Residents of Mediterranean hotspot load water pistols to protest mass tourism: 'Go home'

Barcelona residents expressed their frustration at the rise in mass tourism by visiting popular spots in the city this weekend and spraying people with water pistols, demanding they go home.

“Enough, let's put limits on tourism,” was another rallying cry for the thousands of people – around 2,800, according to Catalan News – who gathered in the city centre on Saturday night and began marching to the city's main tourist spots.

Organizers said the protest offered a way to express the “discontent that exists in Barcelona” over the rise in mass tourism, which local authorities have blamed for rising living and housing costs, making life difficult for the city's residents.

Neighbourhood associations, housing activists and environmentalists joined the rally and argued that the “huge negative impacts” on employment, society and the environment have made it “impossible” for Barcelona residents to live.

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Catalan water gun

Protesters shoot water pistols during a demonstration against mass tourism in Barcelona, ​​Spain, July 6, 2024. The Catalan capital received more than 12 million tourists in 2023 and expects more in 2024. (Reuters/Bruna Casas)

According to Euronews, organisers also said that the growing number of tourists – around 12 million people a year, many arriving by cruise ship – had also put a strain on health services, waste management and water supplies.

Barcelona Mayor Jaume Collboni has announced a plan to eliminate the city's estimated 10,000 short-term lets by 2028, but housing campaigners say the legislation will pave the way for more hotels.

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Protesters outside a restaurant in Barcelona

Demonstrators protest on Las Ramblas in Barcelona, ​​July 6, 2024. Protests against mass tourism have multiplied in recent months across Spain, the second most visited country in the world. (Josep Lago/AFP via Getty Images)

Barcelona is the latest major European tourist destination to complain about increased tourism and the wear and tear the city is having to endure under such demands.

In the Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa but part of Spain, activists have launched a hunger strike to stop the construction of new hotels, the BBC reported. Organizers abandoned the protest after 20 days, saying authorities had “no interest” in their welfare, but construction was briefly halted due to concerns about environmental damage.

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anti-tourist demonstration with "tourists go home" sign center

More than 3,000 people demonstrated against the tourist overcrowding that the city of Barcelona suffers from and in favour of policies to reduce tourism. (Paco Freire/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Residents urged the government to abandon plans to expand hotel construction across the islands, with slogans reminding them that “people live here” and that they “don't want to see our island die”.

Last year, the Italian city of Florence announced a ban on short-term rentals, which are homes occupied for less than 30 days by a single occupant. Mayor Dario Nardella acknowledged last year that the law would face some resistance, but he said it was fully defensible on legal grounds, the Associated Press reported.

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Protest outside Barcelona

Protesters shout in front of a line of regional police officers protecting the terraces of restaurants in Barceloneta, frequented mainly by tourists, during a rally. (Paco Freire/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Nardella said residents had ended up living in “apartment hotels” as the city saw the total number of apartments available on Airbnb grow from 6,000 to more than 14,000 in just five years. The city would not vacate the 8,000 homes in the city center but would seek to convert them as soon as possible.

Authorities in Venice, Italy, have upset residents by introducing a €5 entrance fee for “day trippers” to the city centre, with city advocates arguing that the fee does nothing to deter visitors and only fills the city's coffers while the supply of available apartments remains limited.

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“This is a further step towards the Venice we do not want, the 'museum city', a step towards the normalisation of this image, which is all the more dangerous as it enters more into the international imagination,” Susanna Polloni, of the Venice Housing Solidarity Network, told journalists.

“This measure will contribute to making this city empty of its inhabitants and its soul even more concrete, because the tourist monoculture now devours everything that is necessary for the life of a city: housing, sheltered jobs, public services, local shops and crafts,” continued Mr. Polloni.

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