On Saturday evening around 3,000 protesters took to the Barcelona streets to express their frustration over the city’s excessive tourism. More than 150 organisations and social movements participated in the protests which included symbolic actions like sealing off hotels and restaurant terraces.

Thousands Protest in Barcelona Against Over Tourism

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Around 3,000 people gathered in Barcelona to protest against over-tourism. The protests were organised by over 150 collectives, organisations and social movements.

Protesters sealed off hotels and restaurant terraces as a symbol of their demand for changes in the tourism model.

Chants of “tourists, go home” and signs reading “Barcelona is not for sale” and “Tourists out of our neighbourhood” were throughout the protest.

Barcelona is a known global destination attracting millions with its Mediterranean allure and cultural treasures like La Sagrada Familia and Park Güell.

In 2023 alone, Barcelona hosted over 12 million tourists and the wider Catalonia region saw 18 million visitors. Spain as a whole welcomed 85 million foreign visitors, a 18.7% increase from the previous year.

While tourism boosts the economy, generating huge revenue, it also imposes costs on local residents. These costs manifest in rising housing prices, displacement and the transformation of local commerce.

The protest on July 6 saw residents marching along Barcelona’s waterfront district. protestors carried banners with messages like “Barcelona is not for sale” and “Reduce tourism now!” They even stopped in front of hotels, surprising tourists who were largely unaware of the depth of local discontent.

Many residents expressed that they do not oppose tourism, but are suffering from its excesses. They argue that the city’s livability has deteriorated due to the sheer number of tourists.

Protesters employed symbolic acts like using water guns to spray at tourists and taping off restaurants and hotels effectively closing them in a symbolic gesture.

One of the most critical issues is the skyrocketing cost of housing in Barcelona. Over the past decade housing prices have surged by 68% making it increasingly difficult for locals to afford rents.

In June 2024 alone, rents in Barcelona and other major cities like Madrid increased by 18% compared to the previous year.

Local shops are being replaced by businesses catering primarily to tourists which does not serve the needs of the people.

This shift in commerce further alienates residents who feel their neighborhoods are losing their unique character and functionality.

The tourists also affects local workers many of whom are employed in the tourism and hospitality sectors. These jobs often come with poor working conditions and low wages.

The Barcelona city council led by Socialist Mayor Jaume Collboni has taken steps to tackle the negative effects of mass tourism.

One of the most effective measures announced is the banning of short-term tourist apartment rentals by 2028.

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The aim is to return these properties to the local housing market to alleviate the housing shortage. This policy has controversy and legal battles with associations representing tourist apartment owners who argue that the ban will push the market underground.

The city has also increased the tourist tax in April 2024 as a measure to generate additional revenue to address the challenges posed by tourism.

As the second most visited country after France, Spain’s reliance on tourism. The country received 85 million foreign visitors in 2023 with Catalonia being the most visited region.

Other heavily impacted regions include the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands which also saw huge numbers of visitors.

Cities like Venice and countries such as Japan are also struggling with the negative impacts of excessive tourism ranging from environmental degradation to cultural erosion and rising living costs.

Rent in the city has surged by 68% over the past decade and 18% in the past year alone. Protesters said that local shops are being replaced by stores that cater to tourists which do not serve the needs of the neighbourhoods.

Barcelona’s protests are part of a larger wave of anti-tourism demonstrations across Spain. Similar protests have been held in the Canary Islands and Mallorca.

Palma in Majorca saw 15,000 people protesting against tourism. Protestors in these areas also expressed concerns about the impact of tourism on housing and local communities.

Residents argue that the influx of tourists has made the city unliveable. The protests were partly driven by the rising costs of housing, groceries and essentials.

An aspect of the protests was the use of water pistols to spray tourists particularly those dining in popular tourist areas like Las Ramblas.

This act was intended to symbolically show the residents’ frustration with the number of visitors.

The Barcelona city council has voted to increase the tourist tax to €4 per person starting in October. The city council has announced a plan to eliminate roughly 10,000 tourist flat licences over the next five years.

The goal is to phase out all short-term rental apartments by 2028 redirecting these properties back to the local housing market to alleviate the housing crisis.

Barcelona is Spain’s most visited city attracting an average of 32 million visitors annually, many of whom arrive via cruise ships.

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