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Barcelona Residents Protest Tourists: Will More Destinations Follow?

by Aoife O’Riordan

Jul 10, 2024

© Sergii Figurnyi | Dreamstime.com

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Recent videos hit the news of Barcelona residents shooting water guns at tourists at a restaurant in the city. The incident marks the latest in a wider protest against mass tourism in the country. In 2023 alone, 85 million people traveled to Spain, with Barcelona one of the most popular cities thanks to its beaches, history and sports. In fact, nearly 12 million tourists came to Barcelona in 2023.

On July 6, nearly 3,000 anti-tourism protesters marched in the city, with videos circulating of signs and chants like “Barcelona is not for sale” and “Tourists go home.” These protesters were also spraying water from plastic water pistols to visitors in Las Ramblas, a popular tourist district.

These protesters also cordoned off restaurants and hotels in the city using red tape. Protesters are against soaring housing costs. Rent prices rose by 68 percent over the last 10 years, and apartments for tourists have put a further strain on the housing market in Barcelona. Barcelona’s Mayor Jaume Collboni announced this June that Airbnb-style, short-term house rentals will be banned in the city by 2028, which would add about 10,000 apartments back into the long-term rental market.

Barcelona also experiences an influx of tourists thanks to Barcelona Cruise Port, where thousands of daytrippers come to the city.

The protest, organized by the Neighborhood Assembly for Tourism Degrowth alongside more than 100 local organizations, proposed 13 ideas to reduce the number of visitors. Proposals include closing cruise ship terminals, ending public spending on tourism promotion and regulating tourist accommodations.

Unfortunately, Barcelona isn’t the first city to see its residents fight mass tourism. Similar actions have recently occurred in the Canary Islands and Mallorca. Gearing up for the 2024 Summer Olympics, locals in Paris have hit social media to deter visitors from coming to the city during the event. Parisians mention tourist scams, drastic hotel price increases and doubled Paris Metro fares as some of the reasons.

Residents in Kyoto, Japan, sought a council in December 2023 to address issues with tourism. The meeting ended with Kyoto authorities banning foreign visitors from entering the narrow alleyways of Gion’s geisha district.

Venice is another city cracking down on overtourism, imposing fees for daily visitors to the city. Just eight years ago, protesters in this ancient city marched against tourism.

This May, residents in Athens, Greece, protested overtourism. The protest was so widespread in the city, graffiti with phrases like “No tourists, no hipsters” adorned the city.

Will more popular cities soon follow? It seems inevitable.

Have you traveled to Barcelona before? What was your experience like? What destinations have you experienced overtourism? Do you agree with these protests? Tell us your thoughts. Email us at letters@globaltravelerusa.com. Please include your full name and location.


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