Barcelona residents douse tourists with water to protest tourism

A male duck and a female covered her ears after protesters disrupted their meal in Barcelona.

Joseph Lago | Afp | Good pictures

Massive tourist problems hit a fever pitch in Barcelona on Saturday

Demonstrators – angry at the city’s long-standing problems – used thick police-style tape in a symbolic effort to block hotel entrances and sidewalk cafes in the small neighborhood of Barcelonata.

A crowd of around 3,000 people According to local mediaAnd city officials marched with large banners demanding “cut back on tourists now”.

videos And photos show people trying to avoid the crowd — some walking away from their tables mid-meal — while others, including restaurant staff, sparred with anti-tourist activists.

The demonstration coincides with Barcelona’s peak summer travel months. According to the Barcelona City Council, in 2023, hotel occupancy rates will approach 80% in July and August as the city of 1.6 million people accommodates more than 4 million visitors.

A protester in Barcelona on July 6, 2024.

Paco Freire | Sofa Pictures | Lightrocket | Good pictures

But the delicate dance between locals and visitors swirled long before that.

The number of hotels in the city to accommodate the influx of travelers quadrupled from 1990 to 2023, rising from 1.7 million to 7.8 million over the same period, according to Barcelona city council. This does not include the millions who commute to the city’s suburbs, it notes.

As day-trippers flock to the city by the thousands, the city also buckles under the weight of Barcelona’s cruise port. The port is expected to process 2.2 million passengers in 2023, up from 560,000 in 2000, according to its website.

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A woman is confronted by a protester while dining in a restaurant in Barcelona.

Paco Freire | Sofa Pictures | Lightrocket | Good pictures

The result is a city that many locals can no longer afford to live in, activists say — particularly because of the housing market, which has seen rents rise 68% in the past decade, according to Barcelona’s mayor, Jaime Colboni.

Collboni announced in June that Airbnb-style short-term home rentals will be banned by 2028. The move will put 10,000 apartments back into the long-term rental market.

Two tourists on bicycles stand in front of a protest against mass tourism in Barcelona on July 6, 2024.

Paco Freire | Sofa Pictures | Lightrocket | Good pictures

A report published by the City Council of Barcelona in 2023, entitled “Perception of Tourism in Barcelona”, shows that more residents are beneficial, not harmful, to the city. However, the gap between these numbers has closed over the years, it showed.

Half of the 1,860 respondents surveyed said they would change their destination for the city because of tourists. “They avoid a wide area around the city center (Placa Catalunya, La Rambla, Gothic Quarter, Raval, Old Town, Waterfront), as well as the Sagrada Familia area. As for specific locations, Park Gell is deliberately at the top of that list. Avoided.”

Even those who recognize the economic contribution of tourism are disappointed by the number of travelers in the city, the report says.

“More and more people believe that Barcelona has reached its tourism potential,” it says.

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