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130,000 Vacancies in Travel & Tourism Threaten UK Economic Recovery Says WTTC in New Report

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130,000 vacancies in Travel & Tourism threaten UK economic recovery says WTTC in new report

Aviation, hotels, and entertainment venues among the worst hit

London, UK: The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC ) warns the Travel & Tourism sector’s recovery is at serious risk as nearly 130,000 jobs go unfilled across the UK.

According to the global tourism body, the UK is expected to see a shortfall of 128,000 jobs, with one in 14 job openings expected to remain vacant. Restaurants and hotels are struggling to find staff but the UK government, unlike countries like Portugal, are refusing to allow in temporary workers in from oversees. The UK’s hotel, entertainment, and aviation industries are forecast to be the worst affected, facing unfulfilled vacancies of 18% (one in six), 12% (one in eight), and 11% (one in nine), respectively. Critical staff shortages are now acute within transportation - particularly across the aviation industry - which is struggling to cope with the post-pandemic travel demand. Before the pandemic in 2019, 1.8 million people were employed in Travel & Tourism in the UK by 2020 over 200,000 had lost their jobs*.

Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO said: “The UK recovery is at risk. The government is not using the flexibility in the visa system to attract workers to the UK. Travel & Tourism contributed by nearly £235 billion to the economy and employed almost two million people. “Now visitors are arriving to find restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues without staff, and we will lose these travellers and their dollars to other countries. “Big brands cannot understand why countries in Europe are bringing in skilled workers like chefs, but the UK Home Office is not deploying the flexible ‘point system’ visas they promised.   “The sector was one of the hardest hit in the pandemic, losing 50% of its value, it needs Government action now.” “In retail, UK stores are still reeling from the decision by the UK Government to axe VAT Refunds for visitors. It means tourists can save 20% on goods by choosing Paris instead of London. The Chancellor of the Exchequer needs to look at this urgently.”

Despite the UK government’s furlough scheme, which provided much needed relief to the sector, WTTC says more support is needed to fill these vacancies, which will in turn boost the economy through its contribution to the country’s GDP. During the second half of 2022, data indicates that labour supply will continue to fall short of demand - with the gap projected to further increase in the third quarter of 2022 as demand approaches pre-pandemic levels.

Last week WTTC revealed that up to 1.2 million jobs across the EU will remain unfulfilled, with hospitality, air transport, and travel agencies being the most affected.

Some of the key measures identified in the report for both governments and the private sector to address the talent gap are:

1.    Facilitate labour mobility across international borders, with more favourable visa policies  2.    Enable flexible and remote working where feasible – allowing part time or contractor-based opportunities, where possible 3.    Ensure decent work and competitive employee benefits and average pay increases across the sector 4.     Attract talent by improving the perception of jobs and promoting viable career paths with growth opportunities 5.     Develop and support a skilled workforce through comprehensive educational programs, as well as upskilling and reskilling current talent 6.    Adopt innovative technological and digital solutions to alleviate pressure on staff, improve daily operations and an enhanced customer experience

The global tourism body believes by implementing these measures, Travel & Tourism businesses will be able to attract more workers.  This in turn would enable the sector to meet the ever-growing consumer demand and further speed up its recovery, which is the backbone to generating economic well-being across the country.

Notes to editor: * Refers to total DIRECT employment

Download press release

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The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office ( FCDO ) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice .

FCDO advises against all travel to Russia

Your travel insurance could be invalidated if you travel against FCDO advice. Consular support is also severely limited where FCDO advises against travel.

FCDO advises British nationals against all travel to Russia due to the risks and threats from its continuing invasion of Ukraine. The situation in Russia is unpredictable. This includes:

  • security incidents, such as drone attacks, happening in some parts of the country
  • lack of available flights to return to the UK
  • limited ability for the UK government to provide consular assistance

There is also a high likelihood that terrorists will try to carry out attacks, including in major cities. See ‘Safety and Security’ section .

Security situation in Russia

The Russian invasion of Ukraine continues. There are reports of drone attacks and explosions in areas in western and southern Russia, particularly near the Russian border with Ukraine, Moscow and St Petersburg.

