Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy used his appearance at an event in the north of Spain to rebut criticism of the Spanish tourism sector.
Rajoy highlighted that tourism contributes 11 percent of Spain’s GDP, while employing 13 percent of the workforce.
“I never thought I would have to defend the Spanish tourist sector. It is something that is unheard of,” he said, adding the incidents “could only be carried out by people who are highly radicalized,” and that they serve to damage Spain’s image abroad.
Rajoy was speaking in the wake of some isolated incidents in Barcelona, which saw anarchist groups attack a tourist bus, spray painting on its windows, as well as slashing the tires of bicycles rented to tourists, as well as bursting into a restaurant before letting off firecrackers and throwing confetti over diners.
The incidents in Barcelona have been replicated in the Basque region where radical groups have also painted slogans protesting at the excessive numbers of visitors.
Spain has seen a huge growth in visitor numbers, with non-stop growth in visitor numbers in the past seven years and while 2015 saw 68 million tourists visit Spain, that number is expected to rise to around 84 million in the current year.
One place where visitor numbers won’t be rising in the future is the Balearic Islands where the regional government on Tuesday approved a new law to limit the number of holidaymakers visiting the popular holiday destinations of Mallorca and Ibiza.
The new law will cap the number of tourist beds at 623,624 for the two islands, while people attempting to rent out unlicensed properties will face fines of up to 400,000 euros (469,416 U.S. dollars) in what the island’s tourism minister Biel Barcelo described as attempt to “bring order” to the sector.