Monday 25 September 2017

Crowds protest in Barcelona over tourist boom pushing them out

Tourists gather in front of the Sagrada Familia church, designed by architect Antoni Gaudi, in Barcelona (AP/Manu Fernandez)
Tourists gather in front of the Sagrada Familia church, designed by architect Antoni Gaudi, in Barcelona (AP/Manu Fernandez)

Protesters have held a rally in Barcelona over claims that the tourism boom is out of control and damaging local people's experience of the Spanish city.

Soaring tourism has fuelled higher rents and property sales, leaving many of the city's 1.6 million residents priced out of the centre.

Under a large banner reading "Barcelona is not for sale", protesters marched and read a manifesto in which they denounced the tourist boom they say has overtaken the city.

Police said over 1,000 people demonstrated in the famed central walkway of Las Ramblas, while protesters estimated the total as closer to 2,000.

Camilo Ramos, 63, of the Barcelona Neighbours Association, said: "This march is a way to portray the fact that we have lost our city, and are hoping to claim it back.

"Rent and property prices have risen back to what they were in 2008, before the economic crisis, and residents can no longer afford them."

Despite fierce opposition from hotel and business owners, the City Council agreed on Friday to curb the number of rooms for tourists in the city.

Anna Moreno, a 59-year-old school professor on the march, said: "It was a necessary measure, but it's still not enough.

"We need to decrease the number of hotels and increase public space for residents."

Asha Nen, a visiting 35-year-old French engineering assistant, watched the scene from a distance.

"We are enjoying our stay, although it's true that the city is quite full. Some locals seem to be weary of us tourists," she said.

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