Spain residents to protest against mass tourism in Málaga

Thousands of people from southern Spain are expected to protest in Málaga on Saturday, continuing a series of demonstrations against mass tourism. Protesters from popular Andalusian cities like Granada, Seville, and Cádiz will join the rally, following recent protests in the Canary and Balearic Islands, with another planned in Barcelona the following week.

With Spain’s visitor numbers expected to exceed 100 million this year—more than double its population—there’s a growing concern within the tourism industry that the situation has become untenable. Complaints include overcrowded public spaces and strained facilities like public transport, as well as the displacement of local businesses. However, the core issue is housing. The lucrative tourist apartment market has consumed housing stock, driven out local residents, and hollowed out historic urban areas.

Málaga, once just a gateway to the Costa del Sol resorts, has become a sought-after destination itself, undergoing rapid gentrification that is pricing residents out. Catherine Powell, Airbnb’s global head of hosting, noted that Málaga is their most searched-for destination. “The tourism industry workers can’t afford rent in their own city. As long as housing is treated as a marketable asset, there won’t be a solution,” said Curro Machuca of the Málaga tenants’ union. He added that relying solely on tourism for Málaga’s economy is unsustainable and needs to change.

Olalla Luque Colmenero of the Granada pressure group Albayzín Habitable, which advocates for the historic Albayzín quarter, a Unesco world heritage site, emphasized the importance of residents to the area. “Being a world heritage site is not just about architecture; it’s about the people, their traditions, and the social aspect, which we’re losing,” she said, noting the scarcity of rental homes due to the tourist apartment boom. “Tourism is important, but it shouldn’t push people out of their homes.”

Barcelona’s mayor, Jaume Collboni, recently announced that licenses for the city’s 10,000 legal tourist apartments would not be renewed after they expire in 2028, a move expected to be followed by other cities. Martí Cusó, a Barcelona housing activist organizing next Saturday’s demonstration, where over 80 organizations will march under the slogan “Enough! Let’s put limits on tourism,” called Collboni’s announcement “propaganda.” He argued that mass tourism increases housing costs and impoverishes many. “We need to stop spending €80m a year on promoting the city abroad,” Cusó said, emphasizing the need to protect residents’ rights alongside managing tourism.

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