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Barcelona Anti-Tourism Protests: Locals Fire Water Pistols at Visitors

In a striking display of local discontent, anti-tourism protesters in Barcelona took to the streets on Saturday, armed with water pistols and a message: “tourists go home.” This demonstration, the latest in a series of protests against mass tourism in Spain, saw thousands of locals marching through popular tourist areas, chanting slogans and spraying visitors with water.

A City Under Pressure

The protests, organized by the Assemblea de Barris pel Decreixement Turístic (Neighborhood Assembly for Tourism Degrowth), brought together over 2,800 people according to Barcelona’s City Council. The demonstrators carried signs with slogans such as “Barcelona is not for sale,” reflecting a growing frustration with the impact of tourism on the city’s living costs and quality of life.

The Numbers Game

Barcelona’s appeal as a tourist destination is undeniable, with nearly 26 million visitors spending a total of €12.75 billion ($13.8 billion) in the region in 2023 alone. However, locals argue that this influx of visitors has driven up prices and strained public services, while the benefits of tourism are unevenly distributed, exacerbating social inequality.

Proposals for Change

The Assemblea de Barris pel Decreixement Turístic has published 13 proposals aimed at reducing the number of tourists and transitioning to a more sustainable model of tourism. Key suggestions include closing cruise ship terminals, regulating tourist accommodations more strictly, and ending public spending on tourism promotion.

Government Measures

In response to these concerns, Barcelona’s mayor, Jaume Collboni, has announced several measures to mitigate the effects of mass tourism. These include increasing the nightly tourist tax to €4 ($4.30) and limiting the number of cruise ship passengers. Additionally, Collboni plans to phase out apartment rentals for tourists by 2028, scrapping short-term rental licenses for over 10,000 apartments. This move aims to make housing more affordable for long-term residents, addressing the issue of rent hikes, which have soared by 68% in the past decade.

A Divided Response

While these measures have been welcomed by some, Collboni has faced criticism for allowing high-profile events like the Louis Vuitton catwalk show in Parc Güell and the upcoming America’s Cup sailing competition, which are seen as contributing to the tourism problem.

A Broader Trend

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Barcelona is not alone in its struggle with overtourism. In April, residents of the Canary Islands organized protests against the influx of tourists, citing similar concerns about rising living costs and environmental degradation. This issue is common to many tourist hotspots worldwide, which have seen a surge in visitor numbers as the travel industry rebounds from the pandemic.

The Global Impact of Overtourism

While tourism boosts local economies and supports hospitality businesses, it also brings significant downsides: increased noise, pollution, traffic, and strain on resources. These issues can lower the quality of life for residents and diminish the visitor experience.

Mitigating Measures

In response, many destinations have implemented initiatives to combat overtourism. These include new or increased tourist taxes, campaigns to discourage problematic behavior, and attendance caps at popular attractions.

A Call for Balance

As Barcelona grapples with the challenges of mass tourism, the city’s protests highlight a critical need for balance between welcoming visitors and maintaining a high quality of life for residents. The water pistol protests serve as a vivid reminder that for many locals, the cost of tourism has become too high to bear.


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