Barcelona: Struggling with Tourism’s Impact

Barcelona: Struggling with Tourism's Impact. Luis @Mambrino2011 / Twitter

Barcelona: Struggling with Tourism's Impact. Luis @Mambrino2011 / Twitter.

Barcelona, a beloved city break destination in Europe, has grappled with the effects of over-tourism for nearly a decade.

In 2019, the city reached a historic milestone, with an impressive 11.9 million visitors. Although the pandemic briefly slowed the influx, tourism quickly bounced back, with 9.7 million tourists visiting in 2022.

As tourists flock to iconic spots like La Rambla, the bustling Boqueria market, and picturesque beaches, congestion often clogs the charming streets of the Ciutat Vella (Old Town), and property prices in central areas soar, making affordable housing a scarce commodity for locals.

With a population of just 1.65 million, Barcelona occasionally finds itself in a situation where tourists outnumber residents, especially during the peak summer season.

In the past, some locals have vented their frustrations through graffiti messages that read “tourists go home” on the cobblestone streets.

So, is “tourismphobia” making a comeback in Barcelona in 2023?

Barcelona has witnessed evolving opinions among its neighbourhoods regarding tourism.

Vila de Gracia, a vibrant district known for its lively festivals, recently made a statement on the first day of festivities by adorning its streets with graffiti.

These artistic expressions voice concerns about the impact of tourism in Barcelona, Metropoli has confirmed.

Approximately twenty graffiti messages emerged on facades throughout the area, expressing frustration with overcrowding and urging travellers to “return to their homes.”

The phrase “Tourist, go home” has become a common sight on Gracia’s streets, raising questions about whether these are still “neighbourhood festivities” when tourists outnumber residents.

While some slogans may appear audacious, they should be understood in the context of frustration, with residents even joking that they will “urinate in tourists’ beers.”

Gracia, once a close-knit neighbourhood, has undergone changes due to gentrification and modernisation, resulting in rising living costs and rents.

Today, long-time residents coexist with digital nomads, tourist accommodations, and newcomers from various parts of the world, creating tensions between locals and travellers.

Barcelona’s Mayor, the socialist Jaume Collboni, has called for a fresh perspective on the city’s tourism model. Responding to residents’ protests, Collboni has proposed shifting towards a model focused on effective tourism management rather than solely promoting it.

Collboni envisions “a city with tourism, not a city solely reliant on tourism.”

The Barcelona City Council is actively developing a comprehensive model built on four key pillars: ensuring quality visitors and the employment opportunities they bring, maintaining sustainability and a balanced urban and metropolitan area, promoting order and coexistence with a call for respectful and considerate tourism, and advancing regulated tourism in collaboration with the industry.

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Written by

Anna Ellis

Originally from Derbyshire, Anna has lived in the middle of nowhere on the Costa Blanca for 19 years. She is passionate about her animal family including four dogs and four horses, musicals and cooking.