Political rallies and demonstrations can take place in Moscow, St Petersburg and across Russia. Check the local media for the latest information. Be vigilant and avoid any political demonstrations or gatherings.

The situation remains unpredictable and could escalate without warning.

Leaving Russia

FCDO advises British nationals to consider leaving Russia.

If you do not need to be in Russia, we strongly advise you to consider leaving.

You cannot fly directly from Russia to the UK or through EU countries. Commercial flight options are limited and can sell out quickly. Check with your airline or travel provider.

British nationals should exercise extreme caution at all times. Travel within or out of Russia is at your own risk.

You cannot fly direct from Russia to the UK or through EU countries. There are limited commercial airlines with indirect flights via the Middle East, Serbia and Turkey. Check the latest information with your airline or travel provider.

Land borders may be busy. Be prepared for a long wait to exit Russia. You may also be questioned at the border. During periods of unrest, check the local media for updates on the situation before travelling.

Road border crossings between Finland and Russia will be closed until at least 11 February 2024. Consult the  Finnish border guard website  for up-to-date information. Further changes may be announced at short notice.

Some European countries have restricted or banned the entry of vehicles registered in Russia, this includes:

If you plan to drive a vehicle registered in Russia into Europe check that you are eligible to do so.

Some bus companies have international routes. The situation may change quickly. From 18 November 2023, Finland will restrict entry at some road border crossings (See ‘Travelling from Russia to Finland’). Check these companies for availability of buses, timetables and tickets:

  • Ecolines – buses to Riga (Latvia), Tallinn (Estonia), Vilnius (Lithuania) and other destinations in Europe
  • Baltic Shuttle – buses from St Petersburg to Tallinn (Estonia)
  • Lux Express – buses from St Petersburg to Riga (Latvia), Tallinn (Estonia)

Travelling from Russia to Latvia

Check the travel advice for Latvia .

See the Latvian government website for information on crossing the border.

Travelling from Russia to Finland

Check the travel advice for Finland .

Road border crossings between Finland and Russia will remain closed until further notice. Consult the  Finnish border guard website  for up-to-date information. Further changes may be announced at short notice.

The border crossing points for maritime traffic at Haapasaari, the port of Nuijamaa and Santio will be closed to leisure boating from 15 April until further notice.

The train service from Russia to Finland is no longer available.

Travelling from Russia to Estonia

Check the travel advice for Estonia .

See the Estonian police and border guard website for information on crossing the border.

From 1 February 2024, it is not possible to cross the border by vehicle via the Narva-Ivangorod crossing point, whilst construction works take place on the Russian side. The crossing is open to pedestrians.

Travelling from Russia to Lithuania

Check the travel advice for Lithuania .

If you’re planning to cross into Lithuania by road from Kaliningrad oblast at the Kybartai border crossing point, see the Lithuanian state border crossing website .

Travelling from Russia to Norway

Check the travel advice for Norway .

Staying in Russia

If you decide to stay in Russia, you should:

  • keep your departure plans under constant review
  • ensure your travel documents are up to date
  • follow local media
  • stay alert to security warnings and follow the advice of local authorities
  • take cover in buildings or underground and avoid windows in the event of drone attack
  • sign up to email alerts for Russia travel advice

Read FCDO advice on what to do if you’re affected by a crisis abroad and how to prepare.

Support for British nationals in Russia

The British Embassy in Moscow and British Consulate Ekaterinburg are open, but the situation could change at short notice.

In person consular support in Russia is limited. It is very limited in parts of Russia because of the security situation and the size of the country, particularly in the North Caucasus.

If you need consular assistance, call our 24-hour helpline +7 495 956 7200 and select the option for consular services for British nationals.

Contact the Russian emergency services on 112.

Dual nationals

Dual British-Russian nationals are treated as Russian nationals by local authorities. The consular support FCDO can provide is severely limited. If you are arrested or detained, Russian authorities are unlikely to allow us consular access.

