"They should all be driven to hell, the best thing would be to close the borders! The English and the Germans are the worst, they make our life hell here," scolds the woman in her eighties, who lives near Park Güell in Anger, with a face twisted with anger Barcelona laboriously carries their shopping bags home.
Shortly before, she had insulted a group of young tourists who refused to give her space on the narrow sidewalk. In the café, an older man agrees with the pensioner. As his friends jeer, he shouts: "I'll spit on the rabble from my balcony."
Not everyone is venting their anger quite so bluntly - but this summer it's hard to find a local in Barcelona who isn't fed up with the ever-growing tourist industry. The word "turismophobia" (tourism phobia) is making the rounds in Spain - the most popular foreign travel destination for Germans. Not only in Barcelona and all of Catalonia, but also in Mallorca, in Galicia or on the Canary Islands, the rejection of mass tourism is becoming more and more open and sometimes even violent.
In many places there are protest rallies by local residents. But not only. You can also come up with spectacular actions. For example, on Mallorca, where an activist group called Caterva on the east coast tried to scare foreign tourists off the beaches in August by putting up deceptively real-looking signs that said in English that bathing was prohibited or warned of "dangerous jellyfish" or falling rocks. All wrong and made up, of course. The group later explained that action had to be taken against the "expropriation" of the beaches by vacationers.
Previously, in Barcelona, residents of the El Carmel neighborhood not far from Park Güell reversed the signs pointing the way to the old bunkers on Turó de la Rovira hill in order to mislead strangers. The vantage point, which offers one of the best panoramic views of the city, has in recent years become a hotspot for sunset and picnic fans, but also for Tiktokers, Instagrammers and drunk tourists, who also gathered there by the thousands in the evenings to loud DJ music . The media reported violent clashes between residents and tourists. Due to the increasing tensions, the city decided in May to close the facilities between 7:30 p.m. and 9 a.m. According to neighbors, however, the decision is constantly being disregarded.
Back to Park Güell. Although a visit to the unique creation of the Modernisme architect Antoni Gaudí has been chargeable since 2013 and is not cheap at ten euros, it remains the most visited attraction in Barcelona alongside the Sagrada Familia Basilica. Carina lives just a few streets away with her adult son and says that "the chaos is getting worse."
"It's the noise, the dirt. But not only here. I've never seen the whole city so dirty. And then the bad behavior of the tourists. There are always people sitting in front of our front door and blocking the way," says the woman who is on his way to work in the hospital with his motorcycle helmet on, the German Press Agency. Carina hopes for improvement. Unlike Sandra. The young jewel designer has thrown in the towel. She sells her house and moves away with her partner. Where? "I don't know yet, maybe on a quiet beach. But now the whole city is suffering [from mass tourism], I think."
But nowhere in Barcelona is frustration as evident as in Vila de Gràcia. If you walk through the narrow streets of the artists' quarter, you can now see them almost everywhere. On walls, garage doors, information boards and monuments, the request "TOURISTS GO HOME" is emblazoned in large letters. The graffiti appear on almost every second street corner. "More than ever before," state TV broadcaster RTVE recently stated. Slogans against tourism can also be seen there on small yellow stickers and on large banners. A small radical minority, the uninitiated visitor might think. Not at all! “We all think the same,” assures Ester from the Verdi del Mig neighborhood association.
While the woman with the short gray hair interrupts the preparations for the district festival to talk to the journalist, more and more people come together to vent their displeasure. "We can no longer dance on the street at the festival like we used to", "Only English is spoken here" or "We are strangers in our own house", among other things. A young woman complains: "Many visitors get drunk and become violent". Tourists walk past the excited group almost every second without realizing that they are the subject of the heated conversation.
In Barcelona, but even in Santiago de Compostela, the destination of the supposedly pious pilgrims in Galicia, complaints are piling up about visitors who not only roam the streets drunk and bawling in the best Ballermann style until early in the morning, but also sleep outdoors and to relieve themselves.
Politics and business are aware of the dimension of the problem and do not downplay it - even if opinions on the reasons and solutions differ. "The tourism phobia in the Canary Islands is slowly becoming worrying," said Jessica de León, the new regional tourism minister, these days. But the polemics are also fueled by interested parties, she claims. Barcelona City Councilor Jordi Valls, who is responsible for economic development, openly admitted in an interview with the newspaper "La Vanguardia": "Is there a limit for tourism in Barcelona? Yes, there is. Have we reached this limit? Probably."
One thing is certain: the situation will not improve on its own. According to estimates by the responsible authorities, Spain is facing a new record year this year with more foreign visitors than ever before. 85 million are expected - 1.3 million above the peak recorded before the pandemic broke out in 2019. The sector accounts for twelve percent of the gross domestic product in Spain, and even around a third in the Canary and Balearic Islands.
Even those who benefit from the high numbers cannot close their eyes to reality. The president of the Playa de Palma hoteliers' association on Mallorca speaks plainly with the famous ballerina, Pedro Marín: "It is unacceptable that the residents are afraid to go for a walk here," Marín told the newspaper "Última Hora". "This summer there was rape, stabbing, theft, drugs... a disaster." The hotelier assures that he and his colleagues are trying to attract "reasonably good tourists" to the island. But more police and more "hard hands" are also needed. The angry pensioner from Park Güell will certainly agree with him.