Spain’s Seville plans to charge fee for visiting landmark square

By Thomson Reuters Feb 26, 2024 | 7:15 AM

MADRID (Reuters) – Tourists visiting the southern Spanish city of Seville may soon have to pay a fee to explore the wide, ornate Plaza de Espana square, the city hall said, as part of plans to control tourist overload in a public open space.

“We are planning to close the Plaza de Espana and charge tourists to finance its conservation and ensure its safety,” Mayor Jose Luis Sanz wrote in a post on social media platform X, accompanied with a video showing missing tiles, damaged facades and street vendors occupying alcoves and stairs.

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 that was designed to reflect Spanishness in its architecture and tiled decorations.

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 X users, including those from Seville, were quick to criticise the plan.

“A tourism tax for ALL visitors provokes less debate and generates more income. Listen to the people, not the hoteliers,” wrote one user.

Another added: “What people want from you is a tourism tax and general regulation of mass tourism which is destroying our city”.

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.

(Reporting by Emma Pinedo; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Jan Harvey)