Bustling Barcelona with a beach, Gaudi and Lionel Messi is a highly desirable tourist destination.
But mass tourism can have a detrimental effect on the functioning and priorities of a city.
The Catalan capital, home to 1.6 million residents, was swamped by 32 million tourists last year.
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For those who live in Barcelona, tourism has become the city’s number one concern ahead of unemployment.
“‘In the five years since we have been in power we have seen a 20 percent increase in tourism and it has hurt housing,” says Ada Colau, the mayor of Barcelona.
With rocketing real estate prices driving people out of the city, protests are brewing.
Maria Sisternas is from Urban Media consulting: “Real estate provides more earnings than jobs and this makes us very vulnerable, it makes us a less productive economy.”
The Hotel Association of Barcelona is also under pressure from some 7,000 illegal apartments listed on digital platforms such as Airbnb.
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Jordi Clos is the President Hotel Association of Barcelona and concerned about the future: “Illegal tourist accommodation creates discontent because this is not the kind of tourism we want, and besides it is a problem for the residents of Barcelona.”
Daniel Pardo is a member of the Association of Neighborhood for Sustainable Tourism: ‘‘This will continue to devalue our lives, or we radically change the model of the city and invest in sustainable economies or Barcelona will become a theme park. The way of containing tourism is to reduce the economic impact of tourism in the city.”
But with such cultural jewels on offer, how can rampant tourism be controlled?
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Ada Colau, the mayor of Barcelona, continues: ‘‘Both tourists and citizens agree that tourism is positive, but in order to keep being positive it needs to be planned and regulated to be sustainable.”
Cristina Giner is in the city for Euronews: “Both the city council and the associations that are pro or anti-tourism liaise with other European cities such as Venice, Paris and Berlin to find a common solution to mass tourism.”