Andalusia’s principal cities have become magnets for bachelor and bachelorette parties in recent years. Each weekend, high-spirited groups wearing outrageous outfits are frequently seen staggering drunkenly around the streets of Granada, Málaga, Córdoba and Seville.
But while high-speed train links, unregulated apartment rentals and online entertainment packages have made these destinations irresistible to revelers, the locals are less than amused and the authorities are now taking measures to curb the practice.
There’s no problem with people coming to have a good time as long as it’s in a civilized manner
Francisco Ruiz, mayor of Tarifa
The mayor of Málaga, Francisco de la Torre, has announced a greater police presence on the streets in order to crack down on the antics of these unwelcome tourists. In Granada, the deputy government spokeswoman, Ana Muñoz, called a multi-party meeting in a bid to end to what she considers “a display of outrageous behavior that this city doesn’t need to put up with.”
In Córdoba, it is the hospitality sector that has asked the authorities to act, asserting that they themselves will refuse bookings to groups of this kind. “Córdoba has four world heritage sites and we aspire to high-end tourism that appreciates and enjoys our culture. These send-offs, which disturb people’s peace at night, are not what we want,” says Pedro García, the city’s councilor for tourism. “We are going to work together with other sectors and study alternative models in order to adopt the necessary measures to curb this kind of tourism.”
Rowdy party-goers on send-off weekends started to invade Granada around five years ago. Appearing around Friday at midday, they generally leave on Sunday. What was once a wild night out has turned into a 48-hour caper and, on the streets of Granada, there are often 15 or 20 of these events going on simultaneously.
Local authorities and businesses blame online promoters for the surge in stag and hen parties, with offers ranging from €29 per person for dinner and a show to €115 for a more complete agenda, including paintball and go-karting. However, many of these businesses are now selling themselves as part of the solution. “We control the groups coming with us from the moment they arrive on Friday on the AVE [high-speed train] until they leave,” says Sergio Barrientos, head of Eclipse, which organizes group send-offs in Seville.
Other entertainment companies have introduced their own rules and disallow the use of megaphones and offensive outfits. “We work together with hotels and restaurants, but when things are not regulated – if there are places offering meals below the market price or 20 people pile into an apartment meant for five, Seville could become a low-cost destination for the kind of tourism we don’t want,” says a spokesman for one such company.
While Seville also has 15 to 20 send-offs each weekend, its hospitality sector has not reacted in the same way as it has in Córdoba, Granada and Málaga. “The impact that these kinds of celebrations have on the city is much less significant than in other Spanish cities,” says Juan Carlos Cabrera. “Tourism focuses on the city’s culture, food, handicraft and sport.” Meanwhile, the president of the city’s hospitality association, Antonio Luque, says that “send-offs are welcome as long as there is respect for the locals. They bring good business and can pave the way for future visits to our city. But we don’t want the ones that disturb the peace with their bad behavior.”
In Granada, however, growing concern has prompted the local police to designate officers tasked specifically with controlling revelers from midday Thursday to Saturday night. “We make sure that they do not make more noise than is acceptable, that they don’t drink in public spaces and that no public property is damaged,” says police spokesman Jacinto Sánchez. Mostly, the patrol’s presence is enough to prevent incidents, but on occasion megaphones and alcohol have been confiscated. The fines for these types of offenses range between €150 and €750.
Meanwhile, Málaga city council is collaborating with neighborhood associations, the hospitality sector and rental agencies to try to put an end to loutish behavior. Mario Cortés, the city councilor for security, says that besides fining offensive behavior, venues should exercise their right to deny admission to unruly persons. In Córdoba, the focus is placed on illegal holiday rentals. “Illegal tourist apartments encourage this kind of tourism,” says Pedro Pablo Fernández, coordinator for the Asento tourism and culture association of Córdoba. “The fewer of them there are, the fewer events of this nature there will be.”
Conil and Tarifa: the pioneers
Everyone is aware of the complexity of applying stricter measures while maintaining people’s right to freedom of movement. Conil de la Frontera and Tarifa in Cádiz have worked out the conundrum by scaling down the number of send-offs and admitting only those that blend in with mainstream tourism.
The mayor of Conil, Juan Bermúdez of the United Left federation (IU), was the first in the region to rein in this kind of event in 2015 with tighter security on the streets and in entertainment venues. At the end of last year, the town decided to draft a new ordinance regulating civic behavior that went into effect this summer. In the first weekend alone, the authorities collected €3,000 worth of fines handed out for rowdy behavior and inappropriate attire. Bars, restaurants and rental apartments used by the party-goers were also brought to book.
In the summer of 2016, Tarifa tightened up existing ordinances on disturbance of the peace and banned activities such as drinking alcohol while on cycle-powered vehicles. Last year, local authorities issued 180 sanctions for disturbing the peace, many in connection with stag and hen parties. As a result, the city now hosts send-offs of a very different nature. “They are usually a group of friends who hang out at beach cafés and blend in with regular tourists,” says the mayor, Francisco Ruiz. “Generally you don’t see groups dressed offensively and behaving obnoxiously on the streets. There’s no problem with people coming to have a good time as long as it’s in a civilized manner.”
English version by Heather Galloway.