Angry Barcelonans Shoot Tourists With Water Pistols

Protesters in Barcelona have sprayed visitors with water as part of a demonstration against mass tourism.

Demonstrators marching through areas popular with tourists on Saturday chanted “tourists go home” and squirted them with water pistols, while others carried signs with slogans including “Barcelona is not for sale.”

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of the city in the latest demonstration against mass tourism in Spain, which has seen similar actions in the Canary Islands and Mallorca recently, decrying the impact on living costs and quality of life for local people.

The demonstration was organised by a group of more than 100 local organizations, led by the Assemblea de Barris pel Decreixement Turístic
(Neighborhood Assembly for Tourism Degrowth).

Diners cower as protesters march past a restaurant.

According to official figures, almost 26 million visitors made an overnight stay in the Barcelona region in 2023, spending €12.75 billion ($13.8 billion).

However, the Assemblea de Barris pel Decreixement Turístic says that these visitors increase prices and put pressure on public services, while profits from the tourism industry are unfairly distributed and increase social inequality.

It has published 13 proposals to reduce the number of visitors and transition the city to a new model of tourism, including the closure of cruise ship terminals, more regulation of tourist accommodation and an end to public spending on tourism promotion.

Protesters squirt water pistols during Saturday's protest.

On Saturday, the city’s mayor, Jaume Collboni, highlighted a series of measures that he has announced recently to reduce the impact of mass tourism, including increasing the nightly tourist tax to €4 ($4.30) and limiting the number of cruise ship passengers.

At the end of June, Collboni also announced that it would end apartment rentals for tourists by 2028 by scrapping short-term rental licenses for more than 10,000 apartments.

This would help to make housing more affordable for long-term residents, according to Collboni, who said rents had increased 68% in the past 10 years, with the cost of buying a house up 38%.

However, Collboni has been criticized for allowing events such as a Louis Vuitton catwalk show in architect Antoni Gaudí’s Parc Güell in May, as well as the upcoming America’s Cup sailing competition.

The growing discontent in Barcelona echoes similar protests in other parts of Spain.

In April, locals in the Canary Islands mobilized to protest against excessive tourism, blaming visitors for pricing them out of their homes and causing environmental damage.

These complaints are common to many tourist hot spots around the world, which have experienced record visitor numbers recently as the travel industry has roared back from a pandemic-induced downturn.

Such surges may be sweet for local economies and hospitality businesses’ bottom line, but they also come with notable downsides: increased noise, pollution, traffic and strain on resources; a lower quality of life for locals; and a diminished visitor experience, among others.

Not surprisingly, many tourist magnets have created initiatives and restrictions intended to combat overtourism, including new or increased tourist taxes, campaigns aimed at discouraging problematic visitors and attendance caps at popular attractions.

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