Spanish anti-tourism protesters take aim at Barcelona visitors with water guns

Thousands of protesters marched through Barcelona Monday to express anger at mass tourism and its impacts on Spain’s most visited city. Bystanders dining in restaurants in the popular La Barceloneta neighborhood were soaked when some protesters sprayed them with water guns. 

Video showed diners being forced to change tables at some restaurants to escape the protests, while other restaurants were symbolically taped off by the demonstrators.

Carrying banners reading “Tourists go home,” protesters called for a reduction in the number of foreign visitors to Barcelona, stopping in front of hotels and restaurants to confront tourists.

Anti-mass tourism protesters squirt water on diners during a march in Barcelona denouncing the impacts of the high levels of tourism


“I have nothing against tourism, but here in Barcelona we are suffering from an excess of tourism that has made our city unliveable,” one of the demonstrators told the French news agency AFP.

Local authorities say the cost of housing has risen 68% in the Spanish city over the past decade, becoming one of the main points of contention for the disgruntled residents.

“The last years, the city has turned completely for tourists, and what we want is a city for citizens and not in service of tourists,” another protester told a Reuters news camera.   

In June, Mayor of Barcelona Jaume Collboni said that by 2028, he would stop renewing the thousands of tourist licenses that permit landlords to rent out accommodation to foreign visitors. The move would make the homes, which are currently advertised on platforms such as Airbnb, available to locals, according to Collboni.

An anti-tourism placard is seen during the demonstration
An anti-tourism placard is seen during the demonstration. More than 3,000 people demonstrated against the tourist overcrowding suffered by the city of Barcelona and in favor of tourism reduction policies. The demonstration involved symbolically closing hotel establishments, bars and restaurants while heading towards Barceloneta, one of the neighborhoods that suffers the most from the presence of tourism.

Paco Freire/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

More than 12 million tourists visited the city, famed for sights such as the Sagrada Familia basilica, last year alone, according to local authorities.

The latest protest comes after similar large-scale demonstrations in other tourist hotspots across Spain. A protest in Málaga, in the southern part of the country, drew some 15,000 people to rally against over-tourism in June, while the island of Palma de Mallorca saw more than 10,000 people march against the impact of mass tourism in May.

According to Spain’s national statistics office INE, the first five months of 2024 alone saw more than 33 millions tourists visit the country, which represents an increase of 13.6% compared to the previous year.

Spain isn’t the only European nation grappling with the impact of tourism on the local population. Earlier this year, Venice, Italy became the first city to impose a fee on daily visitors.

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