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Mediterranean locals join forces against unwanted tourists in serious water gun battle

Barcelona residents vented their frustration at the rise in mass tourism by visiting popular sites in the city this weekend and spraying people with water guns to demand they go home.

“Enough, let’s impose restrictions on tourism” was another rallying cry of the thousands of people – around 2,800, according to Catalan News – who descended on the city centre on Saturday evening and began marching towards the city’s main tourist attractions.

Organisers said the protest was an outlet for “the anxiety in Barcelona” over the rise in mass tourism, which local authorities say is driving up the cost of living and accommodation, making life difficult for residents in the city.

The meeting was joined by representatives of neighbourhood associations, housing activists and environmentalists, who argued that the “huge negative impacts” on employment, society and the environment made it “impossible” for Barcelona residents to live in Barcelona.

According to Euronews, organisers also say the growing number of tourists – around 12 million a year, many of whom arrive on cruise ships – is putting pressure on healthcare, waste management and water supplies.

Protesters shoot water from water guns at tourists during a protest against mass tourism in Barcelona, ​​Spain, July 6, 2024. Reuters Agency

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

Barcelona is another major European tourist destination that is complaining about increased tourist traffic and the wear and tear on its city caused by increasing demands.

Demonstrators symbolically surround the window of a bar-restaurant during a protest against mass tourism on Las Ramblas in Barcelona, ​​July 6, 2024. AFP via Getty Images

In the Canary Islands, just off the coast of Africa but part of Spain, activists went on a hunger strike to prevent new hotels from being built, the BBC reports. Organisers abandoned the protest after 20 days, saying officials had “no interest” in their well-being, but construction was briefly halted over environmental concerns.

Residents have called on the government to abandon plans to expand hotels on the islands, repeating slogans that “people live here” and that “they don’t want our island to die”.

The capital of Catalonia was visited by over 12 million tourists in 2023, and this number is expected to increase even more in 2024. Reuters Agency

Florence, Italy, announced a ban last year on new short-term rentals, which it defines as properties where one tenant is occupied for less than 30 days. Mayor Dario Nardella acknowledged last year that the law would face opposition but said it was fully and legally defensible, the Associated Press reported.

Nardella argued at the time that locals were finding themselves living in “apartment hotels,” as the city saw the total number of apartments available on Airbnb grow from 6,000 to more than 14,000 in just five years. The city had no intention of abandoning the 8,000 listings in the city center, but would seek to convert them as soon as possible.

A tourist observes a protest by demonstrators against mass tourism in Barcelona. Reuters Agency

Venice, Italy, has angered residents by introducing a €5 entry fee for “day visitors” to the city centre. Supporters of the fee say it does not discourage tourists but simply fills the city’s coffers while the number of available apartments remains limited.

“It is another step towards the Venice we do not want, the ‘museum city’, a step towards normalising this image, which is all the more dangerous the more it enters the international imagination,” Susanna Polloni of the Venice Solidarity Network for Housing told reporters.

“This measure will help make it even more concrete,” Polloni continued. “A city devoid of inhabitants and soul, given that the tourist monoculture now absorbs everything that is needed for urban life: housing, sheltered employment, public services, neighborhood shops and crafts.”