Almost everybody loves Barcelona, myself included. It’s the reason I moved here from the UK 15 years ago and it’s the reason why I’m still here, 15 years later. But Barcelona is no longer the city it was at the turn of this century — and the main reason is the massive growth in international tourism.
According to a study by Euromonitor International, the Catalonian capital has registered the largest increase of any European city in the number of foreign visitors in recent times. In 1990 the city, with a permanent population of just over 1.5 million residents, attracted 1.7 million tourists. In 2012 that number had more than quadrupled to 7.4 million.
As the documentary Bye Bye Barcelona (featured below) shows, Barcelona is in many ways a victim of its own success. Globalised tourism, now one of the world’s largest and most profitable industries, brings in fat, easy bucks. But it also redirects much-needed local investment from projects aimed at improving the quality of life for all residents to projects aimed exclusively at attracting and accomodating ever larger numbers of tourists. The result: a theme-park city that is pushed to the very limits of its physical capacity as well as an increasingly marginalised and resentful local population whose concerns, interests and needs are generally ignored by city authorities.
[The documentary includes English subtitles which, while far from perfect, are perfectly adequate. They may need activating in the video’s settings]