In 2022, Russia declared a partial mobilisation of Russian citizens to join the military forces. Military recruitment continues. Anyone with a Russian passport could be conscripted.

In August, Russian law was amended to stop Russian nationals eligible for military conscription from leaving Russia from the day their draft notice appears on the federal electronic conscription register.

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide as well as support for British nationals abroad which includes:

  • advice on preparing for travel abroad and reducing risks
  • information for women, LGBT+ and disabled travellers

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter , Facebook and Instagram . You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance . Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

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Passengers to US government: Air travel is getting worse

Complaints to US government from travellers are the highest since the COVID pandemic when airlines were slow to refund.

Passengers wait for flights to resume in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, US

Air travel got more miserable last year, if the number of consumer complaints filed with the United States government is any measure.

The Department of Transportation said Friday that it received nearly 97,000 complaints in 2023, up from about 86,000 the year before. The department said there were so many complaints that it took until July to sort through the filings and compile the figures.

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That’s the highest number of consumer complaints about airlines since 2020, when airlines were slow to give customers refunds after the coronavirus pandemic shut down air travel.

The increase in complaints came even as airlines cancelled far fewer US flights — 116,700, or 1.2 percent of the total, last year, compared with about 210,500, or 2.3 percent, in 2022, according to FlightAware data. However, delays remained stubbornly high last year, at about 21 percent of all flights.

More than two-thirds of all complaints last year dealt with US airlines, but a quarter covered foreign airlines. Most of the rest were about travel agents and tour operators.

Complaints about treating passengers with disabilities rose by more than one-fourth compared with 2022. Complaints of discrimination, while small in number, also rose sharply. Most were about race or national origin.

Airlines receive many more complaints from travellers who do not know how or do not bother to complain to the government, but the carriers do not release those numbers.

The Transportation Department is modernising its complaint-taking system, which the agency says will help it do a better job overseeing the airline industry. However, the department currently releases complaint numbers many months late. It did not issue figures for the second half of 2023 until Friday.

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  • Tourism Taxes Are Spreading Worldwide—But Will They Actually Stop Overcrowding?

The Balearic Islands is one of many places that has implemented new levies.

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Bustle in the shopping streets of Kalverstraat

The Balearic Islands, most notably Mallorca and Ibiza , have always had a tumultuous relationship with the multitudes of international visitors flocking in during peak summer months. 

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The Acropolis Of Athens

And while a reported 156 projects were funded by 2019, this collective sentiment has changed over the years.

“Although a significant amount of collected revenue was allocated to the environment in its first year, other projects like heritage, public housing, and tourism promotion campaigns have been steadily increasing,” says Serena Cook, cofounder of IbizaPreservation , a non-profit foundation that promotes the conservation of natural habitats in Ibiza and Formentera.

In March, Balearic Islands President Marga Prohens announced that about $375 million in tax revenue would fund ongoing eco-projects and other initiatives, vowing the government would be transparent about how these funds are spent.

To complicate the debate, GOB, a local environmentalist group, predicts that unless urgent steps are taken to curb tourist numbers, residents will continue to protest over the more pressing issue of mass tourism. 

In the Balearics, issues stemming from over-tourism include resident housing shortage, infrastructure damage, overcrowding, and environmental pollution.   

All over the world, an increasing number of popular and emerging tourist destinations currently impose or are considering implementing a tourism tax in an effort to combat climate change, enhance local infrastructure, and cater to the growing number of visitors.

Tourists crowd a street in the west end in Sant Antoni de Portmany on Ibiza Island

To date, additional accommodation charges are the most common type of tourism tax, with many high-traffic destinations opting to increase their fees. Amsterdam raised fees from 7 percent to 12.5 percent of the overnight rate —currently the highest tourism tax in Europe. In Iceland, a destination lauded for its natural beauty, an overnight room tax of ISK 600 ($4.36) was reinstated in January to help protect the country’s resources with sustainability initiatives. 

