Before the pandemic, Barcelona distinguished itself as the anti-tourism capital of Europe, with burning tourist busses and locals demonstrating on the beach. Covid-19 gave some respite from the flood of visitors, but now they are back in the accustomed hoards.
The return of the visitors has been greeted in my neighbourhood of the city with a plague of ‘Tourists go home’ graffiti. Almost every business that might accommodate foreign tastes has been plastered with slogans that are becoming ever more creative and aggressive. For the patrons of the classic ice cream parlours that arguably mark out the touristification of Barcelona and other cities, there is: “Tourists we spit in your ice cream”, and for those who prefer beer – “Tourists we spit in your beer – cheers!”
Tourists are also encouraged to try ‘balconing’: the dangerous practice of diving from a balcony into a hotel swimming pool. The author obviously forgot that Gràcia is extremely short of hotels, and these are unlikely to have swimming pools.
Balconing - not an easy task in swimming pool free Vila de Gràcia
A slightly more proactive approach is taken in the slogan “Tourists go home, migrants welcome”, which gives some indication of who might replace the tourists once they decide to go home.
We prefer migrants
Proof that the ‘tourist go home’ campaign is not working is provided by a recent tag placed on a youth hostel in Gracia. In spite of the unwelcoming message being painted right across the entrance of the hostel, the sign saying ‘we are full’ underlines the futility of trying to influence tourists in this way.
A futile gesture?
Unfortunately this type of anti-tourism campaign not only targets the tourists, but also annoys the locals. Businesses trying to sell beer, ice cream or any other products to visitors or locals are unlikely to welcome the plague of graffiti. Local bar owner Alfredo was not pleased when his shutters were plastered with “Tourist go home – you are not welcome”. No tourists frequent this small local bar, but it will cost time and money to get rid of the slogan. The Municipality of Barcelona already spends large sums of money in ridding facades of the graffiti advocating independence for Catalunya as well as the usual tagging. The graffiti cleaning programme now has 32 teams of two workers from Monday to Saturday and five teams operating on Sundays covering morning and afternoon shifts. The total cost of the operation now stands at 4.5 million euros a year, cleaning 279,422 square metres of façades in 2021.
Not everybody agrees
Ironically, street art is also one of the attractions of the city for many visitors. As well as the less attractive tagging activities of the political activists, Barcelona also has much artistic graffiti, and the tourism industry makes grateful use of this to develop new tourism products. Many would probably agree that the images being painted by real graffiti artists are preferable to tagging and political slogans, even if they end up attracting even more visitors.
Some of the more artistic graffitti in Gràcia