Catalan anarchist group Arran has threatened further attacks this week following an attack on British tourists in Barcelona.
British tourists, who were on a sightseeing bus tour around the Catalan capital, were confronted by masked attackers on Saturday. The attackers slashed the tyres of the bus and proceed to smear it with slogans. The group posted a video of the incident online, sparking a police investigation.
This attack coincided with a number of other incidents around Catalonia. Bicycles hired out to tourists were vandalised, and a group in Mallorca tore through restaurants and attacked yachts using banners and smoke bombs.
A summer of troubles is expected, with other affiliate groups also taking part in vandalism and other criminal acts. Ominously, Endavant Ciutat Vella posting graffiti in English online: ‘Tourism kills the city. Tourists go home you are not welcome here.’
Laura Flores, one of Arran’s leaders, talking to the The Times, said: ‘We cannot rule out more attacks. There have been assaults in the past and there will be more in the future.’ A fresh pledge was later made this week, by Arran Països Catalans, the group behind the protest, and has prompted warnings that holidaymakers could be hurt in a summer of protests.
Salli Felton, chief executive of the Travel Foundation also speaking to the The Times: ‘The risk is that these protests escalate and someone is hurt.’ This will make tourists think twice before planning a holiday in Catalonia over the summer especially given the potential for increasing violence.
Arran came into being in 2012, following a four year process of merges between Maulets, CAJEI and local groups. It believes in independence for the ‘Catalan Countries, the construction of socialism, and the feminist struggle.’
On their website, Arran says their actions have raised the debate around tourism and conflicts it causes for local people – something that they claim is not covered in the ‘interested world of media agendas.’ They claim that the term ‘tourismphobia’ is being used to shut down debate and ‘tries to undermine a completely legitimate struggle.’
Barcelona receives around 32m visitors which accounts for around 14% of its economy. Many will fear that these attacks, with the threat of further attacks, will affect the Catalan capital’s reputation with tourists. The Minister of Energy, Tourism and Digital Agenda, Alvaro Nadal, tweeted that Spain was the ‘top country in terms of tourist competitiveness and third in visitors.’ He went on to say: ‘We must protect and foster our tourism.’
This is not the first time tensions have boiled over in Barcelona due to tourism. In 2015 thousands protested following a picture of a group of naked Italian travellers taken in the city. They carried banners saying: ‘The neighbourhood is not for sale.’ Earlier this year Barcelona passed a law aimed a tackling tourism, it seeks to limit the number of beds available to tourists and places a memorandum on new projects and licenses but will not come into effect until 2019.