Thousands of people demonstrate in Barcelona against mass tourism | News from Catalonia

Thousands of people demonstrate in Barcelona against mass tourism | News from Catalonia
Thousands of people demonstrate in Barcelona against mass tourism | News from Catalonia
Thousands of people are taking part in a demonstration organised by environmental, neighbourhood and social organisations this Saturday in Barcelona to demand that “limits be set” on tourism in the city.Toni Albir (EFE)

Barcelona also says enough is enough. The discontent with overcrowding and against an economic model that an increasing part of the population considers pernicious and unsustainable has brought thousands of people out onto the streets this Saturday (2,800 according to the Guàrdia Urbana of Barcelona, ​​20,000 according to the organisation) in a march that joins those that in May and June already filled the streets of Palma (Mallorca), Malaga or the Canary Islands. The protest in the Catalan capital has channelled the growing discontent that is being experienced in different neighbourhoods of the city due to a problem that is no longer just a problem in the centre of Barcelona, ​​but which has its epicentre and most recognisable symbol in the emblematic street of La Rambla. This is precisely where the demonstration began, the route of which, at first secret, passed by the America’s Cup booth in Port Vell and ended in front of the sea in Barceloneta, among thousands of tourists who wanted to take photos of the statue of Columbus or the Paseo Marítimo, and who ended up taking pictures of banners with messages such as “Tourism kills the city” or “Tourists go home”. At the same time, around 400 people demonstrated in Girona under the same slogan.

The march in Barcelona – which the Guardia Urbana estimates at 2,800 participants, a number that is obviously below the number of people gathered, and the organisation at 20,000, a number that is also higher than what is perceived – is the first of this magnitude that can be remembered in the Catalan capital to protest against tourism, an activity that has been growing exponentially in the last two decades and which, in 2019, reached the figure of 17.3 million visitors who stay overnight in the city and another 10.5 million who stay outside, but who spend the day on the streets of Barcelona. Almost 30 million travellers and an industry that has been changing part of the Barcelona landscape, from shops to tourist apartments, and which has left a trail of unrest due to problems of coexistence with the neighbours of some neighbourhoods and due to phenomena such as gentrification. The pandemic halt put a pause on this problem – many protesters recalled that on the first day that confinement measures were relaxed they took advantage of the opportunity to go for a walk along a Rambla empty of tourists or take their children to play in the Plaça Reial – but the forecast is that this summer all records of visitors to the city will be broken.

The official number of protesters provided by the Guardia Urbana, agreed with the Mossos, leaves the city of Barcelona, ​​with 1.65 million inhabitants, at a lower proportion than the rest of the protests that have taken place in Spain. In Palma, with 423,350 inhabitants, some 10,000 people demonstrated on May 25, according to official figures; in Malaga on June 29 there were some 15,000 out of a population of more than 531,000 people; and on April 20 the floodgates opened for massive protests against tourism in the Canary Islands, with 57,000 protesters in the archipelago, which has more than 2.2 million inhabitants. Called by more than 100 entities, the march, under the slogan Enough, let’s put limits on tourism (“Enough, let’s put limits on tourism”), has been led by the Assemblea de Barris pel Decreixement Turístic, which has been advocating for years for a change of model and not just a halt, but a decrease in tourism.

During the march there were some tense moments when protesters berated tourists who were taking photos or simply having a drink on restaurant terraces. Protesters sealed off some hotels and restaurants and sprayed tourists with water pistols, leading to verbal confrontations that ended quickly. “Oh, I’m a tourist, are you coming against me?” asked one visitor who was caught up in the demonstration. Another couple of visitors were about to enter a restaurant when a group of protesters blocked their way with tape. “It’s the first time we’ve come to Barcelona, ​​we love it. Nobody told us there was this unrest,” they said.

Several Mossos d’Esquadra vans escorted the demonstration, and finally they were placed in front of the restaurants to avoid further clashes. The march ended in the Plaça del Mar, where the manifesto was read. “Citizens suffer directly the consequences of tourism with the increase in the cost of living, rents, pressure on public services and the loss of the local identity of the city,” said the organisers, who called for a reduction in the number of flights at the airport, the closure of cruise terminals in the port, and the elimination of tourist accommodation, including hotels and residences. “The houses for which we live here,” they said.

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The call has connected with various problems experienced in various neighbourhoods of Barcelona, ​​starting with the centre, with the Gothic Quarter, Born, Barceloneta and Raval, which are under pressure due to tourist apartments and the incivility related to tourism. But also in neighbourhoods such as La Sagrada Familia, Carmel – last year the bunkers in Carmel had to be closed due to the tourist overcrowding in this place that has views over the whole of Barcelona -, the neighbourhoods near Park Güell or others further away from tourist attractions, but which are also beginning to notice its effects. On the other hand, the tourist industry and the City Council remember that this activity contributes 14% of the city’s GDP and more than 150,000 jobs.

The demonstration also comes just before the America’s Cup is held, which is met with some opposition from some citizens – especially in Barceloneta, where while the competition is taking place, residents and cars will have to present accreditation to enter the neighbourhood – and at a time when Jaume Collboni’s City Council has been promoting events such as the Louis Vuitton catwalk in Park Güell or the Formula 1 demonstration on Passeig de Gràcia. Collboni has also announced measures to alleviate the effects of tourism – such as increasing the tourist tax to 7.50 euros per person, announcing that a reduction in the number of cruise ships arriving in the city is being considered or announcing that 10,000 tourist apartments will be eliminated – but these are long-term measures and the protesters do not perceive them as a solution to the problem. Collboni himself, before the demonstration, detailed on the social network X the measures that the City Council has announced to deal with overcrowding. Collboni has been the subject of much criticism in the chants and banners of the demonstration, which was attended by politicians such as Janet Sanz, from Barcelona En Comú Podem, and Mireia Vehí, from the CUP.

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