Protesters spray water guns at tourists in Barcelona as thousands rally against overtourism

Protesters spray water guns at tourists in Barcelona as thousands rally against overtourism

More than 150 activist groups gathered in Barcelona on Saturday to protest overtourism. Footage showed protesters squirting water guns at tourists and telling them to “go home.” Protesters swarmed the streets of Barcelona to condemn mass tourism, which they blame for skyrocketing rent prices and the city becoming “unliveable.”

Multiple outlets reported that thousands of protesters, including more than 150 organizations, marched through Barcelona on Saturday. Photos showed protesters carrying signs that read, “Barcelona is not for sale” and “Tourists go home.” Footage obtained by BBC showed protesters using water guns against people visiting popular tourist areas while chanting, “Go home!” Protesters also taped off certain restaurants and hotels as if to symbolically close the establishments.

Barcelona is a top tourist destination that draws millions of travelers annually with its Mediterranean climate and distinct culture. The Barcelona Tourism Observatory said the city welcomed 15.6 million tourists and the region nearly 26 million in 2023. While the influx of travelers brings money to Barcelona’s economy, it can also have adverse effects like increasing the local cost of living.

According to Reuters, rent in Barcelona and other popular cities like Madrid rose by 18% in June compared to the previous year. One protester told Reuters that “the city has turned completely for tourists and what we want is a city for citizens and not in service of tourists” in recent years. Another said tourist-heavy venues like restaurants and hotels make good money from tourists, but some locals “are in a very poor situation and they don’t have enough money to live. That’s a problem.”

A resident told AFP that the city is suffering as a result. “I have nothing against tourism, but here in Barcelona, we are suffering from an excess of tourism that has made our city unliveable,” they said. Representatives for the Mayor of Barcelona, the city’s police department, and the tourism office did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

Barcelona officials have taken measures in recent months to address overtourism. It’s an issue that several popular tourist hubs are tackling, including Japan and Venice. The city increased its tourist tax in April, according to USA Today. According to Bloomberg, they later announced plans to ban all short-term rentals in June.

“More supply of housing is needed, and the measures we’re presenting today are to provide more supply so that the working middle class does not have to leave the city because they can’t afford housing,” Barcelona Mayor Jaume Collboni said. “This measure will not change the situation from one day to the next. These problems take time. But with this measure we are marking a turning point.” Barcelona banned cruise ships from docking at one of its terminals in 2023 to address overcrowding and pollution.

Thousands of Barcelona residents squirted diners in tourist areas with water during a protest against mass tourism on Saturday. The Spanish locals chanted “tourists go home” with placards that read “Enough! Let’s put limits on tourism” in the demonstration against overtourism. Video footage shows holidaymakers dining outside popular squares in the city being doused with water pistols and cordoned off using hazard tape by a crowd of almost 3,000. Al fresco diners outside Taco Bell and Bivio Steak House were seen running for cover as marchers sprayed water at tables.

Protestors are demanding a new economic model in the city to reduce the annual footfall of tourists and address the high cost of living. A crowd of almost 3,000 rallied against an influx of tourists in Barcelona. In the last 10 years, rent in the Spanish holiday destination rose 68 per cent and the cost of buying a house rose 38 per cent. Barcelona’s mayor, Jaume Collboni, recently vowed to ban tourists from renting holiday apartments by 2028. The city, Spain’s most visited by foreign tourists, seeks to introduce measures to rein in soaring housing costs and make the city more liveable for residents.

According to Collboni, Barcelona will scrap the licences of the 10,101 apartments currently approved as short-term rentals by November 2028. “We are confronting what we believe is Barcelona’s largest problem,” the mayor said at a city government event. The mayor of Barcelona has branded short-term rentals part of the city’s ‘largest problem’.

The demonstration comes amid several displays of anti-tourism across Spain. In Malaga at the end of June, 15,000 protesters marched against soaring rent prices under the slogan “Malaga for living, not surviving”. Activists from the Malaga Tenants Union called the Costa del Sol city a “theme park for tourists” as life for locals becomes less affordable and “authentic”. Since April, locals in Mallorca have said that marches against overtourism will continue until the Balearic government introduces measures to counter the housing emergency on the island.

Source: Business Insider, Reuters, AFP, USA Today, Bloomberg

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