Malaga says enough to mass tourism and protests against its harmful effects on the city

Malaga says enough to mass tourism and protests against its harmful effects on the city
Malaga says enough to mass tourism and protests against its harmful effects on the city

Many Malaga residents fear their city is becoming a tourist theme park. Campaigners say the post-pandemic tourism boom has pushed Malagans to the brink, distorting the rental market and gentrifying the city centre.

With the motto “Malaga to live, not to survive“Last weekend 15,000 people took to the streets to demand affordable housing and protest against mass tourism in the city on the Costa del Sol.

A situation that is getting worse

Bernardo, 39, explains to ‘Euronews Travel’ which was “to support people who are trying to live with dignity in Malaga.” For many, he says, the “situation is getting worse month by month due to the current policies that are totally oriented towards massification tour”.

This follows a rebound in the anti-tourism activism throughout Spain in recent months, with protests in Madrid, Barcelona y Granadaas well as in the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands. More protests are planned in many parts of the country.

Las stickers and painted against tourism are already common in the main Spanish cities, and references to “guiris”, a word that is both ironic and derogatory, which is often used to describe northern Europeans, are becoming more frequent.

“Since the end of the pandemic, the city’s tourist boom has been enormous”

However, the reaction comes amid a record influx of tourists to Spain. More than 100 are expected 90 million international visitors in 2024according to a study by Caixa Bank, and it is not just about the traditional tourism model of short-term hotel stays.

Malaga is no longer the entry point for exploring the tourist centres of the Coast of the Sun, but it has become a tourist center in itself. With more Airbnbs and fewer hotels available, vacationers are increasingly staying in what were once neighbors’ homes and businesses.

Tourist accommodations such as Airbnb are blamed for the increase in rental prices in Malaga – Union of Tenants and Tenants of Malaga

Since the pandemic in particular, tourism levels have skyrocketed. “Since the travel restrictions ended, COVID“The city’s tourist boom has been enormous,” says Bernardo.

In a world increasingly connected to the Internet, dozens of remote workersmany of whom earn salaries that locals could only dream of, have come to take advantage of Spain’s more affordable cost of living.

But for the Spanish, their city is no longer affordable. According to data from the real estate website Idealista, the rents The average rent in Malaga has soared by 16.5% in just one year, with the supply of residential housing gradually absorbed by the tourist accommodation sector.

It’s scary how fast things move.

Organized by the Málaga Tenants Union, the protesters demanded the regulation of rental prices and the ban on tourist accommodation. A spokesperson for the group explained to ‘Euronews Travel’ that the people of Malaga took to the streets “for the right to decent housing and in protest against the consequences of the model of tourist monoculture in the city.”

The number of apartments for tourist rental has increased exponentially in Malaga in recent years. Figures cited by the Spanish newspaper ‘The country‘ show that in 2016 there were only 846 registered in the city, but by 2024 that figure has grown to over 12,000. Malaga, like many large cities in Spain is also home to hundreds, if not thousands, of unlicensed tourist apartments..

Los Airbnbs and tourist accommodation is highly concentrated in the centre of Malaga. Data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE) show that in some neighbourhoods in the centre the proportion of dwellings used for tourist accommodation is close to 50%.

“The people of Malaga will not be able to live in Malaga”

“It’s scary how fast things are moving,” José, 60, tells Euronews Travel. In the future, he fears, “it’s clear that The man from Malaga will not be able to live in Malaga“.

At the beginning of June, the City Council announced measures to limit new licenses to those with private entrances, and assured Malaga residents that they were working on greater regulation. But many believe that this does not go far enough.

“The problem with this policy is that it comes too late,” says the Tenants’ Union. “It is an insufficient measure,” agrees Bernardo, “but it could be a first step if the granting of licences continues to be monitored,” they add.

Government intervention is necessary to control overtourism in Malaga

Juan Gonzalez Alegreprofessor of Economics at the University of Malaga, explains to ‘Euronews Travel’ that regulation must go beyond local authorities. “The solution to housing problems and even urban development and infrastructure strategies, in general terms, cannot be left to local administrations,” he explains.

He Tenants’ Union of Malaga He also sees a broader reform as necessary. “The housing problem in Malaga must be addressed politically at the three levels of government: state, regional and local. Without price regulation and a total and immediate ban [de las viviendas de alquiler turístico]…nothing will change,” says his spokesman.

Demonstration against mass tourism in Malaga on July 29 – Union of Tenants and Tenants of Malaga

Following the protest, the President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sanchezhas hinted at possible government intervention. “I think there is beginning to be a consensus on this,” says Alegre: “It is necessary to regulate tourist housing“.

In reference to the recent proposals of the Mayor of Barcelona BarcelonaJaume Collboni, of “eliminating” tourist rentals from the Catalan city to 2029Alegre adds that “these are political areas in which there are too many interdependencies, or externalities, as economists call them.”

“What the mayor of Barcelona decides, that is, affects the citizens of Sabadell o Cornelláwho cannot vote for him… The State and the regions should become more involved in the problem.”

Where the Café Central once stood, there is now an Irish pub

But for the people of Malaga, it is not just about the economy or the rise in rental prices. For many people from Malaga, the model mass tourism Spanish not only makes life unaffordable, but slowly kills the soul of the city and gentrifica its culture as occurs in many other parts of Europe.

Bernardo describes how there are fewer and fewer local businesses in the city centre. “There are hardly any butchers, fishmongers, bakeries, neighbourhood shops. fiestas and local traditions cease to be something ‘our own’,” he adds, “and are replaced by shows in which the participants are theatre actors for tourists to take photos with.”

“I’m not against tourism,” says José, “but there has to be a limit and control.” “Now the city center is a Theme park for tourists“, he adds. “What used to be El Café Central in Malaga’s main square” – a local institution that closed its doors in January 2022 after 101 years – “is today an Irish pub full of tourists.”

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