Tourism For Members

Why does hatred of tourists in Spain appear to be on the rise?

Alex Dunham
Alex Dunham - [email protected]
Why does hatred of tourists in Spain appear to be on the rise?
Tourists walk past a tag reading "Tourists go home!" on their way to Guell Park in Barcelona. Anti-tourism messages such as these are becoming increasingly common across Spain's holiday hotspots. (Photo by PAU BARRENA / AFP)

Tourism has been the backbone of the Spanish economy for decades, but in recent weeks there are increasing signs that locals are more willing than ever to ‘bite the hand that feeds them’. What’s changed?


An anti-tourism sticker campaign in the southern Spanish city of Málaga recently made international headlines due to the brazenness of the slogans used. “Go f*cking home” (a tu puta casa), “stinking of tourist” (apestando a turista), “get the f*ck out of here” (vete a tomar por culo) and numerous other salty messages were plastered on buildings which were once residential and are now mainly made up of short-term holiday lets. 

READ MORE: 'Get the f*ck out of here' - Spain's Málaga plastered with anti-tourism stickers 

On the Canary island of Tenerife, a demonstration touted as “the biggest in the island’s history” is set to take place on April 20th under the slogan “The Canary Islands have reached their limit. We need a change of model”.


Although the protest will focus on more than just the issue of ‘overtourism’, it’s seen as being at the core of the problems plaguing Tenerife and the Atlantic islands as a whole: rampant construction, destruction of biodiversity, overpopulation, sky-high rents, the proliferation of Airbnb rentals, traffic jams and drought restrictions.  

As expected, British tabloids such as the Daily Mail have been quick to stoke the fire with headlines such as "Tenerife goes to war against the Brits: Canary Islands demand a tourist tax and clampdown on families flying over to 'drink cheap beer, lay in the sun and eat burgers and chips' as locals brand Airbnb 'a cancer consuming the island'".

The apparent turismofobia (‘tourismphobia’) that’s brewing is a source of concern for Canary president Fernando Clavijo, who recently called on locals to use “common sense”, arguing that holidaymakers “who spend their money in the archipelago shouldn’t be bothered”, nor should our “main source of employment and wealth be attacked”.

In truth, residents of holiday spots across Spain have for some years now voiced their discontent against the Spanish tourism model of ‘sun, sangría and sex’.

Whether it be campaigns against the antisocial and drunken behaviour of young holidaymakers in Magaluf, Salou or Lloret de Mar, the “tourists go home” slogan graffitied on walls from Granada to Seville, or the protests in Barcelona against the arrival of too many cruise ships, there are many previous examples of anger being vented against tourists and the perception that Spain is being treated as an adult playground for foreign sun-seekers.

READ MORE: Where in Spain do locals 'hate' tourists?

So is tourism hate on the rise in 2024? Perhaps the biggest change is that now more than ever tourism is impacting Spaniards’ access to housing.

It's not that locals necessarily hate foreign holidaymakers and digital nomads, but that life is becoming increasingly difficult for Spaniards as a direct and indirect consequence of the 'anything goes' Spanish tourism model. 


Rents have increased exponentially since the pandemic in Spain, particularly in sought-after areas, with many landlords opting to kick out long-term Spanish tenants in order to either turn their properties into more remunerative short-term holiday lets or hike up the rent so that only high-earning international digital nomads can afford to pay. “Your paradise, my misery,” one disgruntled Tenerife local scribbled on a wall, followed by “the average salary in the Canary Islands is €1,200”.

Furthermore, even though a rise in mortgage interest rates stopped many Spaniards from buying properties in 2023, foreign buyers represented a bigger market share than ever before, propping up the market and keeping prices high. 

READ ALSO: Why are property prices in Spain still rising if sales are dropping?

Bizarrely, or short-sightedly rather, some Spaniards (not all) are currently blaming foreign holidaymakers, digital nomads and second homeowners for being priced out of their neighbourhoods, rather than directing their ire at landlords after a quick buck, predatory vulture funds and of course government (regional and national), for putting profits before people and not foreseeing a problem that isn’t unique to Spain. 

In the same sense that immigrants are often scapegoated for being a more visible target than the real people pulling the strings behind the scenes, sandal-wearing sunburnt tourists stand out more, and therefore are blamed by a minority for the negative consequences of Spain’s international popularity.



Comments (2)

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RH 2024/04/08 18:51
Mass tourism is a problem in many places. A bit of fair criticism about this article, however, in that tourism is NOT the backbone of the Spanish economy, and it represents roughly 9 to 11 percent of GDP. Spain is looking clearly to move into other more profitable sectors, as they should.
NotABrit 2024/04/02 10:53
Spain attracts the wrong tourists. They are the "spend as little as possible and get drunk and act out" type instead of those with money and an interest in discovering and experiencing other cultures. If Spain wants better tourists, advertise in France, Germany, the US, etc. Stop kowtowing to Brits who see Spain as "sunny south Britain" (my British friend's words, not mine) They take cheap flights here to take advantage of cheap beer and "chippies" while discontinuing all manners and respect.

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