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Spain. Tourist records do not go hand in hand with sympathy for holidaymakers

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The “harvest” in Spanish tourism has its price. Protests on beaches in popular resorts and water being thrown at vacationers are increasingly common during this year's holiday season in Spain. Residents of popular destinations are falling victim to their own country's success.

Even before the summer halfway point in Spain There have already been dozens of demonstrations against mass tourism, the largest of which were organised in the Balearic Islands, Andalusia, the Basque Country, as well as in Catalonia and the Canary Islands, where for a time a group of residents even went on hunger strike.

Protest in MajorcaENEX

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Record results

However, the numerous protests of dissatisfied Spaniards are accompanied by good data from the tourism sector, and this only takes into account the winter-spring period. After five months of 2024, Spain can boast 33 million holidaymakers from abroad, a number never recorded before. According to the National Statistics Institute (INE), between January and May 2024, 13.6% more holidaymakers arrived in Spain compared to the same period in 2023.

Protest in BarcelonaPAP/EPA/TONI ALBIR

Thanks to the money left by foreign visitors, the Spanish economy is also growing in revenue. By May of this year alone, spending by foreigners on holiday there exceeded EUR 43.2 billion, which is 21.8 percent more than in the same period last year. As Lidia Sanchez from the Isla Magica amusement park in Seville told PAP, the flood of tourists in Spain helps to stimulate jobs in some sectors of the economy. As she pointed out, it also has its downsides. – The residents of popular cities and towns in our country are suffering in particular, as they cannot afford to buy or rent apartments, given the rapidly rising real estate prices – added Sanchez. She pointed out that the biggest beneficiaries of the influx of tourists in the entertainment industry are primarily catering establishments located in city centers, especially bars.

Protests by residents of Majorca against mass tourismReuters

“Harvest” despite restrictions

The “harvest” in Spanish tourism continues despite the actions of Spanish local governments that have been taking place for several years, restricting the possibility of renting private properties to tourists in the most popular places in the country or designating areas where hotel facilities are allowed to be built. Some municipalities have introduced or increased the so-called tourist tax. Restrictions of this type have been introduced in recent years in the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands and Catalonia, but they have not limited the mass influx of tourists. In the latter region, protests by local residents have been growing regularly, and they do not hesitate to block popular places from tourists, or even spray them with water shot from plastic guns. Although at the end of June, the mayor of Barcelona, ​​Jaume Collboni, announced that in 5 years the city would no longer issue permits for renting accommodation to tourists, Barcelona residents' organizations claim that this is too distant a date. They accuse the local city hall of helping to increase prices renting apartments. The authorities of Barcelona, ​​where tourists can stay in one of more than 10,000 private apartments, confirm the phenomenon that average rental prices in the Catalan capital have increased by 70 percent since 2014. The costs of rent and living are also rising in other Spanish cities, especially those located in regions popular with tourists, such as Andalusia.

Chaos and rising living costs

Ana Gamero, who lives near Seville and works at a store in the center of the Andalusian capital, points out that local government officials are increasingly experiencing the effects of mass tourism, chaos, and, above all, rising living costs. “I used to live in the city center by myself. Over time, apartment rental prices rose beyond my means, forcing me to move out of Seville to the suburbs. Today, I travel to work by train, like many local officials,” Gamero told PAP. The 50-year-old, who comes from Andalusia, admitted that although Spain is earning record profits thanks to mass tourism, she added that these are “unfairly shared.” “The average Spaniard today experiences very little, or none at all, of the financial benefits of mass tourism,” Gamero concluded.

Main image source: guss.95/Shutterstock

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