CHRONIC overcrowding in some of Spain’s beloved tourism hotspots such as Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca is fuelling an angry backlash, from polite protest to ‘Go Home’ graffiti and even physical intimidation.
Residents are complaining that a sharp rise in tourism is making life intolerable.
In Barcelona, where anger has been brewing for some time, some graffiti has turned menacing. One slogan, featuring a black silhouette with a red target on its head, reads: ‘Why call it tourist season if we can’t shoot them?’
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy intervened this week after some anti-tourist anger turned physical. A video emerged of masked activists setting off flares outside a restaurant full of tourists on the island of Palma de Mallorca. They then entered the restaurant and threw confetti at frightened diners.
Rajoy described the activists as ‘extremists going against common sense’. Tourism makes up 12 percent of Spain’s economy.
Similar videos were released this week under the slogan ‘tourism kills neighbourhoods’. In one, several hooded individuals stop a tourist bus in Barcelona, slashing the tyres and spray-painting the windscreen.
Tourism to southern Europe has surged over the past two years, partly because visitors are choosing the region over other Mediterranean destinations where security fears are a concern, such as Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey.
Visitors to Spain jumped 12 percent in the first half of 2017 to 36.4 million. Barcelona draws at least 11 million visitors a year and is planning a new tax that will hit cruise ships: 65 cents for each visitor staying less than 12 hours. About 750 cruise ships docked at Barcelona last year.