Barcelona has not been thinking long-term about its tourism growth, but now it's being forced to. Other destinations will certainly be watching.
Protesters rallied Saturday in Barcelona over what they considered an out-of-control tourism boom that has damaged their ability to live and work in the northeastern Spanish city.
A soaring tourism business has fueled higher prices for rent and property sales, leaving many of the city’s 1.6 million residents priced out of the city center.
Under a large banner saying “Barcelona is not for sale,” protesters marched and read a manifesto in which they denounced the tourist boom that has overtaken the city. Local police said over 1,000 people demonstrated in the famed central walkway of Las Ramblas, while protesters estimated the total as closer to 2,000.
“This march is a way to portray the fact that we have lost our city, and are hoping to claim it back. Rent and property prices have risen back to what they were in 2008, before the economic crisis, and residents can no longer afford them,” said Camilo Ramos, 63, a representative of the Barcelona Neighbors Association.
Despite fierce opposition from hotel and business owners, the City Council agreed Friday to curb the number of rooms for tourists in the city. Many protesters felt the move fell short of expectations.
“It was a necessary measure, but it’s still not enough. We need to decrease the number of hotels and increase public space for residents,” said Anna Moreno, a 59-year-old high school professor.
Asha Nen, a visiting 35-year-old French engineering assistant, watched the scene from a distance.
“We are enjoying our stay, although it’s true that the city is quite full. Some locals seem to be weary of us tourists,” she said.
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Photo Credit: Tourists crowd Barcelona's Las Ramblas thoroughfare, one of the city's most popular attractions. Mathieu Marquer / Flickr
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