Protest against mass tourism erupted as locals took to the streets in the Austrian town of Hallstatt, a world heritage site.

Hallstatt has just over 700 inhabitants but the region welcomes 10,000 visitors a day during high season, prompting residents to call for putting a limit on the number of daily tourists, and for a ban on tour buses after 5 P.M. local time.

Though the area benefits from tourism and has become a tourism hotspot in recent years, some locals are not very convinced regarding the number of visitors.

The area came to the limelight after it was featured in a South Korean romantic drama Spring Waltz to such an extent that a replica of the town was built in China six years later.

The area is regarded as one of Europe’s most over-touristed destinations and some locals are not very happy with the arrivals especially day trippers, who roam around in large coaches.

The locals have voiced opinion against the arrivals and in May this year, residents briefly installed a wooden wall on the most popular spot to take selfies, blocking the view of the Alps, as a protest against noise pollution and traffic; the outcry on social media led to its removal, BBC reported.

The severity of the matter could be gauged from the fact that in a fresh protest, locals blocked the main access tunnel to the village; the tunnel remained shut for about 15 minutes causing inconvenience.

Around 100 people gathered for the protest and carried placards bearing slogans such as “Now an emergency brake. Or we will be run over”; “Think of our children” and “Radical frontiers for mass tourism”. 

Hallstatt is a UNESCO World Heritage site and prior to Covid-19, it saw roughly a million visitors a year.

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