Greece has focused its fee on future natural disasters. The “ climate crisis resilience fee ” charges five-star hotel visitors $4 to $11 (€4 to €10) per person and night. Paris upped their taxe de sejour by 200 percent, resulting in fees of $16 (€14.95) per person per day , for ultra-luxe “palace” accommodations.

Even cities that have yet to feel the pressures of over-tourism are getting in on the action. In 2023, Manchester—the only U.K. city with a tourism fee and goal of increasing tourism—introduced the City Visitor Charge of $1.29 (£1) per room per day. The fee, aimed at attracting travelers with exclusive events, activities, and visitor experience initiatives, raised about $3.5 million in its first year. 

“I see many U.K. cities adopting this model as the fairest and sensible use of resources,” he says. “Cities have to be mindful not to become greedy and ensure the end consumer sees direct value in the charge.”

Barcelona—which recently had an anti-tourist protest —has added a surcharge of $3.50 (€3.25) on top of an existing regional tourism tax that currently charges $3.80 (€3.50) per day for up to seven days in a luxury stay.

“Here, the tourist tax is fixed throughout the year according to the star rating, unlike the Balearics, which is seasonal,” says Enrique Miró-Sans Gabarró, co-owner of Mallorca’s five-star Portella and the family-owned Casa Bonay in Barcelona. “What both destinations have in common is support for a sustainable tourism model, protecting the local infrastructure and promoting quality tourism.”  

Party Tourists Flock To Mallorca's Ballermann Strip

Many destinations have adopted a quality tourism model, loosely defined as “high-value tourism experiences,” to attract a more discerning visitor. Bhutan’s hefty Sustainable Development Fee of $100 per adult per day is the most expensive tourism tax in the world—and a prime example of this type of government strategy.

The country defends its stance to critics claiming the levy and other mandatory tourist charges are elitist by listing the revenue’s many uses, from environmental and cultural preservation to free health care and education for its denizens. Despite detractors, Bhutan harbors another notable distinction as the world’s only carbon-neutral country.    

“I have witnessed Bhutan’s slow and thoughtful tourism development, [creating] a better experience for tourists and residents by avoiding overcrowding,” says Torunn Tronsvang, a former Amankora Punakha Lodge manager and founder of eco-travel company Up Norway .  

“The justification for introducing a tourism tax is to control overtourism in busy areas and to create better facilities for visitors,” she says. “[For example], the taxes will try and counter multiple daily cruise calls to small towns overrun with thousands of people occupying local facilities.”  

Worldwide, cruise ship day-tripper fees vary depending on the port and duration of stay. In April, Venice was the first metropolis to impose a just-over $5 day-tripper tourism tax for peak season visitors—regardless of transport type or stay length —to help reduce tourist numbers. (Bali introduced a similar levy in February .) In the first 11 days of the tax, close to $1 million was raised, yet visitor numbers remained high. 

The Balearic Island Statistics Institute recently reported a 17 percent rise in visitor numbers in the first quarter of the year, indicating a potential new record in tourist numbers by year’s end. 

Meanwhile, ongoing protests in Mallorca, Ibiza, and Menorca strongly suggest that over-tourism is the primary concern for residents. However, for some, addressing resident fears by utilizing the latest project funds to help both social and environmental issues may offer the best solution moving forward.

“More than 36 percent of the Balearic GDP comes from the hospitality industry, so we need to ensure that [projects] are sustainable long-term and in conjunction with the general necessities of island residents to solve the collateral damage caused by tourism,” says Miró-Sans Gabarró.

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Massive drought in Italy threatens to destroy Sicilian tourism

  • Sicily, Italy, is in a state of emergency over the worst drought the country has seen in 20 years.
  • Water rations are so strict that hotel and inn owners are turning tourists away.
  • As a tourism-driven economy, the drought is threatening the financial stability of the region.

Insider Today

An extreme drought in Sicily is the worst the Italian island has seen in 20 years, and it's so bad it's threatening the region's economy.

The drought in Sicily has caused the local climate to mirror that of Ethiopia, UK outlet Sky News reported, causing a state of emergency, drying up lakes, and prompting officials to implement strict water rations.

