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The Battle for Barcelona

Residents are protesting about the impact of tourism on their neighbourhoods. Can the city’s activist new Mayor strike a balance between these concerns and the economic benefits?

Barcelona is one of the most visited cities in Europe, but has it become a victim of its own tourism success? Millions of tourists visit every year, crowding the narrow streets and public spaces, bringing noise and anti-social behaviour to once peaceful residential neighbourhoods. Local businesses have given way to tourist tat and multinational chains, and some residents are being driven out as apartments are rented to tourists.

Tourism is a huge economic boost for Barcelona, but as well as those who are benefiting, Pascale Harter meets locals who are taking to the streets in noisy protests about the impact on their neighbourhood. Are they right to blame home-sharing websites like Airbnb? And, all eyes are on Barcelona’s mayor Ada Colau, a former activist and one of the key representatives of the so-called 'new politics' in Spain. Can she resolve a tension being felt by cities around the world - between the economic opportunities of tourism and keeping the soul and character of the city that its residents cherish.

(Image: Protesters in Barcelona)

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