Barcelona Residents Protest Overtourism with Water Sprays Amidst Mixed Sentiments: Survey Reveals Only 23% View Tourism as Harmful

Barcelona Residents Protest Overtourism with Water Sprays Amidst Mixed Sentiments: Survey Reveals Only 23% View Tourism as Harmful

Isabella Lopez
3 min read

Barcelona Residents Protest Overtourism with Water Sprays: A Complex Relationship Unveiled

On a bustling Saturday afternoon, the streets of Barcelona witnessed a unique protest as thousands of residents, representing over 140 organizations, took to the streets to express their frustration with overtourism. The protesters sprayed tourists with water, shouting "tourists go home," and symbolically closed off hotel and restaurant entrances. Their grievances centered around the strain that the influx of visitors places on the city’s health services, waste management, water supplies, and housing.

Barcelona, Spain's most visited city, welcomes around 12 million tourists annually, with many arriving via cruise ships. This surge in tourism, while economically beneficial, has put considerable pressure on the city's infrastructure and resources, leading to rising costs of living and endangering historic sites and biodiversity. In response to these challenges, the city council recently voted to increase the tourism tax to €4 per person starting October, aiming to mitigate some of the adverse effects.

Key Takeaways

  1. Economic Impact: Tourism is crucial to Barcelona's economy, contributing approximately 14% to its GDP. In 2023, the city welcomed 26 million tourists, generating an economic impact of around €12.75 billion from direct spending. The sector supports about 150,000 jobs, representing 8.6% of total employment in the city.
  2. Resident Dissatisfaction: Despite its economic benefits, tourism has led to overcrowding, rising prices, and quality-of-life issues for residents, particularly in heavily touristed neighborhoods like Barceloneta, the Gothic Quarter, and areas around the Sagrada Família.
  3. Protest and Action: Residents, especially from civil society organizations and local assemblies, are advocating for stricter regulations and better management of tourist activities to preserve their neighborhoods and quality of life.
  4. Contrasting Opinions: Despite the loud protests, a survey by the Barcelona City Council reveals that only 23% of residents consider tourism harmful, with over 70% acknowledging its economic benefits. This indicates a complex relationship between the residents and the tourism industry, highlighting the nuanced views within the community.
  5. Government Measures: The city council's decision to increase the tourism tax is a step towards addressing these concerns, though many residents feel more comprehensive measures are needed.


The protest highlights a critical tension between the economic benefits and the social costs of tourism in Barcelona. While tourism generates significant revenue and employment, it also exacerbates issues like housing shortages, environmental degradation, and social displacement. The rise in temporary employment and seasonal fluctuations further complicates the sector's stability, affecting the livelihoods of many residents.

In neighborhoods like Barceloneta and the Gothic Quarter, the daily lives of residents are disrupted by overcrowding and the commercialization of urban spaces. The influx of digital nomads and long-term tourists, who can afford higher rents, has pushed housing prices beyond the reach of many locals, intensifying the housing crisis.

Moreover, the strain on public services, such as healthcare and waste management, highlights the need for sustainable tourism practices. The increase in the tourism tax is a positive step, but residents and activists call for more robust policies, including stricter regulation of short-term rentals and comprehensive urban planning that prioritizes residents' needs.

Interestingly, while the protests capture significant attention, the overall sentiment among residents is more varied. A survey by the Barcelona City Council found that only 23% of residents view tourism as harmful, with a majority appreciating its economic contributions. This contrast underscores the complexity of the issue, where economic reliance on tourism coexists with the desire for more sustainable and resident-friendly practices.

Did You Know?

  • Barcelona's housing crisis has become so severe that the city council plans to ban all tourist rentals by 2028. However, this measure is met with skepticism by local housing activists who believe immediate action is necessary.
  • The 1992 Olympic Games marked a turning point for Barcelona, transforming it from an industrial city into a major tourist destination. While this boosted the city's global profile, it also laid the foundation for the current overtourism issues.
  • In a unique move to reclaim their city, residents successfully lobbied to remove a local bus line from Google Maps, which tourists had overrun. This small victory highlights the creative strategies locals are employing to manage the impact of tourism.
  • Tourism-related activities account for some of the lowest wages in the city's economy, highlighting the precarious nature of employment within the sector.

As Barcelona grapples with the challenges of overtourism, the ongoing protests and the city's responses will likely shape its future as a sustainable urban destination. The balance between welcoming visitors and preserving the quality of life for residents remains a critical issue that requires thoughtful and inclusive solutions.

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