In a show of resistance to mass tourism, thousands of protesters marched through the center. Barcelona At the end of the week, people carry placards and chant “tourists go home”. The protest, which featured participants spraying unsuspecting tourists with water guns, saw 2,800 people take to the streets, according to local police, as the city grapples with the effects of the influx of visitors.

Another anti-tourism rally took place in Spain on Saturday evening, July 6, continuing a series of protests that have spread across the country this year. Protesters in Barcelona carried signs reading “Barcelona is not for sale” as they marched through the busy Las Ramblas district, demanding “tourists out of our neighbourhood”.

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Catalan News reports that the march started at 6.30pm in Les Dresins, organized by more than 140 groups, including neighborhood associations and housing activists. Protesters argue that the influx of tourists has driven up living costs and property prices, deepened social inequality and limited access to housing.

Anger ripples across Barcelona

This latest wave of anger follows a massive protest on June 8, when around 3,000 young people took to the streets. Organized by left-wing youth groups, the demonstration focused on a variety of issues, ranging from housing to environmental concerns.

According to property website Idealista, rents in popular tourist cities such as Barcelona and Madrid rose 18 percent in June compared to last year.

One protester told Reuters news agency: “We are here in Barcelona to demonstrate against mass tourism. The city has increasingly catered to tourists, and we want a city for citizens, not just tourists. took.” Another added, “Restaurants and hotels are making huge profits, but people are struggling to make ends meet. That’s a problem.”

Marti Coso, from the Gothic Quarter Neighbors Association, appeared on the Spanish TV show Els Matins to explain the motivations for the protest. He later posted on X (formerly Twitter): “I have tried to explain the reasons for the mobilization on July 6. Tourism is not only a problem of scale but also of economic models, poverty and regions. There is also the problem of destruction!”

Koso also shared photos from the march, captioned: “Enough mass, enough caution, enough exploitation, enough destruction of territory!”

In response to mounting pressure, Barcelona Mayor Jaume Collboni has announced plans to end all short-term rentals by 2028 and reduce the number of tourist apartments in the city. Spain’s Socialist Housing Minister Isabel Rodríguez has also supported the measures, stressing the need for affordable housing.

Similar protests at other tourist spots

This weekend’s protests are echoed by similar protests in other popular tourist destinations, including the Balearics and the Canary Islands. On May 25, around 15,000 people marched in Palma, Majorca, with signs reading “SOS Tourism” and “Let’s save Majorca, kick out the foreigners”.

The following day, Ibiza saw its own protests, and in April, the Canary Islands saw locals voicing concerns about the impact of mass tourism on housing, the environment and jobs.

Decoding ‘Over Tourism’

In 2001, Freya Patterson coined the term ‘overtourism’, lamenting the overdevelopment of tourism and the shortcomings of governance in the city of Pompeii. Two decades later, the problem has become alarmingly familiar in top tourist destinations around the world.

Overtourism is more than just a journalistic tool that stirs up anxiety among host communities or criticizes tourists through anti-tourism activism. This goes beyond simple administrative challenges, although poor governance undoubtedly exacerbates the problem.

Governments at all levels should adopt sound policies to manage tourist demand instead of exploiting the profits from tourism expenditure and investment. The problem of over-tourism is only made easier by too many tourists. Although this is a symptom, it does not capture the complexity of the problem.

At its core, overtourism occurs when tourist demand exceeds the carrying capacity of host communities. The tourism supply chain often drives demand without considering the capacity of destinations and the impact on the well-being of local communities.

Cultural and social dimensions of overtourism.

Overtourism is also a social phenomenon. In densely populated countries such as China and India, crowded places are socially accepted, and concerns about overtourism are rarely raised. It highlights different cultural expectations of personal space and privacy.

Interestingly, Africa is not usually associated with overtourism. However, unbridled growth in tourist numbers is unsustainable, whether in an ancient European city or a sub-Saharan savannah. Cultural clashes between tourists and host communities can manifest in violations of public order, disruptive behavior and misuse of space.

Strategies to combat overtourism

Radical policy measures to break the overtourism cycle are becoming common. For example, Amsterdam has banned cruise ships by closing the city’s cruise terminal. De-tourism, which involves reducing the number of tourists, has been suggested as a remedy. However, the economic trade-off of fewer tourists is a significant one.

Some destinations, such as the Spanish island of Lanzarote, are moving towards quality tourism rather than quantity. This focus on high-productivity tourists is seen in other destinations such as Bali. Dispersing tourists out of hotspots is another strategy, although its effectiveness varies.

Demarketing, or discouraging tourists from visiting popular destinations, has had mixed success. Social media influencers and travel writers often counter these efforts by promoting hotspots. In France, visitors are encouraged to avoid Mont Saint-Michel in favor of other sites. The introduction of entrance fees and controlled access, as seen in Venice, is another obstacle, assuming the revenues are used effectively.

Advocacy and awareness campaigns, such as the Palau Pledge and New Zealand’s Taiki Pledge, aim to promote responsible tourism attitudes. However, the effectiveness of these campaigns is questionable as incidents of irresponsible behavior continue.

Comprehensive solution

Addressing overtourism requires a multi-pronged approach tailored to each destination. The tourism supply chain must share the responsibility, and is essential to avoid the migration of tourism away from popular destinations. Local authorities must enforce capacity limits and be accountable for their actions.

Tourists should act responsibly, as their behavior significantly affects local communities. Investors in tourism should support initiatives that prioritize local needs over profit extraction.

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