Isn’t it ironic that La Rambla, which is the most famous walking street in Barcelona, is barely passable at certain times during the year?
But that is exactly what happens during summer, when the tourist season peaks. La Rambla becomes so crowded that it’s almost next to impossible to enjoy a leisurely walk when you’re there.
It is said that you’ve not been to Barcelona if you haven’t been to La Rambla. About 100 million people pass through this centrally located 1.2 km tree-lined pedestrian lane every year. That’s not hard to believe, considering the number of tourists that come to visit this beautiful Catalan city. In 2017, Barcelona received 19 million tourists, according to the website statista, while there are just 1.4 million full-time residents. The contrast in the statistics is staggering.
Not everyone is happy. While tourism has certainly benefitted the local businesses, somehow it’s the local residents who have had to absorb its negative impact. No wonder there have been a number of incidents in the past few years where locals have been very vocal about expressing their disdain for tourists “invading” their beloved city. Protests ranged in intensity from something relatively benign such as posters with “Tourists go home” displayed in residential areas, to the extreme case of protesters attacking a bus full of tourists back in July 2017.
A number of issues need to be addressed, such as the spike in property prices, which is attributed largely to the increased demand for tourist accommodations such as those provided by AirBnBs. Unfortunately, even the locals are adversely affected. Renting a room nowadays can go anywhere from 400 to 600 euros a month.
A long time resident who has been living in Barcelona since 2003 and has witnessed the many changes in the city shares,“I think the negative effect of tourism can be found mainly in the old town. The streets are dirty and tourists, especially the young ones, don’t care to keep the conservation of the touristic places. They don’t care to keep the places clean and they make no effort not to disturb the people living there especially at night.”
Asked how these problems can be solved, he shared, “Barcelona authorities should fine tourists who break the rules and who cause damage to the places they visit. I understand that tourism brings income to the city so I also want to suggest that the local government should create specific places for tourists who like to party day and night.”
Barcelona has a rich cultural heritage that its residents are fiercely proud of and which they jealously protect. There are the architectural landmarks by Antoni Gaudi, foremost of which is the Sagrada Família that is visited by both the devout worshiper as well as those who are simply curious.
Barcelona is also said to be one of the country’s most popular clubbing destinations, which attracts a younger set who would typically display a somewhat elevated level of energy that the locals may not easily be willing to accommodate. “Tourists behaving badly” is not an uncommon phrase. Such are the pitfalls that a successful tourism environment brings.
As a visitor, what can you do? Be a responsible tourist. Show respect, to start with. You wouldn’t want anyone visiting your home to be leaving a mess after they are gone now do you? Remember, for you it may just be one more destination you can check off on your bucket list but for the locals it’s their home.
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