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1 in 3 expats living in Barcelona criticise mass tourism

850 expats from 26 nations that have lived in Barcelona for at least 3 months answer the question “What do you like least about Barcelona?”. Mass Tourism was the most criticised aspect (34%) followed by the local character (26%), pollution (19%) and then the economy (16%).

BARCELONA – OK Apartment Barcelona published the first opinion poll of the expat population in Barcelona. 850 respondents from 26 different nations including Italy, France, Germany, Russia, Denmark, Argentina, Poland, United Kingdom, United States and 17 other nationalities. To the question “What did you like least about Barcelona?” respondents answered with an open-ended text. Nine negative factors were identified and the most mentioned was mass tourism with just over 1 in 3 respondents (34%) citing it.

The study highlights the importance of the mass tourism problem and analyses three aspects:

1. The statistics.
Barcelona has fewer than 1.6 million inhabitants, but receives more than 8 million tourists each year. It is the fourth most visited city in Europe and 20% of its economic wealth is generated through tourism.

2. The problem.
The study identifies four areas in Barcelona with a mass tourism problem. Tension between neighbours and mass tourism in these areas materialise in four ways:

  • The substitution of local shops with souvenir shops, bars and restaurants
  • The increase in house prices as a result of foreign investment and using housing stock for tourist rentals.
  • Disturbances generated by the behaviour and foot-traffic of tourists.
  • The consequent population exodus.

3. The solution being employed.
Local authorities are currently regulating the supply of accommodation:

  • In July 2015, the granting of new accommodation licenses was suspended.
  • On 23 February 2016 “Pla Especial Urbanistic d’Alotjamients Turistics (PEUAT)”  or “Special Urban Tourist Accommodation Plan” was outlined, its aim is to reduce accommodation in the city centre, maintain it outside the centre, and increase it in the suburbs. New solutions. In 2013, New York launched its “Neighborhood x Neighborhood” campaign and as a result managed to generate economic activity outside of the saturated tourist areas. The outlying Horta-Guinardo district in Barcelona already carried out a similar initiative, developing 10 routes featuring historical aspects and landscape viewpoints, but this material was only made available in Catalan.

The study suggests to local authorities that they develop a promotion plan for “The Complete Barcelona” in order to spread tourism outside of crowded areas and encourage a higher quality of tourism. The promoters of the study have worked with tourists for over 10 years and are aware that many of them are interested in a more authentic and less known Barcelona. What other factors do expats criticise?

The three other main negative factors are:

  • 1 in 4 (26%) disliked the character of locals in Barcelona, although 80% rated the welcome from Catalans to be between satisfactory and excellent.
  • 1 in 5 (19%) mentioned pollution, which – by order of importance – encapsulated noise, dirtiness of streets and air pollution.
  • Fewer than 1 in 5 (16%) mentioned the economy. German expats mentioned this aspect less frequently, and Polish and Russian expats mentioned it most frequently. Other minor factors included crime (8%) and difficulties between Catalonia and Spain (8%).

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Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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