Protesters demonstrating against tourism in Barcelona in June
Protesters demonstrating against tourism in Barcelona in June

Is it safe to travel to Spain after violent protests against tourism?

Tourists are being targeted by anarchist groups 

Ravneet Ahluwalia
Tuesday 08 August 2017 14:38

Travellers to Spain are on high alert following attacks by an anarchist group protesting against tourism.

Last week masked members of Arran ambushed an open top sightseeing bus in Barcelona, slashing its tyres and painting slogans on the windows. Windows of five-star hotels were broken and bicycles rented out to tourists were damaged. In Palma, Mallorca, protestors let off smoke bombs and ran through restaurants before breaking windows.

The group want to bring about the "end of the capitalist system and global injustice" and believe that mass tourism is destroying cities and “condemning the working classes of the Catalan Countries to misery”.

Speaking to The Times, Laura Flores, 24, one of the leaders of the group, said: "We cannot rule out more attacks. There have been assaults in the past and there will be more in the future."

The attacks have been condemned by the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who described the protesters as "extremists going against common sense" and by Ada Colau, the Mayor of Barcelona. Colau said: "We denounce the attack on a tourist bus. Protesting over tourism should never mean intimidating people."

The Foreign Office said there is no specific update to their guidance for travellers heading to Spain at the moment but added that it is under constant review. A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: "We are aware of the protests and monitoring the situation. We are also in contact with the local authorities."

The chairman of Abta, Noel Josephides, said he was concerned about future attacks. He said: "These protests are a wake-up call. The local governments haven’t been listening or taking the overcrowding seriously.

"The advice to tourists is use your common sense. Be vigilant and don’t go where there might be a risk."

Visitor numbers to Spain have increased by 12 per cent in the first six months of 2017 to 36.4 million and Catalonia is the most visited region with 8.6 million tourists. Although tourism represents 11 per cent of GDP for the Spanish economy, companies such as Airbnb are blamed by many residents for shutting them out of the local property market.

More protests are planned in San Sebastian in August and authorities fear the violence could be repeated in other areas during the busy summer season.

Frank Brehany, a travel consumer rights commentator, said that the protests are not new. "Local people have voiced their concerns about crime, water, traffic, housing and work which they ascribe to the 'saturation' of tourism. Recent events have seen these frustrations brought to the fore by the group calling itself Arran, who are currently providing headline grabbing stunts.

"Holidaymakers should make themselves aware of any local frustrations before they book their holidays by carrying out online research. In the case of Spanish protests, like any protest in a resort or country, if you find yourself caught up in such an event you should always find a way to remove yourself from the area. Always follow the guidance of the local police and ultimately the UK’s Foreign Office."

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