Life & Leisure

Anti-tourism sentiment grips Spain as sector sees post-pandemic boom

Barcelona, May 8 (EFE).- As Spain heads for regional elections, tourism has taken center stage with some calling for more regulation amid growing anti-tourist sentiment.

The sector, which according to the Exceltur Association accounts for more than 12% of Spain’s GDP, has witnessed a post-pandemic boom with the return of tourists en masse.

The regional governor of Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands, recently warned that the island was “touristically saturated.”

But the debate on how to make tourism economically, socially and environmentally sustainable is not new in Spain, and as elections loom, the issue has returned to the spotlight.


Several cities, such as Seville, Barcelona and San Sebastián, have rolled out measures in a bid to contain the impact of tourism on locals by targeting apartments operating illegally without licenses.

Gentrification and the rise of cheap urban tourism have disrupted local real estate markets, sending prices rocketing and pushing residents further out of city centers.

More and more regions in Spain look poised to clamp down on Airbnb-style lettings that have driven locals out of the cities.

The Canary Islands is the most recent regional government to have slapped fines on unlicensed flats, a move that was backed by the hotel sector.

In the northern Basque Country, the government has temporarily suspended new licenses for hotels and tourist apartments, while in Valencia authorities have restricted the number of tourist flats in the historic center.


Taxes have also become a central issue as the country heads towards regional elections on May 28.

In the Canary Islands, the implementation of an eco-tax was shelved due to the global pandemic, with left-wing lawmakers now calling for its reactivation.

In the Balearic Islands, there is more political consensus for an eco-tax, with even the right-wing PP party saying it would back it if it were to govern.

The Balearic Islands and Catalonia are the only regions in Spain to have implemented an overnight tourist tax, similar to ones European cities such as Rome and Paris have imposed.


The issues have conflated into what some analysts have dubbed “tourism-phobia”, a term coined in 2017 by the University of the Balearic Islands which described it as “a feeling of rejection by the residents of a tourist destination towards people who come to visit it.”

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