From a Guardian article about European tourism and immigration:
Is it really the case that Barcelona would prefer to receive thousands of penniless immigrants rather than the millions of tourists who last year spent around €30bn in the city? The short answer, it appears, is yes. Increasingly it is tourism, not immigration, that people see as a threat to the city’s very identity – though numbers of both have risen exponentially in recent decades...Posted for my cousin Karl, an English teacher in Barcelona.
Immigration has changed the city, but tourism is destabilising it – and even people in the industry agree that it can’t go on like this. In 1990 the city received 1.7 million tourists; last year the figure was 32 million – roughly 20 times the resident population. The sheer volume of visitors is driving up rents, pushing residents out of neighbourhoods, and overwhelming the public space...
Her colleague Santi Ibarra argues that the diversity that comes with immigration enhances the city – but tourism contributes nothing positive. “Tourism takes something out of neighbourhoods,” he says. “It makes them more banal – the same as everywhere else.”
The main obstacle to integration is language, especially as schooling is in Catalan, which none of the immigrants speak...
“There’s no question that a lot of people here live off tourism, but it can’t be a case of anything goes – there have to be limits,” says Esteban. “We’re losing much of the identity of the centre of the city, the port, the very traditions that attract visitors.
After 20 years of city authorities flogging Barcelona to visitors from overseas, the council elected in 2015 has moved to put the needs of citizens above those of visitors. It imposed a moratorium on new hotels, made efforts to contain the spread of tourist apartments and devised an urban plan for Ciutat Vella that prioritises local commerce over businesses aimed at tourists...
Barcelona is not alone in its battle to protect its identity, with many European cities being overwhelmed by skyrocketing tourism fuelled by cheap flights and platforms such as Airbnb... “In Venice people hate tourists, especially the cruiseships – the worst kind of tourism...They pollute the city, and consume it as though they were eating a sandwich, what in Italian we call ‘mordi e fuggi tourism’: literally, take a bite and run.”
In Barcelona especially, immigrants are seen as part of the fabric – working, building communities, and generally making a contribution to the city while tourists simply use it.
Photo (of Venice): Manuel Silvestri/Reuters