Barcelona expat community slams mass tourism in the city

Published:  25 Mar at 6 PM
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One in every three Barcelona-based expats who answered a questionnaire on their likes and dislikes have slammed the effect of mass tourism on the city’s environment.

Unlike the majority of such surveys, the 850 respondents were encouraged to give open-ended replies to the questions. Expats from 26 countries who’d lived in Barcelona for at least three months took part, and identified nine negatives in total. At the top of the list was the effect on the city of the hordes of tourists, identified as the most unpleasant aspect by one in every three respondents.

The city itself is home to just over 1.5 million inhabitants and is the fourth most-visited European city with around eight million tourists arriving every year. Tourism is important to the local economy, as it brings in 20 per cent of the city’s total annual revenue.

According to the study, Barcelona’s four central districts’ characters have changed to cope with the influx of visitors, with local shops closing and being replaced by bars, souvenir shops and restaurants. Property prices in the districts have soared due to foreign investment and rentals are being reserved for tourists rather than let to residents. Along with an exodus to other areas by long-term residents and disturbances caused by tourists, the districts affected have lost their charm.

The study also found that 26 per cent of its respondents were not happy with the character of the local people, and pollution affected another 19 per cent. The economy was criticised by 16 per cent of expats who took part, but crime and the infamous Spanish bureaucracy didn’t seem to cause a great deal of misery within the expat community.

Interestingly, Barcelona’s local authority seems to have taken notice of expat objections to mass tourism, as new accommodation licenses are now being suspended and an initiative first unveiled in New York encouraging economic activity outside the main tourist drag has been initiated. Ten tourism routes taking in especially charming views and historical attractions are now in place, helping to reduce the numbers jamming the central districts.
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