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The rations are so strict — with some residents being asked to cut their water use by as much as 45% — it's prompting some hotel and inn owners to turn guests away because they cannot guarantee showers will run or toilets will flush, CNN reported.

"Rightly, people ask us for reassurances before coming, but we don't know what to say," Giovanni Lopez, who owns the Le Cinque Novelle bed and breakfast (B&B) in central Agrigento, told CNN. "The situation is quickly impacting the entire tourist accommodation sector, which risks serious economic consequences, given that tourism is a sector almost everyone in this part of Sicily relies on."

The economic impact is impossible to ignore — between empty reservoirs and livestock that have died due to the drought, CNN reported the region has lost more than a billion Euros, or nearly 1.1 billion USD.

Representatives for Italy's Ministry of Tourism did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider. However, CNN reported that Italy's tourism minister, Daniela Santanchè, suggested in April that Sicily should attempt to expand its tourism beyond summer to address the region's worsening water crisis.

In addition to the drought, numerous regions of Italy, including Sicily, are also facing population destabilization, prompting officials to offer incentives to relocate to its rural regions in hopes that new residents will help stabilize the population levels.

Watch: Garbage and floodwater fill up streets in Italy, disrupting tourist season

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'It's Tourist Hunting Season': The Street Art That's Seething About Mass Tourism

Lee Moran

Reporter, HuffPost

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The writing is on the wall across Spain.

Residents who are becoming increasingly frustrated with the negative impact of mass tourism on their daily lives ― including but certainly not limited to higher rents and real estate prices ― are taking to the streets to voice their fury.

Demonstrations have this year mushroomed across the second most-visited country in the world ― from Barcelona with its water-gun-touting activists in the north to Malaga in the south, from the Canary Islands archipelago off the coast of northwestern Africa to the Balearic Islands of Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca in the Mediterranean Sea.

Protesters in Malaga in June 2024 with a banner that when translated into English reads, "Malaga to live, not to survive."

Some protesters, however, have also taken to leaving more permanent reminders of their anger in the form of graffiti, street art and sticker campaigns.

“It’s Tourist Hunting Season,” “Tourists Go Home” and “Fuck Airbnb” are among the scathing messages that have been photographed daubed on walls or printed on stickers across the two biggest cities — the capital Madrid and Barcelona — this year alone.

In Malaga, stickers bearing anti-tourist phrases ― such as “go fucking home” and “this used to be my home” ― were earlier this year placed around tourism areas in which families once lived.

Meanwhile, someone on the island of Mallorca last summer installed fake signs in English that warned tourists of “dangerous jellyfish” and “falling rocks.” But the small print in Catalan revealed there wasn’t actually any danger and that it was just mass tourism they wanted to prevent.

Here’s a look at some of the anti-tourism protest art in Spain from this year and before:

Madrid, 2024.

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Russia imposes travel restrictions on UK diplomats

  • Published 20 July 2023

The Kremlin and Foreign Ministry headquarters in Moscow

Russia's foreign ministry has imposed tight travel restrictions on British diplomats working in the country.

It said they must give at least five days' notice and provide extensive travel details if they want to leave a 120km (75-mile) "free movement zone".

Only the British ambassador and three senior diplomats are exempted from the measures, the ministry said.

It comes amid worsening relations between Moscow and London following the invasion of Ukraine.

Despite the two countries being at odds over the war, both have continued to operate diplomatic missions on each other's soil.

The Vienna Convention - which the UK and Russia are both signed up to - is clear that governments must give accredited diplomats "freedom of movement and travel in its territory".

So governments rarely actually stop diplomats from travelling - but they can make it very difficult by imposing rules and regulations, such as the Russian government has.

The Russian foreign ministry said British diplomats will have to provide details of accommodation, transport, planned contacts and the purpose of any trip before travelling within Russia.

The restrictions will also be applied to diplomats working at the British consulate in Yekaterinburg, a city around 1090km (880 miles) to the east of Moscow.

The resulting bureaucratic demands are time-consuming and onerous but are just within the letter of the Vienna Convention.

