It brings buckets of money, but what are the consequences?
Barcelona, Europe’s most visited non-capital city (at least officially speaking), is now so saturated with tourists that even the tourists are complaining. In a recent study by the City Council, 40% of the tourists surveyed thought that prices in the city were too high, while 59% believed that the streets and tourist hotspots were too crowded.
They’ve got a point. In 2015 the city, with a total permanent population of 1.7 million, drew 8.9 million visitors, 6.5% more than the year before and a five-fold increase from 1990. And that’s just those who stayed in hotels. Airbnb hosts provided accommodation for a further 900,000 visitors. By 2016 that number had climbed to 1.25 million. Many Airbnb offerings are considered illegal, according to the City Council.
The tourism boom has brought with it buckets of money. According to Mastercard’s Global Destination Cities Index, Barcelona rakes in over $12 billion a year from tourism and is the third-ranked European city in terms of tourist expenditure, just behind the two global powerhouses of London and Paris. However, this money has come at a heavy price, as the documentary film Bye Bye Barcelona documents.
A common complaint among residents is that the Barcelona they know and love has become a theme-parked city that is reaching the outer limits of its physical capacity — just as has happened with Venice, whose permanent population has shrunk from 180,000 in the 1960s to less than 60,000 today, as more than 2 million visitors flood the city every year. They have a point…