62% of Barcelona residents support tourism


Tourism in major cities has increased considerably over the last decade, to the point of becoming one of the main engines of progress and development in these urban areas. However, alongside this growth, various social and citizen movements have emerged advocating less mass tourism and oppose the gentrification neighborhoods most popular with travellers, because of the development model it promotes, and the problems it can cause.

A team of researchers from University Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) studied the opinion of the inhabitants of these areas of the city of Barcelona in order to obtain a better understanding of the overtourism phenomenon in the big cities.

“There is a difference in how the locals perceive mass tourism in cities which is due to emotional response factors. This aspect has so far been considered in a limited way in the study of overtourism“, has explained Francesc González Reverté, lead author of this study, researcher in the NOUTUR (New Perspectives in Tourism & Leisure) at the UOC, and member of the Faculty of Economics and Commerce.

The perceptions of the inhabitants of these neighborhoods can be either negative or positive/accepting emotional response to the presence of tourists and tourism. “Various factors partly explain the emotional reactions, such as the proximity of regions receiving tourism and the activities carried out by tourists in these areas of the city”, this is the explanation given by González for the different perceptions.

Perceptions of mass tourism

This study, which was conducted by interviewing 450 inhabitants of Barcelona in the months leading up to the pandemic that began in early 2020, presents differences at different levels. Thanks to a psychosocial analysis of the inhabitants’ responses, the author has highlighted three profiles with different emotional responses to tourism, which are “supporters of tourism”, “neutrals” and “opposed to tourism”.

In general terms, 62% of residents are favorable to tourism, the neutrals represent 30%, while the those opposed to tourism represent 7.5%. “We have identified two profiles among the people favorable to tourism. We call the first category “tourism supporters”, whose emotional response is very positive, and others ‘residents who support tourism’, whose emotional response is clearly positive, although there are also some negative factors in their responses, as the environmental impact“, said the expert providing a deeper understanding of this tourism phenomenon, which creates major problems in some large cities.

A key aspect in understanding the differences in Emotional responses between these profiles is the perception of the local community‘s loss of control over its place of residence, and the feeling of irritation caused by the presence of tourists or the inconvenience they represent for some residents. Meanwhile, in the positive emotional response, some residents react to the presence of tourists in such a way that they have already become know tourism and find it natural, to the point that they even consider it part of their daily landscape.

“Interestingly, some activities receive a particularly negative emotional response, even from tourism supporters, such as the presence of drunken tourists, tourists in underwear and stag and hen parties. However, there are also certain activities that are valued positively by all resident profiles, such as activities associated with the consumption of culture and walking and socializing in public spaces,” González said.

Varied opinions

The authors of the study explain that there is a clear difference between people’s perceptions and opinions depending on the neighborhood in which they live. For example, this study compares very touristy neighborhoods like Barceloneta, the Gothic quarter and the area around the Sagrada Familia with other much less touristy areas such as Sarrià, Vallcarca and Sant Andreu.

“In very touristy areas, negative emotional reactions to the presence of tourists are more frequent, although not widespread, whereas in less touristy neighborhoods positive or neutral emotional reactions to tourism are more frequent,” González explained. In addition, residents opposed to tourism are much more numerous in very touristy areas than in those that do not receive tourism, where pro-tourism attitudes are prevalent,” the UOC faculty member pointed out.

This UOC research contributes to the realization sustainable development goals (SDGs) 11, sustainable cities and communities, and 12, responsible production and consumption.


González-Reverté, Francesc. 2021. The perception of overtourism in urban destinations. Empirical evidence based on the emotional response of residents, Tourism planning and development. DO I: 10.1080/21568316.2021.1980094


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