Barcelona was gripped by anti-tourist protests on 6 July, Source: Assemblea de Barris pel Decreixement Turístic

Barcelona hoteliers oppose the anti-tourist sentiment in the city

Barcelona hoteliers oppose the anti-tourist sentiment in the city

The hospitality guild is concerned that weekend protests might have tarnished the welcoming image of the city

Last Saturday, Barcelona made headlines when 3,000 people went on the streets to protest the massive touristification of their city and the negative consequences that this had brought in its wake. The protests were notable for having a slightly sinister undercurrent as the demonstrators turned their rage directly against visitors by spraying them with water guns and firing crackers at hotel doors.

In response, the Barcelona hotel guild (Gremi d’Hotels de Barcelona), however, released a statement that it found these types of provocations “unacceptable” because they damaged the image of the Catalan capital as a “welcoming city”.

The hoteliers were of the opinion that these protests were unnecessary and were the reflection of a feeling not shared by all residents of Barcelona but rather only of that held by certain social vocal movements.

The guild insisted that the protesters demonstrated a lack of understanding about the importance of tourism as a vital economic activity that brings prosperity to the city and offered instead to provide more education on that aspect.

Housing for locals or for tourists?

The hoteliers, however, acknowledged that the protests had a root in certain injustice caused by the proliferation of tourism rentals, which exacerbated the shortage of affordable housing for residents.

The discontent of the activists, however, also betrays anxiety that despite promises by Mayor Jaume Collboni to cut the number of tourist flats drastically, this may simply transform into the building of more hotels instead.

It goes without saying that for the hotel guild that would be a welcome benefit, but they insist in their statement that what needs to change is also the way the city is marketed so that it would bring a different type of tourists.

Surveys show that both sides may have a point and that the issue is quite complex, as can be expected. Almost 75% of Catalans are in favour of continuing to promote tourism in the region, according to a general survey by CEO, a government-owned survey agency.

But at the same time, almost half of the respondents (46%) said that they felt that tourism is a limiting force as it reduces public space for locals and that there is a ceiling on what can be absorbed.

According to the latest data from the Statistical Institute of Catalonia, 2 million tourists arrived in Catalonia in May of this year, an increase of 5,9% since May of last year. The perennial appeal of Barcelona, however, may have reached a tipping point when faced with the capability to adequately manage and absorb so many visitors without disturbing the quality of life of the locals.



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