Overtourism Sparks Colorful Protests in Barcelona: Thousands Take to the Streets with Water Pistols, Demanding Change

Barcelona, Spain – Over the weekend, thousands of protesters flooded the streets of Barcelona with a colorful display of resistance against overtourism. Some protestors wielded water pistols, creating a scene that prompted bewildered tourists to abandon their meals and seek shelter. The demonstrators, carrying signs that read “Tourists go home,” voiced concerns about the impact of tourism on the cost of living for locals in Barcelona, highlighting the unequal distribution of revenue generated by visitors in the city.

The resurgence of travel post-pandemic has reignited frustrations over overtourism not only in Spain but also globally. Led by the Assemblea de Barris pel Decreixement TurĂ­stic, or the Neighborhood Assembly for Tourism Degrowth, protesters outlined 13 demands in a manifesto published Saturday. These demands included restrictions on tourist accommodations, fewer cruise terminals in the city, and an end to tourism advertisements funded by public money.

Local authorities estimated that around 2,800 people participated in the protests, although some organizers claimed a much larger turnout of up to 20,000 individuals representing 170 organizations. While the use of water guns by protestors was not part of the organized plan, it served as a symbolic gesture that attracted attention to their cause.

Barcelona, a long-standing tourist hotspot, welcomed nearly 26 million visitors to the region last year. The city’s population of 1.7 million faces challenges posed by overtourism, a phenomenon not unique to Barcelona. Similar concerns have been raised in other popular tourist destinations like Venice, Italy, where efforts to combat overtourism have been underway for years. Experts warn that the backlash against overtourism in Barcelona could set a precedent for other overcrowded tourist destinations worldwide.

In response to the growing discontent, Barcelona Mayor Jaume Collboni announced measures to address the concerns raised by residents. These measures include reserving residential units typically used for tourists for local residents and implementing higher taxes on tourists. The push for more sustainable tourism practices and equitable distribution of tourism-related benefits is a growing focus for many cities grappling with the impacts of overtourism.

While the debate over overtourism continues to unfold, experts emphasize the importance of sustainable tourism management strategies. Implementing visitor caps, controlling traffic to popular sites, and utilizing technology to provide real-time data to tourists are some of the proposed solutions to mitigate the negative effects of overtourism. The ongoing dialogue surrounding overtourism underscores the need for a balance between promoting tourism and preserving the cultural and environmental integrity of popular destinations.