Barcelona protests surge against mass tourism, demand sustainable change

"I have nothing against tourism, but here in Barcelona, we are suffering from an excess that has made our city unliveable," said Jordi Guiu, a 70-year-old sociologist.
A demonstrator takes part in a protest against mass tourism on Barcelona's Las Ramblas alley, on July 6, 2024. (Photo: AFP)
A demonstrator takes part in a protest against mass tourism on Barcelona's Las Ramblas alley, on July 6, 2024. (Photo: AFP)

ERBIL (Kurdistan24) - Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Barcelona on Saturday to protest the impact of mass tourism on Spain's most frequented city. This rally is the latest in a series of similar demonstrations across the country.

Chanting "Enough! Let's put limits on tourism," around 2,800 protesters, as estimated by police, marched through Barcelona's waterfront district. They called for a new economic approach to reduce the influx of millions of tourists annually.

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

Carrying banners with messages like "Reduce tourism now!" and shouting slogans such as "Tourists out of our neighborhood," the protesters made stops in front of hotels, much to the surprise of the visitors.

One of the movement's primary concerns is the skyrocketing cost of housing, which has surged by 68 percent over the past decade according to local authorities. Other issues include the adverse effects of tourism on local businesses and working conditions in the city of 1.6 million residents.

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

Barcelona, home to iconic sites such as La Sagrada Familia, attracted over 12 million tourists last year, according to local data.

In response to the "negative effects of mass tourism," the city council, led by Socialist Jaume Collboni, announced a ban on tourist apartment rentals by 2028. This measure aims to reclaim over 10,000 properties for the local housing market, though it may spark legal battles with the tourist apartment association, which warns it could fuel the black market.

Similar protests have occurred in other popular destinations like Malaga, Palma de Mallorca, and the Canary Islands.

As the second most visited country after France, Spain welcomed 85 million foreign visitors in 2023, an 18.7 percent increase from the previous year, according to the National Statistics Institute. Catalonia, with Barcelona as its capital, was the top region with 18 million visitors, followed by the Balearic Islands (14.4 million) and the Canary Islands (13.9 million).

 

Source: Agence France-Presse