Menorca village threatens to close to tourists after explosion in numbers | Spain

Perched over a small bay, the village of Binibeca Vell on the Spanish island of Menorca has long been a magnet for tourists looking to wander along its winding, narrow lanes lined with whitewashed villas.

But as its popularity swells on social media, setting off a stampede for selfies snapped along its cobblestone streets, residents are threatening to stop access to the village all together.

“The problem isn’t tourists,” said Óscar Monge, who heads the group representing Binibeca Vell’s 195 property owners. Instead, he pointed the finger at officials, who he said had forsaken residents as they grappled with the noise generated by the constant parade of visitors and the rubbish that piled up daily.

“Binibeca Vell is not a place of adventure, but it’s a private housing development where people reside,” Monge added.

It’ is a debate playing out across Spain and much of Europe as residents call on officials to more when it comes to striking a balance between their needs and soaring tourist numbers.

As mentions of Binibeca Vell multiplied on social media, the number of visitors has rocketed to about 800,000 a year, with most of them arriving between May and October, said Monge. This year residents are bracing for as many as 1 million visitors, he added.

“If the administration continues to leave us abandoned, in August we’ll carry out a vote among owners on whether we should close up the development,” he said.

The threat follows years of complaints by residents. Speaking to the news website last month, one resident vented her frustration over how tourists had behaved while visiting the village. “They went into homes, they sat on chairs, they take things, climb on our walls, they have outdoor drinking parties,” she said. “If this isn’t regulated, it will happen every summer.”

Residents began cracking down last year, asking tourists to visit only during certain hours. The schedule was tightened this month to ask that tourists stop by only between 11am and 8pm. “We want to have breakfast peacefully on our terraces and sleep peacefully without noise,” said Monge.

The request on the village’s website also asks tourists to refrain from “entering homes” and “climbing balconies”. The request is accompanied by a series of photos depicting one tourist splayed out on a stairwell and another sitting in the chair of a resident.

Seemingly at the heart of the residents’ stance is a lapsed deal with local officials. Last year, residents were given €15,000 (£12,850) to help with rubbish removal, while officials committed to better training for tour guides that visit the area and curbs on public transport into the area.

So far the deal has not been renewed. As both sides lay blame on each other, they are scheduled to meet in the coming days. “We’re going with very little hope, to be honest,” said Monge.

The head of tourism for the Menorcan government, Begoña Mercadal, did not reply to a request for comment. But speaking to, she confirmed that the village was within its right to curtail visits. “We fully acknowledge that it is private property and, therefore, if they want to close it, that is their right,” Mercadal said.

Monge was swift to acknowledge that the decision to do so, however, would probably harm the 100 or so families in the region whose hotels, bars and souvenir shops depend on local tourism. “Of course it’s a difficult decision but we’re being pushed into it,” he said.

He described the closure as a last resort. “From the coast you would still be able to visit the perimeter of the village, but you wouldn’t be able to enter the interior lanes,” he added. “And that’s the charming photo that everyone wants for Instagram.”

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