Barcelona residents protest against mass tourism

Some 2,800 people -- according to police -- marched along a waterfront district of Barcelona (Josep LAGO)
Some 2,800 people -- according to police -- marched along a waterfront district of Barcelona (Josep LAGO)

Thousands of protesters marched Saturday in Barcelona to denounce mass tourism and its effect on Spain's most visited city, the latest in a series of similar marches in the country.

Under the slogan "Enough! Let's put limits on tourism", some 2,800 people -- according to police -- marched along a waterfront district of Barcelona to demand a new economic model that would reduce the millions of tourists that visit every year.

"I have nothing against tourism, but here in Barcelona we are suffering from an excess of tourism that has made our city unliveable," said Jordi Guiu, a 70-year-old sociologist.

With banners saying "Reduce tourism now!", the protesters chanted slogans such as "Tourists out of our neighbourhood", stopping in front of hotels to the surprise of visitors.

Barcelona's rising cost of housing, up 68 percent in the past decade according to local authorities, is one of the main issues for the movement, along with the effects of tourism on local commerce and working conditions in the city of 1.6 million inhabitants.

"Local shops are closing to make way for stores that do not serve the needs of neighbourhoods. People cannot afford their rents," said Isa Miralles, a 35-year-old musician who lives in the Barceloneta district.

The northeastern coastal city, with internationally famous sites such as La Sagrada Familia, received more than 12 million tourists last year, according to local authorities.

To combat the "negative effects of mass tourism", the city council run by the Socialist Jaume Collboni announced 10 days ago that it was banning tourist apartment rentals -- there are now more than 10,000 -- by 2028 so that they can be put back on the local housing market.

The announcement could lead to a legal battle and is opposed by an association of tourist apartments who say it will just feed the black market.

The Barcelona protests come after similar demonstrations in tourist hotspots such as Malaga, Palma de Mallorca and the Canary Islands.

The second most visited country after France, Spain received 85 million foreign visitors in 2023, an increase of 18.7 percent from the previous year, according to the National Statistics Institute.

The most visited region was Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, with 18 million, followed by the Balearic Islands (14.4 million) and the Canary Islands (13.9 million).

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