Last Thursday witnessed a disturbing assault on an open-top tour bus as it pulled up outside the Camp Nou stadium of the city’s iconic football team FC Barcelona.
The incident saw the vehicle’s tyres slashed, and graffiti daubed onto its sides – with many of those on board fearing that they were caught in a terrorist attack rather than what transpired to be a protest.
These included British visitor Andrew Carey of Bridgend, who was on the bus with his wife Natalie. “I really thought it was a terrorist attack and my number was up,” he said.
“Masked men surrounded the bus and began shouting. We were getting ready for someone to come up the stairs with a knife or a gun. It was a relief that they just sprayed graffiti.
“It was very frightening.”
The four assailants scrawled “El Turisme Mata Els Barris” in Catalan – which translates as “Tourism Kills Neighbourhoods” – onto the bus windscreen.
The group published a video of the attack online with the caption “mass tourism kills the neighbourhoods, destroys the territory and condemns the working class to misery”, sparking a police investigation.
Arran later vandalised bicycles hired out to tourists in Barcelona, while a faction in Mallorca rampaged through waterside restaurants in Palma and ran over yachts, while protesting with a banner and smoke bombs.
On its official Twitter account, the group claimed it wanted to “stop the mass tourism that is destroying Mallorca and condemning the working classes of the Catalan Countries to misery”.
Laura Flores, one of Arran’s leaders, told The Times: “We cannot rule out more attacks. There have been assaults in the past and there will be more in the future.”
Noel Josephides, the chairman of Abta, said he feared more attacks using “dangerous tactics that shouldn’t be happening”.
“But reason it is happening is because the local governments haven’t been listening or taking the overcrowding seriously,” he added.
“The advice to tourists is use your common sense. Be vigilant and don’t go where there might be a risk.”
Founded in 2012, Arran has expanded through Spain and says it struggles for Catalan independence, the “end of the capitalist system and global injustice” and feminism.
It has gained support from far-left Spanish political parties and disaffected locals, with particular ire being aimed at companies including Airbnb that are blamed for shutting local residents out of the property market.
Arran’s supporters deny allegations of “tourist-phobia” but claims to resist a market that “capitalises on collective assets like the natural or social environment for nothing in return”.
“It is a general movement of citizens against an uncontrolled and predatory tourist model,” one supporter wrote on Twitter, while Arran’s chapter in Mallorca said: “Tourism has too many private interests, which are not the interests of the majority.”
Similar grievances have been rising to the surface at other popular destinations in Europe, seeing thousands protest in Venice over the damage caused by millions of visitors and radical measures aiming to reduce overcrowding by local authorities.
Ada Colau, the left-wing mayor of Barcelona who rose to prominence because of her campaigning over the Spanish housing crisis, announced Arran’s violent tactics.
“We denounce the attack on a tourist bus,” she wrote on Twitter. “Protesting over tourism should never mean intimidating people.”
Álvaro Nadal, Spain’s tourism minister, promised an inquiry into Arran’s attacks.
“We’re not going to tolerate this situation a single day longer,” he said. “A minority can’t ruin the decades of prestige for our tourist industry, which is the most competitive in the world.”
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has not updated its travel advice for Spain, which advises British nationals to stay away from demonstrations.
“We are monitoring the situation and in contact with local authorities,” a spokesperson said.
Ti unrest came amid chaos at Barcelona Airport as security workers started partial strikes, causing lengthy queues for security during peak holiday season.
The workers’ union called the periodic stoppages for Friday, Sunday and Monday after talks failed to end the dispute with the private company, Eulen, which runs the service at El Prat airport.
Staff demanding bolstered numbers and better salaries, have called an indefinite strike to start on 14 August if their demands are not met.