SARAH VINE: Why would any of us want to go on holiday to Europe ever again?

Sarah Vine
Daily Mail
A holiday is supposed to be a pleasurable, relaxing experience.
A holiday is supposed to be a pleasurable, relaxing experience. Credit: Adobe Stock/Mark - stock.adobe.com

This may seem like a slightly odd thing to say given the excessively damp weather we’ve been experiencing lately, but why does anyone bother going on holiday to Europe these days?

A holiday is supposed to be a pleasurable, relaxing experience: a chance to escape the day-today grind, recharge the batteries, maybe take in a bit of culture and top up the old vitamin D.

What it emphatically is not is being overcharged for extras by greedy airlines, treated like cattle at customs, stranded by strikes and general incompetence, and derailed by cancellations — only to arrive at your destination to find a mob of anti-tourist protesters urging you to jump off the nearest building, while squirting water on you as you tuck into your overpriced gambas a la plancha.

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Nor is it being blockaded on a beach, overcharged for cab rides and meals in restaurants, being harassed by leering locals or threatened by gangs.

Holidays are supposed to be fun — and where’s the fun in any of that?

A crowd of tourists takes pictures of a flock of pigeons on the street of the old town of Dubrovnik in Croatia.
A crowd of tourists takes pictures of a flock of pigeons on the street of the old town of Dubrovnik in Croatia. Credit: oleg saenco/soleg - stock.adobe.com

Take my daughter and her two best friends, who have just come back from Italy.

They went to a small town on the coast just outside Rome where, as it happens, I used to go as a child after my parents moved there in the 1970s.

It’s a charming place, off the beaten track and not especially picturesque owing to the somewhat bombastic Mussolini-era architecture.

But it has some beautiful beaches and it’s relatively inexpensive.

They had a lovely time — save for one thing.

Wherever they went, groups of young Italian men would follow them, staring and taking photographs on their phones.

One evening, with a group being especially leery at a nearby table in a restaurant, they appealed to the waiter.

He just shrugged his shoulders and said: “What do you expect? You’re English.”

Tourists enjoy beers in a bar-restaurant while watching the passing of the pro-tourism decrease demonstration in Barcelona.
Tourists enjoy beers in a bar-restaurant while watching the passing of the pro-tourism decrease demonstration in Barcelona. Credit: Paco Freire/SOPA Images/Sipa USA

Meanwhile, last year my son and his friends made the mistake of going on holiday to Croatia.

As well as being overcharged with menaces for cab rides, one of the females in his group found herself cornered outside a club by three men who ordered her to hand over her money and phone.

If she tried to call for help, they said she’d be stabbed. Or worse.

Whether in Italy, Spain, France, Greece or Portugal, it seems that British holidaymakers are increasingly reviled, taken advantage of, treated with contempt — or made to feel like criminals for simply trying to have a nice time.

This latest development, the targeting of tourists by groups of angry protesters in popular Spanish resorts, is not only intimidating and dangerous, it’s also completely irrational.

As a Londoner, I know how frustrating it is to be priced out of your own town by an influx of rich foreigners.

So I can appreciate the sentiments of locals in Barcelona and the Balearics who feel that the explosion in Airbnbs and holiday rentals is making it harder for them to find affordable housing.

But rich foreigners bring many advantages, not least a massive boost to the local economy.

If this is not translating into advantages for locals, then that’s hardly the tourists’ fault: it’s thanks to the often corrupt and greedy local officials who, in their desire to keep the flow of cashcow tourists coming, have over the decades failed to impose sensible limits on tourism.

And that’s because they like our money too much.

A protester is seen symbolically closing the terrace of one of the restaurants in Barceloneta, which is very popular with tourists.
A protester is seen symbolically closing the terrace of one of the restaurants in Barceloneta, which is very popular with tourists. Credit: Paco Freire /SOPA Images/Sipa USA

More than any other nationality, the Brits like to “spend out” on holiday — more than AUD$123 billion last year.

That’s an awful lot of Cerveza and Aperol spritz, and that seems to have suited everyone just fine for years — until it didn’t.

There are some exceptions.

In Menorca, the least fashionable of the Balearic islands, the local government enforces strict boundaries about where holiday homes can be located.

It is simply not possible to obtain a tourist licence for properties in the main towns and villages, or in rural areas, meaning local residents aren’t priced out and there are still plenty of small farms and businesses. Fines are draconian.

As a result, the island retains a strong community spirit and visitor numbers are limited.

If popular destinations in the rest of Spain and Europe had adopted such measures, they would not now find themselves facing mobs of angry locals targeting innocent tourists.

This is their problem, not ours. And I for one don’t see why we should put up with it.

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