In truth, this is just one of many irregular ways of making life difficult for diplomats.

They could find visa applications take time. They and their families could be subject to greater or lesser surveillance.

One diplomat once told me that she returned to her flat in Moscow one evening to find the magnetised letters on her fridge had been re-arranged to spell FSB, the Russia security service.

Another found her cat frozen to death outside her flat. She suspected it had been shut out deliberately.

So it is not unusual for authoritarian states to make life difficult for diplomats. For many, it goes with the territory.

The announcement was made shortly after the UK's interim charge d'affaires attended a meeting with Russian officials and was informed of the decision.

The UK Foreign Office has disputed the Russian foreign ministry's claim that the senior British diplomat had been "summoned", describing it as "disinformation".

A spokesperson for the department said: "This was a planned meeting, held at our request, as part of standard diplomatic practice."

In a statement confirming the restrictions, Russia cited the UK's support of the Ukrainian government.

It accused the UK of conducting "hostile actions... including the obstruction of the normal functioning of Russian diplomatic offices in the UK".

The UK Foreign Office has not said how it will respond to the move.

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Celebrating two years of progress in national strategy to reenergize u.s. travel and tourism, office of public affairs.

Today, two years after the U.S. Department of Commerce issued the National Travel and Tourism Strategy and set an ambitious five-year goal to welcome 90 million international visitors annually by 2027, the Department is announcing we expect to reach that goal ahead of schedule. According to the latest estimates from the International Trade Administration, the United States expects to welcome 91 million annual visitors by 2026, surpassing the Strategy’s goal one year in advance of the anticipated timeline. In celebration of all the progress made since the launch of the National Travel and Tourism Strategy, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo issued the following statement: 

“Thanks to the steadfast leadership and efforts of the Biden-Harris Administration, travel and tourism continue to be critical drivers of economic growth and employment across the United States, supporting 9.5 million American jobs and $2.3 trillion of economic output per year. But our work is far from over. The Commerce Department is taking decisive actions to support the travel and tourism industry’s recovery from the economic challenges of a global pandemic, and we will continue working with state and local governments and private sector partners to welcome more international visitors to the U.S. so they can experience the diversity, beauty, and hospitality that make our country the premier travel and tourism destination in the world.”

The National Travel and Tourism Strategy focuses federal efforts in partnership with the private sector to strengthen the global competitiveness of U.S. travel and tourism and create a more equitable, resilient and sustainable industry for the future. Some successes over the past two years include:

  • Increasing capacity and efficiency to issue 20% more non-immigrant visas in 2023 compared to pre-pandemic issue rates through the U.S. Department of State;
  • Funding $750 million for travel, tourism and outdoor recreation communities provided by the American Rescue Plan and issued by the Economic Development Administration;
  • Investing $195 million in climate restoration and resilience projects to protect our national parks, and more through the U.S. Department of the Interior.

From 2020 to 2023, international visitation to the United States increased 246% to 66.5 million, travel exports generated by international visitors increased 153% to $213 billion, and American jobs supported by travel exports increased 63% to 1.6 million. As a result of international visitation to the United States outpacing travel to the rest of the world, our country’s share of global travel increased from 4.7% in 2020 to 5.2% in 2023.

For more information about the National Travel and Tourism Strategy, please visit the Travel and Tourism Strategy Fact Sheet .  

Barcelona protesters throw items and spray travelers with water while shouting 'tourists go home'

Millions flock to Barcelona, Spain, every year to enjoy a sweet taste of idyllic European life. But over the weekend, thousands of people marched through the streets and sprayed visitors with water guns in outrage over mass tourism.

Protesters clapped and chanted “tourists go home!” and carried signs with anti-tourist slogans, arguing that the flood of visitors has driven up living costs for residents. 

About 2,800 people took part, according to the Guàrdia Urbana de Barcelona, the municipal police force, the Spanish paper El País reported. But members of the protest group, the Assemblea de Barris pel Decreixement Turístic, which translates to the Neighborhood Assembly for Tourist Degrowth, say as many as 20,000 joined, the paper reported.

