Thousands Gather in Barcelona To Protest Against Mass Tourism

Thousands of protestors marched through central Barcelona on Saturday, displaying signs and using water guns on tourists as a form of protest against the rising impact of overtourism in Spain.

Protesting under the banner “Enough! Let’s put limits on tourism,” approximately 2,800 individuals, as reported by police, moved through a waterfront district of Barcelona to advocate for an economic model that curtails the overwhelming influx of tourists annually.

Protesters held up signs declaring “Barcelona is not for sale” and “Tourists go home,” while some used water guns on tourists dining outdoors at restaurants in bustling tourist areas.

Chants of “Tourists out of our neighbourhood” echoed through the streets, with some demonstrators pausing at hotel entrances.

Housing costs in Barcelona have surged by 68 percent over the last decade, a major concern for the movement, which also addresses tourism’s impact on local businesses and job conditions in this city of 1.6 million people.

According to the property website Idealista, rents in tourist-heavy cities like Barcelona and Madrid increased by 18% this June compared to last year.

For a long time, the city has displayed anti-tourist graffiti, featuring messages like “tourists go home,” targeting visitors blamed for escalating living costs and a tourist-centric economy.

In June, Barcelona’s mayor, Jaume Collboni, introduced a surprising initiative to eliminate all short-term rentals by 2028, aiming to address the skyrocketing housing prices and make the city more livable for its residents.

However, many believe the actions taken are insufficient to harmonize the needs of the millions of tourists visiting annually with those of the local populace.

“Local shops are closing to make way for stores that do not serve the needs of neighborhoods. People cannot afford their rents,” explained Isa Miralles, a 35-year-old musician from the Barceloneta district.

“I have nothing against tourism, but here in Barcelona, we are suffering from an excess of tourism that has made our city unlivable,” stated Jordi Guiu, a 70-year-old sociologist.

Barcelona, a northeastern coastal city famed for landmarks like La Sagrada Familia, welcomed over 12 million tourists last year, according to local officials.

In response to the “negative effects of mass tourism,” the city council led by Socialist Jaume Collboni declared 10 days ago a ban on tourist apartment rentals—currently exceeding 10,000 units—by 2028 to reintegrate them into the local housing market.

This announcement might spark a legal conflict and faces opposition from a tourist apartment association, which argues that it will only bolster the black market.

The protests in Barcelona follow similar actions in tourist-heavy locations like Malaga, Palma de Mallorca, and the Canary Islands.

Spain, the second most visited country after France, saw 85 million foreign visitors in 2023, marking an 18.7 percent increase from the previous year, according to the National Statistics Institute.

Catalonia, with its capital in Barcelona, was the most visited region with 18 million visitors, followed by the Balearic Islands with 14.4 million and the Canary Islands with 13.9 million.

Earlier this year, locals in the Canary Islands, frustrated by mass tourism, conducted large-scale protests and recently issued another warning to British tourists, planning to focus on major holiday spots during the summer.

Despite their efforts, protestors feel their concerns remain unaddressed.

On April 20, about 200,000 protestors flooded the streets of Tenerife, organized by groups like ‘Friends of Nature of Tenerife (ATAN),’ aiming to deter tourists and pressuring local governments for protective legislation against the growing tourism sector.

Yet, these groups feel ignored and are preparing for another major protest.

The campaigners argue that the tourism boom is causing substantial environmental damage, depressing wages, and pushing locals out of affordable housing, forcing many to live in tents and cars.