Anti-tourism protests rock Barcelona: Could British holidaymakers face a summer of disruption?

Two women spray tourists with water guns during a protest in Barcelona on July 6. Credit: Getty

By Connor Parker

Brits love going abroad, but in recent years many of our favourite holiday destinations have become unhappy with the wave of tourists coming to their homes every summer.

Over the weekend, an anti-tourism protest in Barcelona saw locals squirting water guns at tourists eating meals, waving placards written in English saying "tourists go home", and setting up pretend cordons around popular locations.

Around 3,000 people attended a march along the popular waterfront district of the Catalonian capital, with their main complaint focused on the dramatic increase in rents the city has seen in recent years.

Many blame the growing number of Airbnbs in the city for restricting the rental market with rents going up almost 20% in a year.

Earlier this year, the left-wing mayor of Barcelona Jaume Collboni announced all short-term lets will be phased out by 2028, effectively ending the Airbnb market in the city.

The protests in Barcelona are just the latest example of unrest among the locals of tourist hotspots, particularly in the Mediterranean.

Protests have been seen in the Balearic Islands, Venice, Greece, and the Canary Islands in recent months for much the same reason.

But with the peak of British summer holiday season around the corner, are more protests on the way? ITV News explains.

Spanish growing unhappy with number of tourists

A popular holiday destination, Spain, has been the centre of anti-tourism protests in recent months.

The number of tourists visiting the country increased by almost 20% between 2022 and 2023, with the hotspots being in Catalonia, the Balearics, and the Canary Islands.

Tourism represents nearly 12% of Spain’s economy, but locals have started pressuring governments to put measures in place to reduce the number of visitors.

People march during a mass demonstration over tourism in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain Credit: AP

In April in Tenerife - the largest of the Canary Islands - protesters staged a hunger strike as part of a wider campaign demanding the government tackle the effects of excess tourism in the region.

Protest group Canarias Se Agota (translated as The Canaries Have Had Enough) said the "tourist monoculture" on the island "squeezes natural resources, destroys the territorym and deteriorates the quality of life of the local population".

Similar protests were held in the Balearic islands in May, where locals are fed up with the party atmosphere in Ibiza and the number of visitors to Majorca.

A group called Prou Eivissa (Enough Ibiza) said they were not against British visitors just against the "type of tourism" their island attracted.

The government of the island chain has already begun clamping down on some partying excess.

They introduced laws banning alcohol sales on the islands between 9.30pm and 8am, and people caught drinking in unauthorised areas will face a penalty fine of up to 1,500 Euros (£1,260).

Are more protests planned?

Yes, at least two protests are planned during the summer holiday, with some of it directly targeted at British tourists.

A protest is planned in Palma, Mallorca for July 21 aimed at disrupting tourism in the popular city. The date coincides with the first week of the summer holidays.

A poster for the protest organised by Menys Turisme, Mes Vida (Less Tourism, More Life) says they will gather at 7pm local time at a park in the centre of the city.

The group also said "a summer full of actions awaits us" indicating more action was planned and said they would work with similar groups on the other Balearic islands to coordinate protests.

During their initial meetings, the group initially proposed trying to close the city airport by creating a traffic gridlock, which would effectively make getting in and out impossible.

They also discussed blocking the port and disrupting other holiday hotspots.

The campaign group have complained that Airbnb-style rentals have made housing unaffordable and the local infrastructure is unable to accommodate the influx of tourists, creating heavy traffic jams all summer.

The group wants the government to put limits on the number of tourists visiting the island.

The local government has warned such moves would be illegal and has criticised the tactics.

In the Canaries, a similar demonstration over the summer has been promised. Following on from the massive protest in April, the group Friends of Nature of Tenerife (ATAN) has said their complaints have not been listened to.

People gather during a mass demonstration against over tourism in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain. Credit: AP

As a result, ATAN said they would return to the streets, although they did not announce a date for the fresh protest.

They are demanding more is done to limit the effects of tourism on the lives of locals and the local environment of the islands.

A statement from the group published in July said: "We have decided to take to the streets again.

"This time we will take to the streets in the very centre of this development model: in the main tourist areas."

They have promised to protest in tourist areas like the Playa de Las Americas, a place popular with British holidaymakers.

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