“The tourism and hotels is the group that really makes big money, but all the people are in a very poor situation and they don’t have enough money to live. That’s the problem,” protester Joan Navarro-Bertran said. 

Barcelona is a gem in Western Europe, home to iconic sites like La Sagrada Familia — a cathedral designed by famed architect Antoni Gaudi that has been under construction for more than 100 years — sparkling blue beaches and famous local cuisine. 

Tourism is also a major part of the local economy. Last year, about 26 million people visited the Barcelona area, spending 9.6 billion euros (US$10.4 billion) in the city, according to the Tourism Observatory of Barcelona .

A great part of the agitation among residents is the increasing price of housing and the displacement of long-term residents.

Rent has risen nearly 70% over the past decade, Mayor Jaume Collboni said, the BBC reported. In June, Collboni announced a plan to stop renewing permits for rentals used by foreign visitors by 2028, a move that would make 10,000 units available to locals in four years. 

Breaking News Reporter

Watch: Protesters soak dining tourists with water pistols

Thousands of demonstrators in Barcelona call out insults and tape off hotels and restaurants

tmg.video.placeholder.alt S-p-YGNXEnY

Tourists dining in Barcelona were drenched with water guns by angry crowds of anti-tourism protesters marching down the main boulevards.

Several thousand demonstrators rallied through hot spots including the famous La Rambla, carrying banners that said “Tourism kills the city” and “Dear Tourist: Balconing is fun!” – alluding to the practice of jumping from hotel balconies into swimming pools, which often ends in serious injuries for intoxicated tourists. 

Some demonstrators called out insults at tourists who took photographs of the march, while others taped off hotels and restaurants in a symbolic protest at over-tourism in the Catalan capital.

Protestors shot tourists with water guns during a protest against mass tourism in Barcelona

The use of water guns by some protesters against onlooking tourists prompted heated verbal exchanges, but order was maintained by police escorting the march.

Some diners, including families, were forced to leave their tables that looked onto the street where the protesters were gathering.

Barcelona police said 2,800 people had taken part in the demonstration but organisers claimed seven times that number were in attendance.

A symbolic cordon was put up on a bar-restaurant window by the protesters

According to city council figures, Barcelona last year received more than 12 million tourists , 81 per cent of whom were from outside of Spain.

They spent a massive €9.6 billion (£8.1 billion) in the city, but many locals have concluded that the overall impact of so many visitors is warping the local economy to their detriment.

Protesters on Saturday chanted “Tourists out of our neighbourhoods”. The rise of tourism rental properties is partly blamed for a 61 per cent rise in property prices between 2013 and 2023 across the city.

Protesters spewed insults at restaurant diners

Jaume Collboni, the mayor of Barcelona, took to social media at the time of Saturday’s demonstration to assure citizens of his council team’s “firm commitment to limiting mass tourism and its consequences”.

Mr Collboni, a Socialist, pointed to his plan to ban Airbnb-style rental properties by 2028. There are currently 10,000 licensed tourism apartments and an association representing owners has vowed to challenge his plan in the courts.

The mayor also said the city’s tourism tax would rise from €5.50 (£4.60) per night to €7.50 (£6.35).

Barcelona becomes the latest Spanish tourism hotspot to have witnessed public protest this year against the impact of millions of visitors on locals’ quality of life.

There has been multiple anti-tourism demonstrations happening in different parts of Spain

In Málaga last month, 15,000 people marched against overtourism in a city where licenced tourism apartments have swelled to 12,000 from less than 1,000 in 2016.

In Palma de Mallorca, more than 10,000 marched in May against the lack of affordable housing due to the impact of tourism.

In April, some 55,000 people took part in the biggest-ever demonstrations against tourism in the major capital cities across the Canary Islands archipelago.

Spain received a record 85 million foreign visitors in 2023, an increase of 18.7 per cent from the previous year, according to the country’s National Statistics Institute. Only France received a higher number of international visitors.

Figures from the first months of 2024 suggest that Spain is on course to set another record this year.

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