• Spain's news in English

Barca locals rebel at naked tourists' antics

AFP · 6 Sep 2014, 10:38

Published: 06 Sep 2014 10:38 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Long popular with foreign merrymakers, the beachside district of La Barceloneta surged to notoriety last month when newspapers published photographs of smirking tourists shopping stark naked in a supermarket there.

Local families soon took to the streets themselves in angry demonstrations, condemning a mass tourism industry that they say packs visitors into cheap, unregulated rental flats in their district.

"La Barceloneta rebels," read signs waved by the locals.

"Stop mass wild tourism... My building is not a hotel."

"It's a daily ordeal for us. At night the place fills up with illegal parties, people getting drunk and shouting in the street. It is disgraceful and unbearable," said Manel Serrano, 59, pushing his mother in a wheelchair at one of the demonstrations.

Formerly an old fishing district, La Barceloneta's beachfront became one of the finest spots in the city when Barcelona was renovated to host the 1992 Olympic Games.

Its kept its local character however, with the same deeply rooted community living in small houses and hanging out washing from the balconies overlooking the narrow streets.

Now these locals say so-called "tourist apartments" are driving up housing prices in their home district.

"They are speculating with the apartments and rents are rising," said Pilar Lozano, an unemployed woman of 42.

"We have lived in this neighbourhood all our lives. We cannot allow that."

Barcelona's city hall has boosted police patrols in the district and stepped up inspections of suspected illegal flat-rentals.

It has not granted any new licences to let out tourist flats in the centre since May.

"We have been working for some time on promoting tourism but it has not been properly regulated until now. Now we are addressing that," said Sonia Recasens, the city's top economic official.

Barcelona's tourism problems stretch beyond La Barceloneta, however.

Overcrowding has long afflicted the old centre and the areas around the Sagrada Familia cathedral and Park Guell, a pair of star attractions with designs by the renowned Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi.

Story continues below…

When the city polled its residents in July, they cited tourism as their fourth-biggest worry, after unemployment, the economy and security.

The number of tourists to Barcelona shot up from 1.7 million in 1990 to 7.5 million in 2013 -- but that figure only includes those who stayed in licensed hotels.

The city hall puts the figure at about 27 million if day-trippers and other categories of visitor are included -- in a city with a population of 1.6 million.

"This tourism model based on unlimited growth is unsustainable," said Lluis Rabell, president of a Barcelona neighbourhood association.

"It seriously alters neighbourhood relations and the lives of locals. It transforms the city into a theme park."

Among the worst affected areas overall in the city are the old Gothic quarter and the Raval, near the popular central avenue Las Ramblas, where locals have been protesting lately too.

A professor of tourism at the Catalonia Open University, Oriol Miralbell, warned that tensions over tourism in the city could eventually put visitors

"A study needs to be made of how much tourism these areas can withstand and tourism needs to be decentralised so that people visit other areas," he said.

Saida Palou, author of a doctoral thesis on tourism in Barcelona, said: "The problem is not the number of tourists, but the fact they are concentrated in the same few places.

"Barcelona cannot do without tourism because 10 to 12 percent of the city's economic output depends on it," she added.

"It brings us a lot of life and cultural wealth, but if that comes at the price of social discontent, something is being done wrong."

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Recipe: How to make fabada - traditional Asturian bean stew
Photo: Flavio Lorenzo Sánchez/Flickr

The hearty Asturian dish is a perfect lunch on a cold day... and don't forget the crusty bread and cider!

Brit 'paedo' held on Costa del Sol after Most Wanted appeal

One of Britain's most wanted fugitives was arrested on the Costa Del Sol following a tip-off from an expat just hours after his face appeared on a public appeal.

Spain's parliament approves deficit reduction measures
Photo: Images Money/Flickr

Spanish lawmakers approved on Thursday measures to reduce the public deficit and keep it under the target agreed with the European Union.

'Cubism and War' show opens at Barcelona Picasso Museum
Pablo Picasso Harlequin and Woman with a Necklace. Photo: MP

Barcelona's Picasso Museum unveiled an exhibition on "Cubism and War" on Thursday depicting how one of the most influential artistic styles of the 20th century survived the First World War.

Why this bionic limb pioneer doesn't believe in disability
Hugh Herr has been award Spain's top science prize. Photo: FPA

The Local speaks to Hugh Herr on winning Spain's top science prize and how being an amputee doesn't make him disabled.

Dine in the buff at Spain's first nudist restaurant
A buffet of organic food will be served on "human tables". Photo: Innato / Facebook

Spain's first naked dining experience is to arrive on the island of Tenerife following the success of a similar venture in London.

Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Photo: AFP

Spain's Constitutional Court on Thursday cancelled a bullfighting ban in Catalonia in what is likely to exacerbate tensions between Madrid and the separatist region, and between animal activists and fans of the tradition.

Out of the dark: Five years on from Eta ceasefire
Eta members made a ceasefire declaration in January, 2011. Photo: Gara / AFP

Five years after armed separatist group Eta declared a permanent ceasefire, Basque journalist Alberto Letona is still wondering when the dialogue will begin.

Hunt for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Call Crimestoppers if you recognize these faces.

These fugitives from British justice are thought to be hiding out in Spain. Do you recognize anyone?

Eta 'not dead' but Spain focus moves onto jihadism
Archive photo of a pro-mural in the Basque Country. Photo: AFP

Five years after Eta quit violence, the Basque separatist group has yet to dissolve but it poses little threat and authorities have shifted their focus to fight jihadists, says Spain's chief anti-terrorism prosecutor.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
Forgotten Voices: What Brits in Spain think about Brexit
One dead and 14 injured in blast at Spanish resort
Game of Thrones want extras 'with muscles' to film in Spain
Thousands march in Madrid to push for bullfighting ban
Spanish team invents hands-free 'penis bidet'
In pics: Devastation caused by Costa Blanca wildfires
jobs available