Spain’s tourism minister slams spraying of Barcelona tourists with water pistols

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Spain’s tourism minister condemned the actions of a small group of protesters who sprayed visitors to Barcelona with water pistols last weekend, saying on Thursday they did not represent the country’s culture of hospitality.

Activists protesting against the effects of mass tourism on the city marched through the city center on Saturday chanting slogans such as “tourists go home.” Some surrounded restaurants and a small group of fewer than a dozen spritzed people they identified as foreign tourists with water guns, Reuters video showed.

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Jordi Hereu, who previously served as Barcelona’s mayor, told reporters that while the demonstrators’ actions were reprehensible, the incident was exaggerated by the international media.

Anti-tourism activists have increasingly staged protests in Barcelona and other seaside towns like Palma de Mallorca or Malaga, saying visitors drive up housing costs and lead to residents being unable to afford to live in city centers.

Hereu said the tourism sector needed to be regulated and diversified to make it more sustainable. Redistributing the sector’s profits and improving the quality of jobs in tourism would help ease opponents’ concerns, he added.

In its manifesto, the Assembly of Neighborhoods for Tourism Degrowth platform that organized the weekend protest in Barcelona called for higher tourism taxes, reducing the number of cruise terminals and putting a cap on short-term tourist accommodation.

Barcelona’s mayor announced last month that the city will bar apartment rentals to tourists by 2028, an unexpectedly drastic move as it seeks to rein in soaring housing costs and make the city livable for residents.

Hereu said that regulation could involve measures such as limiting or even eliminating short-term rentals and capping hotel room numbers, but that was largely up to local and regional authorities.

Last year, around 26 million tourists visited Barcelona, according to the city’s tourism observatory. It has a population of 1.7 million.

The tourism ministry said it sees tourist arrivals to Spain rising by 13 percent year-on-year between July and September.

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