Tourist massification of Barcelona also disturbs tourists themselves

by Lorraine Williamson

BARCELONA – The Spanish newspaper El País published an article this week that explains how tourists are flooding the centre of Barcelona. The crowds are often so great that it even disturbs the tourists themselves. 

With a tourist density in the old centre (Ciutat Vella) of no fewer than 21,861 tourists per square kilometre, this is something to imagine. The average tourist density in the centre is 3,854 tourists per km2. That makes the influx of tourists in the Catalan capital so overwhelming that both residents and visitors struggle with the consequences. 

28 million visitors in 2019 

The city has 1.6 million inhabitants and received no less than 28 million tourists in the year before the pandemic. Industry experts predict that this number will be similar or even higher in 2023. A study by Rovira i Virgili University shows that more than half of cruise passengers believe that Barcelona is overcrowded. 

Also read: Back in the time when Barceloneta was not yet a tourist paradise 

Yet the tourism industry remains a vital part of Barcelona’s economy despite the challenges posed by overcrowding. The sector contributes 14% to the city’s GDP and employs 150,000 people. 

Tourists recognise their role in overpopulation 

Paradoxically, tourists themselves recognise their role in the overcrowding they complain about. They are frustrated with the crowds, long lines and endless queues at the main attractions. Yet people continue to come to the allure of the city and also continue to recommend it to others. Tourists are also regularly aware that their presence affects the daily lives of the inhabitants of Barcelona, makes mobility more difficult, crowds out local businesses and increases housing costs. Read in El País what different tourists think of the crowds. 

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Consequences of mass tourism are impossible to ignore 

The appeal of Barcelona’s rich culture, captivating architecture and mouth-watering cuisine continues to attract tourists from all corners of the world. However, the consequences of over-tourism are impossible to ignore. The city’s infrastructure is under severe pressure from the incessant influx. This has consequences for the lives of both residents and visitors. Clearly, there is a delicate balance to be struck between travellers’ desire to experience extraordinary destinations and mastering the overwhelming success those destinations ultimately experience. 

Also read: Barcelona tourism sector starts a fight against illegal holiday rentals 

The tourist massification provides the city with enormous economic benefits but also puts considerable pressure on local life. Finding a harmonious balance requires joint efforts from residents, tourists and authorities alike. Barcelona’s government and tourism authorities must take measures to manage the tourist flow, preserve the city’s cultural heritage and prioritise the well-being of its inhabitants. 

Strategies such as promoting alternative attractions and spreading tourism across neighbourhoods can help relieve pressure on overcrowded areas. 

Also read: Barcelona wants to limit the number of cruise ships in port 

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