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Mass anti-tourism protests in Barcelona

"We want to live in our city". Photo: Sindicat de Llogateres i Llogate

Residents of Barcelona fear that an influx of tourists, digital nomads, expats, and migrants threatens the city's unique identity.

Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Barcelona to protest against the city’s growing tourism industry. Local residents expressed concerns about overcrowding, rising living costs, and the negative impact on their daily lives. The protest highlighted tensions between preserving the city’s cultural heritage and accommodating millions of tourists annually. Organizers called for stricter regulations on short-term rentals and measures to ensure sustainable tourism practices. The city’s government is under pressure to balance the economic benefits of tourism with the well-being of its residents.

Marching under the slogan “Enough! Let’s put limits on tourism,” nearly 3,000 people gathered in Barcelona’s popular La Rambla district on Saturday, demanding a reduction in the number of tourists visiting the Catalan city.

Carme Arcarazo, a spokesperson for the Catalonia Tenants Union, which helped organize the march, told i that Barcelona is being “flooded by tourists” while locals struggle with a “massive housing crisis” caused by the rise in holiday rentals.

 “We are facing a massive housing crisis, and tourism is one of the primary factors causing it. Many homes that used to be for Barcelona residents are now dedicated to tourism, decreasing the housing supply and driving up prices.

The city is being transformed. Neighborhoods are completely flooded by tourists, and shops are unrecognizable. Residents have to travel far for groceries because small shops are being replaced by souvenir stores.” – Said Ms. Arcazaro.

She added that these protests are not targeting tourists but calling for a model of transformation. Our economic model should not be based solely on tourism; we need to diversify our economy.

Amid rising anger over tourism in some of Spain’s popular destinations, Ms. Arcarazo said Saturday’s protest aimed to eliminate touristic apartments, regulate short-term leases, reduce flights into Barcelona, and halt cruise ships from entering the city’s ports.

Protests have erupted in multiple areas across Spain over the past few months. In Mallorca, there was a call to bar people who haven’t lived on the island for five years from buying property. In the Balearic Islands, restrictions have been implemented on street drinking and party boats to crack down on alcohol-fueled holidays.

Protester holding up a poster saying: "We want to live in our city". Photo: Sindicat de Llogateres i Llogate
“We want to live in our city”. Photo: Sindicat de Llogateres i Llogate

Protesters in the Balearic Islands of Menorca, Mallorca, and Ibiza claimed that holiday rentals are pricing them out of the housing market and that water management issues have arisen from the “massification of tourism.”

A few weeks ago, Barcelona, a premier Spanish holiday destination, announced it will prohibit apartment rentals to tourists by 2028. This unexpectedly bold decision is part of a broader strategy to curb skyrocketing housing costs and ensure the city remains livable for its residents, making housing more affordable and mitigating the negative impact of mass tourism on local communities.

Last month, about 10,000 people joined an anti-tourism protest in Mallorca, while hundreds descended on Málaga to protest against the so-called “tourism phenomenon” forcing locals out of the city.

Holidaymakers were also urged to stay away from the Balearics after tourism reached “its limit” last month, according to Marga Prohens, the president of the Balearic Islands regional government.

According to data from the Spanish National Statistics Institute, the Balearic Islands were the second most popular region in Spain for tourists last year, after Catalonia, attracting 14.4 million holidaymakers. In 2023, 18 million tourists visited Catalonia, and 13.9 million visited the Canary Islands.

Van Flyer
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