Banners waved high along with the chant, “Barcelona is not for sale” rang out through the city as more than 2,000 citizens marched through the city streets in protest. There were also chants of “We will not be driven out” throughout the Rambla, Barcelona’s famous boulevard.
Nearly 40 community and residential groups from all over took to the streets. Even though the number of tourists has grown exponentially in the last year, the protest wasn’t just directed at mass tourist spots. It’s reported that in 2016 nearly 9 million people occupied hotels and another 9 million stayed in holiday apartments. Not to mention 12 million people arrive in the city by car, cruise, or train.
The cause for protest is the fact that tourism is making the cost of housing difficult for residents. The increasing tourism is causing the price of rent for residents to spike.
One resident of nearly 20 years commented that “We’ve been renting our flat in the old town for 17 years. In that time I reckon we’ve paid around €150,000 in rent. Now they want to kick us out because they can make more money renting it out to tourists.”
Just days before the march, Barcelona city council passed a new law that will limit the number of beds hotels give to tourist. New hotels and tourist apartments will be built, and new licenses for these structs will be enforced.
Currently, half of the 75,000 hotel bed and 100,000 beds in tourist flats are unlicensed and illegal. Not to mention that Barcelona and Airbnb have bumped heads a few times. The city fined Airbnb, as well as HomeAway, €600,000 for the advertisement of apartments that were unlicensed. Airbnb defends itself by saying that the people who rented out their residence in order to make extra money during Spain’s current financial crisis.
The protestors marched peacefully toward the end of Rambla. There a member of one organization read a manifesto that called for encouragement from local homes and shops. The manifesto also called for the control of pollution by private cars and cruise ships.
The marchers were very optimistic about the turnout of the event. They were even enthusiastic about the message they spread. One even commented that “It’s a great turnout. There are more people here than at Trump’s inauguration. The citizens have never been consulted about this, although they’re the ones who suffer the consequences and aren’t enjoying the benefits.”