Barcelona Residents Protest Mass Tourism with Water Gun Attacks

Barcelona residents expressed their frustration with the growing number of tourists by targeting popular tourist spots in the city this weekend with water guns, demanding they go home. 

“Enough, let’s put limits on tourism,” was the rallying cry for the thousands of people – around 2,800, – who turned up on Saturday evening in the city center and began marching to major tourist attractions. 

Organizers asserted that the protest provided an outlet for the “discomfort that exists in Barcelona” regarding the influx of tourists, which local officials have blamed for soaring housing costs and making it difficult for residents to live in the city. 

Neighborhood associations, housing activists and ecologists joined the gathering, arguing that “enormous negative impacts” on employment, society and the environment have made it “impossible” for locals to live in Barcelona. 

The organizers have also argued that the rising number of tourists – around 12 million people a year, many arriving by cruise ship – has also strained health services, waste management and water supplies.

Barcelona’s Mayor Jaume Collboni announced a plan to eliminate all of the city’s roughly 10,000 short-term rentals by 2028, but the housing activists argue that the legislation will pave the way for more hotels instead.

Barcelona joins a growing list of major European tourist destinations grappling with the strain of excessive tourism and the wear and tear the city has to bear under such demands. 

On the Canary Islands, just off the coast of Africa but owned by Spain, activists have gone on a hunger strike to prevent the building of new hotels, . The organizers abandoned the protest after 20 days, determining that officials had “zero interest” in their well-being, but construction briefly halted due to concerns over environmental breaches. 

Residents have urged the government to abandon its plans to expand hotel building across the islands, with slogans reminding them that “people live here” and that they “don’t want to see our island die.” 

Florence, Italy, last year , which it defines as properties that have an occupancy for less than 30 days for any single occupant. Mayor Dario Nardella last year acknowledged the law would face resistance, but he believed it was fully and legally defensible, The Associated Press reported. 

Nardella at the time argued locals had found themselves living in “apartment hotels” as the city saw the total apartments available on Airbnb surging from 6,000 to over 14,000 in just five years. The city would not vacate the 8,000 listings in the city center but would look to convert when possible.

Venice, Italy officials upset locals by to the city center, with advocates arguing that the fee does little to disincentivize visitors and simply fills the city coffers while the available supply of apartments remains limited. 

“It is a further advance toward the Venice that we do not want, the ‘museum city,’ a step toward the normalization of this image, which is all the more dangerous the more it enters the international imagination,” Susanna Polloni, from the Venice-based Solidarity Network for Housing, told reporters. 

“This measure will help make it even more concretely real,” Polloni continued. “A city empty of residents and soul, given that the tourist monoculture is now devouring everything needed for the life of a city: housing, protected employment, public services, neighborhood shops and crafts.”