One might assume that the booming tourism Barcelona has been receiving would be unanimously welcomed by locals, but the reality is very different.
An anti-tourism sentiment is growing in Catalonia, with locals feeling as though the arrival of more than 30 million visitors per year lowers their living standard, driving up rent prices and congesting public spaces, among other complaints.
Yet, with tourism accounting for a substantial share of its economy and providing many jobs, is this a case of nit-picking, or a genuine case in which tourism is having a negative backlash?
Unlike in most recent cases, the 1992 Olympic Games were hugely beneficial for the city, since international corporations settled in Catalonia, bringing over 20,000 jobs and improving infrastructure s. It even led to the creation of Barceloneta beach, the most commonly visited by tourists nowadays.
Saying that the impact of the Olympics have been transformative for Barcelona would be an understatement. In 2000, in fact, foreigners represented less than 2% of the population. The current official figure stands at 18%, though according to the city of Barcelona’s integration and immigration commissioner, Lola López, the actual figure is close to 30%.
Barcelona, however, has rarely taken up issues with immigration. In 2017, in fact, tens of thousands marched in the city streets calling for the Spanish government to meet their pledge to take in even more refugees. Tourism nowadays receives a greatly different response.
What began as a welcome arrival is now a major point of concern for many residents. In 1990, Barcelona received 1.7 million tourists; in 2017, they were 32: almost 20 times the local population. It is the most visited non-capital city in Europe – only London, Paris and Rome receives more tourists per year.
The most noticeable impact of tourism is on the city’s most famous street, La Rambla. Formerly a classy promenade and home to the famous La Boqueria market, as well