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Thousands join mass anti-tourism protest in Barcelona

Thousands took to the streets of Barcelona to protest against “mass tourism” which has pushed locals out of the housing market and threatened the city’s cultural identity.

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

Carme Arcarazo, a spokesperson for the Calatolonia Tenants Union, which helped organise the march, told i that Barcelona is being “flooded by tourists” while locals grapple with a “massive housing crisis” due to an increase in the number of holiday lets in the city.

Protesters holding a banner reading ‘Tourists go home, housing for everyone’ (Photo: Sindicat de Llogateres i Llogate)
Demonstrators put symbolic cordon on a bar-restaurant window during a protest against mass tourism on Barcelona's Las Ramblas alley, on July 6, 2024. Protests against mass tourism have multiplied in recent months across Spain, the world's second-most visited country. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP) (Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images)
Demonstrators put symbolic cordon on a bar-restaurant window during a protest against mass tourism on Barcelona’s Las Ramblas alley, on July 6, 2024.(Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

Ms Arcarazo said: “We are facing a massive housing crisis and tourism is one of the primary factors causing it.

“A lot of the homes that used to be for inhabitants of Barcelona are now dedicated to tourism, so the supply of housing decreases and it also puts pressure on the housing prices.”

He added: “The city is being transformed.

“People’s neighbourhoods are completely flooded by tourists. Shops are unrecognisable.

“People have to do groceries very, very far away from their houses because tourists do not require small shops but require souvenir shops.”

“Rather than targeting tourists, these protests are calling for a model of transformation. Our economic model should not be based on tourism, but we need to diversify our economy.”

Amid the rising anger over tourism in some of Spain’s popular destinations, Ms Arcarazo said that Saturday’s protest was aimed to bring about the “elimination” of touristic apartments, the regulation of short-term leases, a reduction in flights coming in to Barcelona and a halt to cruise ships entering the city’s ports.

It comes as protests have sparked in multiple areas across Spain over the last few months with one separate event in Mallorca calling for people who have not lived in the island for five years to be barred from buying property.

In the Balearic Islands, restrictions have been brought on street drinking and party boats in effort to crack down on alcohol-fuelled holidays.

A tourist watches as demonstrators protest against mass tourism in Barcelona, Spain, July 6, 2024. The Catalan capital received more than 12 million tourists in 2023 and expects more in 2024. REUTERS/Bruna Casas TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A tourist watches as demonstrators protest against mass tourism in Barcelona, Spain, July 6, 2024. The Catalan capital received more than 12 million tourists in 2023 and expects more in 2024. REUTERS/Bruna Casas
Protester holding up a placard reading: ‘We want to live in our city’ (Photo: Sindicat de Llogateres i Llogate)

José Antonio Donaire, professor of Geography at the University of Girona, said that beyond “access to housing,” the residents also protested against the “commodification of Barcelona” and the transformation of the city’s cultural identity.

He told i: “It’s about the commodification of the city. The Government proposes some events, for instance the F1 in the middle of the city, or recently the America’s Cup, that bring a lot of tourism to the city.

“But it’s not only tourism, it’s the commodification of the city.”

Mr Donaire added: “It is also about the transformation of our city, our language, our culture and our identity that is changing.

“Not only because of tourism, but because of digital nomads, expats, international students or migrants, mainly from Europe.

“The transformation of Barcelona from a regional, traditional city with a strong identity, culture and language to an international city, a global city, is part of this tension.”

He added: “It’s about identity. It’s about culture.”

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 stemmed from the “massification of tourism.”

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.

After Catalonia, the Balearic Islands were the second most popular region of Spain for tourists last year, attracting 14.4 million holidaymakers, according to data from the Spanish National Statistics Institute.

Some 18 million tourists visited Catalonia in 2023 and 13.9 million people visited the Canary Islands.

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