Residents in the Spanish city of Barcelona have protested against the weird manner in which some tourists conduct themselves in the city.
The tipping point was a trio of naked Italian tourists who wandered around for three hours, to the disgust of residents. As photos of the group frolicking through the La Barceloneta neighbourhood last Friday morning circulated on social media, some residents said they couldn’t take it any longer.
A hundred or so Barcelona residents took to the streets in several spontaneous protests this week, demanding that municipal authorities do more to help what they call a scourge of “drunken tourism”.
“Here tourists do whatever they want,” Vicens Forner told El País. A local photographer, he was the one snapping photos of the Italian tourists as they wandered his neighbourhood for three hours in the nude – even popping into a local shop – while horrified residents looked on.
The naked tourists were the latest incident in an ongoing conversation Barcelona has been having in recent years about the number and the type of tourists visiting the city. The number of tourists visiting has jumped drastically in recent years, from 1.7 million in 1990 to more than 7.4 million in 2012. As residents attempt to go about their lives in a city where tourists often far outnumber the 1.6 million residents, the number of complaints about noise, nudity, public drunkenness and littering has rocketed.
“Imagine that you’re in a tiny house, with three children, unemployed with no money for vacations and you have to put up with the screams and fiesta of tourists next door. It’s unbearable,” said resident Andrés Antebi.
Municipal authorities have been slow to address the situation, said neighbours. “We’re tired of low-cost, drunken tourism,” said Oriol Casabella, who leads the La Barceloneta neighbourhood association. “It’s killing our neighbourhood and dissuading other types of tourists. It’s Magaluf all over again.”
One protest this week saw locals take to the streets armed with a home-made map, detailing the location of apartments on rent for tourists. The protesters then sought out the owners of these tourist lets, confronting them and urging them to close their businesses for the good of the neighbourhood. While municipal officials say there are 72 licensed tourist rentals in La Barceloneta, a quick search of online rental portals like Airbnb show more than 600 tourists lets available in the area.
On Wednesday, the city councillor for La Barceloneta, Mercè Homs, sought to calm the situation. Speaking to reporters, she said the municipality would adopt a policy of “zero tolerance” on antisocial behaviour and that the residents would have support from city officials to deal with the situation. She promised to sit down with the residents of La Barceloneta in September and noted that in the past few days the city had increased the police presence in the neighbourhood. She added pointedly: “We’re working to ensure that tourist rentals don’t generate noise problems or bother neighbours.”
Photo: Vincens Forner