Sunday 18 March 2018

'It's really tough out here' - Irish people in Barcelona say anti-tourism sentiment growing

Eoin Corcoran
Eoin Corcoran
Aidan McGovern
James Curtain
Fionn Carty

Claire Fox

Irish people living in Barcelona have warned that an anti-tourism sentiment is growing in the Spanish hot spot.

Last month a tourist bus was stopped by people in balaclavas outside the Nou Camp stadium and its tyres were slashed. Anti-tourism protest marches have also been taking place around the city in reaction to local accommodation being used for AirBnB short term leases instead of as accommodation for locals.

Eoin Corcoran, originally from Cork city has been working in Barcelona as an English teacher for the last four months. He told that he regularly sees protesters on the streets wearing anti-tourist signs.

"I find it surprising because I used to live in Colombia which has a bad reputation and they did everything they could to welcome tourists, whereas here it's different. I see one guy wearing a placard on his head with 'This isn't tourism, it's an invasion' written on it a lot," he said.

Fionn Carty (22) from Enniscorthy, Co Wexford works in Scobie's Irish bar in the city, he said that protests are an almost daily occurrence there.

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Fionn Carty

"It's pretty head on at the moment. There's signs that they want to cap the tourism and there were the incidents with the bikes last week and the tires being slashed on a tourist bus.

"You can't go around attacking people. There's strikes about everything these days. The metro was on strike and the taxis go on strike every few weeks. It's a nightmare."

Aidan McGovern, originally from Carrigaline, Co Cork, has been living in Barcelona since before the economic crash in 2008 and owns the Bien Cuadrado gallery in the city centre. He said that many of the protests are understandable as accommodation prices have "sky-rocketed" and so many people are homeless in the city.

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Aidan McGovern

"House prices have gone up massively and wages have completely stagnated. Rent prices are going up and pushing out locals for AirBnB."

"It's really tough out here. I've worked in every job here. I worked in a university and in call centres. I'm at the end of my tether here though. The living wage is very low, so I might only stay on for another year."

Limerick man, James Curtain has been teaching in Barcelona for the last month and warned that tourists need to be "more on the ball" as pick-pocketing is more common than ever since the protests began.

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James Curtain

"There's pickpocketing and it's normal to see people wearing their backpacks in front of them because if you go down the wrong avenue you could get pick-pocketed."

"People see tourists and might see that they're vulnerable but if they see you every day they get used to you. Tourists over there need to be more on the ball."

He added that overall the city is very welcoming and that tourists have nothing to worry about once they stay vigilant.

"It's a remarkable city... It's very accepting of everyone," he said.

Cork man Shane Buckley, owner of Fastnet pub in the city has been living in there for 27 years and believes that the protests are exaggerated and will blow over.

"I've been living here 27 years and the protesters just want publicity. It happens every year... they protest about anything," he said.

Barcelona receives almost 32 million visitors to its shores every year. The protests are being undertaken by Arran which is the youth wing section of CUP, the pro Catalan party. Other protests are also taking place in the Balearic Islands and in areas of the Basque region. contacted AirBnB for a comment.

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