Judging by my son’s recent experience in Barcelona this summer, the locals have reached boiling point. Barcelona tourism is angering locals and it’s time to rethink how we holiday. He and eight of his mates stayed in an Airbnb in the city centre and had a wonderful time enjoying all the city has to offer. In their case that meant mostly beer and beach, with a little bit of tapas thrown in for good measure. Even my daughter was prompted to text him on our family WhatsApp group saying “DO SOMETHING CULTURAL”….don’t you just love it when your children take over the role of indignant parent? But the locals are clearly getting very, very angry – angry enough to wipe shit all over the front door of the Airbnb they were staying in when they had gone out for the day.
Disgusting and upsetting.
Barcelona is one of the most popular, vibrant and beautiful cities in Europe and it would be a real shame if things went wrong between the visitors and the locals. The extraordinary rise of the disruptor Airbnb has generated new income streams and the latest travel trend of keeping things more experiential and local. But this mass tourism is driving up rental prices and making life miserable for the locals in many European cities. The Balearic Islands have just introduced a cap on tourist bed numbers and tough rules for Airbnb lets and owners will now be required to obtain a licence or face fines of up to 400,000 euros if they break the rules. These islands are not alone and given the violent protests seen on the streets of Barcelona in the last few weeks, I imagine they might impose similar rules there at some point soon.
Admittedly, I can understand their frustrations. I can’t imagine anything worse than my neighbour renting out their home to 8+ teenage boys week in, week out over the summer (even though you’d think that was what I was doing most days of the week, but sadly with no rent!). I’m sure they were noisy and stayed up all hours, but does that mean they deserved to have their front door and door handle smeared with faeces by one of the angry neighbours (according to the owner), who had to send someone round to clean it all up?
How angry must they be to want to do that? Apparently one of the main issues in Barcelona is that about 40% of the tourist apartments in the city are thought to be illegal, so regulations, whilst they exist, are being badly enforced. Additionally Barcelona is also suffering from strike action by some security personnel at Barcelona airport, where they are striking every Friday, Sunday and Monday at regular one hour stoppages throughout the day during the summer.
This personal experience is in addition to my son being there during the masked gang attack on a tourist bus, which understandably terrified the families onboard who thought they were under a terrorist attack. They sprayed graffiti all over the outside of the bus with anti-tourist statements. I understand that they are additionally massively objecting to the huge increase in hire cars in the city owing to tourists renting airbnb’s that are further out from the city centre, thus requiring a car to get out and about.
So we need to look urgently at ways to ease the burden. Stricter rules and regulations to stop investors from buying entire blocks of flats to rent to tourists, tourism taxes and a move to promote as yet unknown destinations to us Brits….so where should we all start going instead? It’s really annoying though because I appear to be one of the few people who have yet to visit Barcelona – which everyone LOVES. So perhaps we should try and encourage winter visits to spread the load. August must be horrendous. But equally Majorca in the winter is empty so maybe that would be an option?